The first Alexandria Daily Town Talk newspaper was published on March 17, 1883. I started working there in 1966, when the paper was 83 years old and today it is 131 years old, so 48 years have passed since I first set foot inside the Alexandria Daily Town Talk at the time. Today it is known as The Town Talk.
I had returned earlier from my tour of duty in Hawaii and Vietnam and was 21 and looking for work. The lady from the Louisiana Employment called and said there was an opening at the Town Talk. Found out later that the previous worker had drowned and they needed someone to take his place.
Earning $11.20 a Day
The interviewer told me they usually don’t start workers, as much pay as I was getting. I found out later, that I was making the minimum wage of $1.40 an hour, which came out to $11.20 an eight hour day and $56 a week. The pay for a typical 22 day month was $246.40 and $2,912 a year. Four years later I had worked my way up to $3 an hour.
This is the way we saw hot metal type when working with it – upside down and backwards.
First Job As a Dump Boy
My first job was as a dump boy and went to work on August 24, 1966, and received type from those working with the linotype machines. They would bring the trays called galleys with very hot metal slugs, with each slug being about an inch tall and a line of type printed on it. The proofreaders would read a proof of the story in that galley and if there was a mistake we would take out the old lines and insert the corrected lines. Then we would turn the galleys around, so the page compositors could place the type in the page forms, in the proper place according to a page layout designed by the wire desk or sports department.
Stopped By Police
When I first started working at Town Talk my starting time was 5:30 AM. One morning I was walking the usual two miles to work and was crossing the Murray Street bridge, when I was stopped by police. Someone had been killed at the Melody Grill Bar that morning, so they questioned me, before realizing I was just walking to work and had nothing to do with the murder.
Became A Page Compositor
After I had been dump boy for a while I became a page compositor. Our job was to place the ads in the page, then place photos and type to fill in the rest of the space on the page. Each page form was on a truck with wheels. that sometimes was called a turtle for some unknown reason.
We were using the hot metal process, so we used zinc photos or photos from scan-o-graver that would make photos. Things really got hectic around deadline time, as we rushed to get the pages ready for the press. After we finished the pages a pressman would process the pages in a mat rolling machine, that would make impressions of the page, that would be placed on the printing press.
Sunday Paper Starts in May of 1967
The first Sunday paper was published by the Town Talk in May of 1967 and has been published each Sunday, for the last 47 years since that date. I had been walking to and from work, but with the night hours finally bought my first car a 1954 Oldsmobile, so I wouldn’t have to walk through town at 1 AM in the morning.
Friday Night Football
To say nights at work during Friday night football were chaotic is putting it mildly. The sportswriters would return to Town Talk, to write-up their articles on that night’s game. It took time for them to write their articles and then sports desk person had to decide how to lay out the pages and what photos of the games to use. Those of us in page composition couldn’t do much, till the pages were designed and we received the layouts. The sportswriters would work with us on the page, in case we had any problems and if an article ran long they would tell us what part of the article to cut, so it would fit in the page form. It was always a relief to turn the last page over to the pressroom, so they could get it on the press, as soon as possible.
Election Night Fun
Elections were a lot of fun, if someone thought working way past time to leave work is fun. We had to wait till late at night, so we could get the latest results of the elections in the newspaper and we would make a second edition to get even later election results. Election nights would see many of the politicians gathering at the Town Talk, so they could see firsthand how many votes they were receiving.
Pressman Died At Work
I was talking to a pressman about a pro football game and it wasn’t long after, when I found out he had a heart attack and died at work. He had been a long time employee, but it still came as a shock to me, when learning he had passed away.
Married and Moved to Riverfront Street
In September of 1970 was married and moved to Riverfront Street in Pineville. I walked to work, so my wife could drive to her work and I remember there was a Russian lady living on Riverfront, that was living in a tent. Never did find out what had happened to her, after the last day I saw her.
Our $75 a month rent was too much to pay at once, so our landlord let us split it up into two $37.50 payments.
End of Hot Metal Composition
It was in 1972, that the Town Talk ended hot metal composition and started using cold type composition. Those of us working hot metal no longer had ink all over our hands, since we were working with paper. Working with the hot metal had caused most of us in hot metal composition, to have to have hernia surgery.
We would have to lift full pages of type from the bottom shelves of page racks, which was extremely heavy, since the full-page galleys were full of metal that was inch high. Imagine how heavy that is when you look at a page, in the newspaper and think of it being full of inch high metal.
Cold Type Composition
Now we were no longer working with metal, but worked with paper type. We now used scissors, glue sticks, X-Actos and razor blades, to work on the new technology. It took some getting used to the new technology, but thanks to Elvis Presley I wouldn’t be working in hot type composition from April of 1974 till March of 1976, except at the very end.
Elvis Presley Finds Me a New Job
We were watching television, once when we found out Elvis Presley was going to be in concert at Monroe, Louisiana. So we bought our tickets and drove to Monroe later to see the show. While we were driving to the concert we saw the local newspaper plant and my wife suggested I try to find a job there. I sent in my application and was called in for an interview and was hired. So if it hadn’t been for Elvis Presley I would have never worked for the Monroe Morning World.
Had worked for Town Talk for almost eight years, when I got the Monroe Morning World job and got a huge raise from $159 a week to $167 a week. I didn’t know at the time that I would earn $5,000 more in my first year at the Morning World, because they offered much more overtime. In fact I worked 49 days in a row, without a day off for one stretch. Boss kept asking if I wanted to work both my days off and I kept saying yes.
To Be Continued – Part 2