Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Argus Observes – What happens when the printing press breaks?

By Don Lynch
From The Argus-Observer, March 16, 1953

A printing press smash-up makes a depressing, almost sickening noise to a person in the trade. It spells about the worst kind of trouble that can happen to a publication.

We all knew instantly that we were “down” when the noise hit us about 2 p.m. Thursday and the pressman screamed, “Oh, No! No!”…

It was 9 p.m. before we could fully assess the extent of the damage and actually knew that we could not repair sufficiently to operate. We have had to go to other towns to print on former occasions but we knew it further in advance and so were prepared to tighten up our schedule.

The whole experience was reminiscent of my early days at the Argus when it was competing with the Observer.

There we fought machine deficiencies and repair problems week after week. We were almost always late in getting the papers into the mail. Every paper seemed a major effort and just getting out each issue was an individual victory, like winning a ball game.

I think our most unnerving breakdown occurred on a day in May 1947 when we were installing a small four page press to replace the two page press that had so handicapped our production at the Argus.

We were operating at a loss in severe competition. The cost of installing a better press looked astronomical to me. But it obviously had to be done.

After long hours of effort it appeared that we might be out by the end of the day.

Then in mid-Thursday with three runs yet to go, the gear track that carried the printing assembly across the bed snapped clean into two pieces.

The printing machinist from Salt Lake City, here to erect the pres, was ready to give up. But Bert Martin, our shop foreman, thought that we should give Charles Croghan a chance at the welding job. Everything to gain, not much to lose.

Croghan, just starting into business for himself and without adequate shop facilities, set the gear track on two boxes in his back yard and did a welding job that amazed the machinist from Salt Lake City. He got it accurate enough to run smoothly during the 15 succeeding months that we used it. And that sort of machinery is measured in thousandths of an inch rather than 16ths.

We wrapped up that issue at 2 a.m. Friday morning.

Since that time I haven’t worried much. One expects trouble in this business now and then as you would have in any industry. You just try to avoid it.

As this is written the (current) newspaper press appears to be repaired and ready to roll. I hope it runs without trouble from now on, but I won’t base our plans on such hopes.

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