The characters between the lines

Remembering newspaper greats!

Working in the newspaper industry for many years has afforded me many opportunities, not the least of which has been crossing paths with individuals who have somehow managed to leave their ink stained handprints on my heart forever.

In some instances, these were the most unlikely souls that I would think would ever do so.

One of these newspaper types was a gruff old guy named Jim.

Jim was a pressman. Lots of people were afraid of Jim, me included, and we all did our best to stay out of his way.

But one night, during the days of cut and paste, I ended up working late, writing copy and helping to put the pages together.

Jim was there, too.

“You editorial people,” he grumbled. “You know your job is to simply fill the white space between the ads.”

I didn’t know that, but I nodded humbly.

Weirdly enough over the years Jim and I became friends. He looked out for me, was my mentor and even recited poems such as The Cremation of Sam McGee to me on occasion after he had spent a little too long at the other office which was, in reality, the pub across the street.

Jim died one night in late fall before I had a chance to give him two photos of newspaper presses that I had photographed and painstakingly developed myself.

But, I remember him still and when I think of him, I think of the magic of those long ago days of cut and paste and light tables and darkrooms.

Another person who will remain nameless because he would have preferred to remain so, also left his indelible mark in the newspaper world.

He was a photographer.

When we went for coffee he would regale me with stories of this world which existed long before my time and when he talked the look in his eye would seem far away. And as I listened I could picture celebrities and royalty and almost feel the absolute adrenalin rush he must have felt when he snapped a forbidden picture which may or may not have made it past the darkroom door.

Through his eyes, I glimpsed another newspaper world, a world where editors ruled, photographers traveled by planes, trains and automobiles just to get the perfect photo and newsboys actually did yell the words, ‘hot off the press’.

And even though he left this strange and tantalizing world far behind him many years ago, in reality, he never quit seeing the world through a camera’s lens.

“Take a walk-around,” he encouraged me when I moaned about having no photos for the next edition. “You never know what you might see.”

And so he reminded me to look for a photo op that existed in ordinary moments, to be watchful for the unusual and to capture hidden beauty whenever I could in the lens of my camera.

Both these newspapermen are gone now.

But, for the very short time that I knew them, I will always and forever be grateful.

To me, they were as much a part of the newspaper world as the days of cut and past and light tables.

They were the stories that never got printed. They were the photos that never made it past the dark room door.

They bled newspaper ink.

A lifetime’s a short time.

But, sometimes on our own journey through this world our paths cross with individuals whose memories live on in our heart forever.

And, always, those memories tug at our heartstrings and, for a brief moment in time, they make us smile.

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