1971 – We were living on Riverfront Street in Pineville and very close to the Red River, so I walked to Town Talk each day. I passed a lady living in a tent, on the way to work each day. It was sad to know, that she couldn’t afford to live in a house, so she lived next to the river on public land. Later that year we moved to a duplex on Donahue Ferry for $50 a month, which saved us $25 a month in rent. Coincidentally, both the Riverfront and Donahue Ferry rentals burned down after we moved out of them. In addition the house behind us on Riverfront Street was a victim of the erosion of the banks of Red River, which forced the owners to leave their house, before it fell into the river.
1972 – Our first son Steve was born shortly after midnight at 1:52 AM on Thursday, February 17 at Rapides General in Alexandria, Louisiana. My wife’s mother drove down from Texarkana, Arkansas to assist my wife in taking care of Steve the first few days of his life.
This was also the year that the Alexandria Daily Town Talk converted from hot type to cold type composition. We now started using paper, instead of lead to produce the paper each day. The first day was chaos, since everyone was trying to work on all the pages at once. A system was soon put into place, designating what pages each page builder was responsible for, which made the production of the newspaper much smoother.
1973 – Steve would have a bad case of gastroenteritis, which caused his hospitalization. Former president Lyndon B. Johnson died while he was in the hospital. To compound the problems, during his hospitalization I was chosen to serve on a jury in a criminal case involving a drug store owner, who was shot in the back when he opened the store at night for the two criminals. Each suspect was found guilty and given a fifteen year sentence, so have been out of prison for at least 25 years now.
1974 – This was another eventful year, in which Elvis Presley indirectly helped me get a job at Monroe, Louisiana newspaper. We were watching the news on a Monroe television station and they mentioned that tickets were for sale to see Elvis Presley at the Monroe Civic Center. While in Monroe to see Elvis we passed the Morning World-New Star newspaper building and we decided I should apply for a job there. So when we got home I applied for a job and was granted an interview. We left the Town Talk for a $8 a week raise. It didn’t make much sense at the time, but I made so much overtime that I actually made thousands more than what the Town Talk paid.
Meanwhile….back to the Elvis Presley concert. You could feel the electricity in the air when Elvis took the stage, while singing “C.C. Rider”. Elvis was still at the top of his game that night, since this was only a year, after his Aloha From Hawaii concert. It was sad to see the concert end, since it was such a great show. If Elvis was on drugs that night, then it wasn’t evident to me in his performance.
We moved to West Monroe, Louisiana the next day after Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run passing Babe Ruth, on the all-time home run list.
Our first apartment was the Shangri-La apartments off of Wellerman Road. I was only at my new job, for only a few days, when a lot of the workers, who were in the union went on strike. That caused me to get more overtime, than I ever wanted, since we were working so short-handed. Strike-breakers from the Shreveport Times came to work with us. I was worried that since I was new, that I might be mistaken for a strike-breaker. One of the strike-breakers was pulled over by a car, with flashing lights and then attacked by some union ruffians. Those on the picket line tried to prevent me from driving onto the parking lot, but I kept driving and they eventually moved out-of-the-way. None of the strikers ever returned to work at the Monroe newspaper plant.
I was in for a shock, since the Monroe Morning World was still using hot metal composition. So I was thrust back into the world of hot type, after having worked in cold type composition for two years. One of my jobs was to use a Ludlow stick which was used for the Page One headline. The Morning World used three line staggered headlines, which made it even trickier to get the spacing just right. I had never been given the chance to use a Ludlow stick at Town Talk, so it was good to learn how they worked.
My main job was building pages and then after the shift was over would throw away the type, unless it was to be used in the News-Star the next day. We tossed the ads which would not run again in a bucket, and used string to tie up the ones that would run again and place them in the News-Star page. Basically what I did when arriving at work most days was tear down the News-Star pages and then set up the Morning World pages by placing the ads where they were designated to be placed in page layouts. When President Nixon looked like he was dying of phlebitis in 1974 we had several pages ready in case he died, but we eventually wound up throwing the pages in the bucket.
Another major event was the birth of our second son Kenneth on December 20 at 3:05 PM on a Friday. It turned out that week that I worked 73 hours with about 36 hours of overtime, since our normal week was 37 and a half hours. Then after getting off work on Christmas Eve we assembled a toy for my first son.
1975 – I worked so much in 1975, that I made $5,000 of overtime. I would work from 2:00 PM till 6:00 AM on most shifts. The composing room superintendent would call me each weekday and ask me if I would come into work at 2 PM, instead of the normal 4:30 PM. I once worked 49 days in a row, without one day off, because the foreman would ask me if I wanted to work both of my days off. I got sick on the 50th day, which I had off so it took a toll on me. So I was working 16 hour days on weekdays. This year consisted of working and sleeping for the most part, because when I woke up the boss would be calling me in to work early.
We moved again during 1975 to Monroe side of the Ouachita River, to the Plantation Apartments off of North 18th Street. We were much closer to work and didn’t have to cross a bridge to arrive at work. 1975 was a good year financially, but it was a tiring year, with so little time to sleep.