38 Years In Newspaper Production – The Monroe Years

Monroe News-Star 1890- Present

I started work at the Monroe Morning World in April of 1974. They also had an evening paper named the News-Star. The Morning World no longer exists as they merged with the News-Star in 1980.

The first day in the composing room was sort of a shock, since the Morning World was still using the hot metal process to produce the paper. The Town Talk had been using cold type composition since 1972, so I had to go back in time and start using hot type again.

Strike Begins

One night about a week into my employment some of the workers left and began striking. It made for a very long night that night, as we had fewer people to do the work, so it took much longer.

The Shreveport Times sent some strike breakers from their plant in Shreveport, to help take up the slack.

It was sort of scary, when I drove onto the parking lot one time, with picketers trying to block the driveway. I kept driving and they finally moved out-of-the-way.

There was no doubt that strikers were serious, when they pulled over one of the strike breakers from Shreveport on the highway, by using flashing lights. They proceeded to get him out of his vehicle and worked them over. Since I had been there only a week I was afraid some of the strikers would think I was a strike breaker  too. The Ewing family which owned both the Monroe papers and the Shreveport Times didn’t give in to the demands of the strikers and the strike ended.

Ludlow Composing Stick

Every Sunday night I was given the job of building up Page 1 for the Monroe Morning World and part of job was to use a Ludlow stick to make the main headline at the top of the page. I had to stagger the type like this in headlines like this one that I made up:

Three Bandits Rob Convenience Store

      In Early Morning Robbery in Epps

            Leaving Victims Frightened

 

Then I would insert the Ludlow stick into the Ludlow Machine which would cast the type in lead and would then proceed to build up Page 1.

Saw Elvis in Concert Again

While living in the Monroe area we got to see Elvis Presley in concert again. We also saw a concert with the Righteous Brothers and the Hues Corporation. The Hughes Corporation sang their big hit at the time “Don’t Rock the Boat Baby”.

Living in West Monroe

Our first apartment in the Monroe area was in the new Shrangri La apartments on Wellerman Road in West Monroe, Louisiana. I had a flat tire on Interstate 20 one night, during my supper time and a state trooper turned on his flashing lights, to warn the other drivers, so I could change the flat tire.

The apartment’s rent was $165, which wasn’t that much even in 1974.

Too Much Overtime

Knew I was taking a risk moving 100 miles to Monroe for a measly $8 more per week more, than what I made at the Town Talk. However, I was making overtime like crazy. Our work week was 37 and-a-half hours a week, but I worked many more hours than that.

I would work 4:30 PM to 1 AM if I didn’t work overtime. However, I almost never got off work at a 1 AM. I would usually go to work at 4:30 PM and then wouldn’t get off work till 6 AM the next morning. Then it got even worse when the composing room superintendent would call about noon and ask me to come in early at 2 PM. So a typical workday would be from 2 PM to 6AM for a 14 hour day.

The reason there was so much overtime is that the daytime workers working on the Monroe News-Star weren’t that interested in overtime. We wound up killing out their pages for them, when we came to work, so we would have empty page forms to publish the Monroe Morning World. Then at night we would kill out our own pages, then turn around and start placing ads in pages for the News-Star workers, when they would come to work.

What it amounted to was that we were doing most of the work for the day crew, while they just built their pages and went home.

I remember working 36 hours of overtime in one Christmas week, which almost equaled my 37.5 regular hours.

There was one stretch, where I worked 49 straight days in a row, when the boss kept asking if I wanted to work both my days off. I was off on the 50th day and got sick and not sure it wasn’t from the stress of working so many days in a row.

It was normal to get only 6 or 7 hours sleep, then return to work again.

Looking back, it is a wonder I survived those two years in Monroe.

Moved to Monroe

We moved to Monroe later, so we could be closer to my work and my wife’s work, since we only had one car most of the time there. We moved to the Plantation Apartments off of North 18th Street in Monroe.

Thought President Nixon Was Dying 

I remember when the editor thought President Nixon was close to death, so we worked on pages about his life, but all that work was for nothing, as he lived many more years. We wound up throwing all those pages in the garbage.

Breaks On The Loading Dock

The best memory of our breaks on the loading dock was during the Christmas season, when we could see the buildings in downtown Monroe with their Christmas lights turned on.

Gannett Takes Over

The Gannett Corporation took over the News-Star the year after I left, so I narrowly avoided working for two Gannett papers, during my years in the newspaper business.

Returning To Town Talk

My wife was not happy with her job, plus there were two openings at the Town Talk in the composing room, so I applied to work at Town Talk in March of 1976 again and was hired and would spend the next 28 years at Town Talk before retiring in 2004.

I remember the cake being served, when I returned because it was so close to St. Patrick’s Day.

 

To Be Continued – Part 3 – Last 28 Years At Town Talk

 

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