Demolition Brings Times Workers to Mind  
Friday, July 27, 2012

WEBSTER — You've got to have some wear on your treads to remember when the Webster Times had a hot-lead printing shop in the town on its masthead. It was behind the Main Street office, in a building torn down earlier this month.

My recall comes from an association of more than 20 years, and turnovers that brought editorial help, business people, office personnel, advertising sales, circulation and maybe 40 skilled printers — linotype operators, compositors, engravers, job printers, pressmen, stereotypers and proofreaders — into frequent dialogue.

They were the people I worked with at the weekly and, like the printing process, they're mainly gone; hot type is a fleeting memory. For me, this preceded a rewarding career with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and now TelegramTowns. Some of the people beat me to a split career, also working in Worcester for one of the daily newspapers.

So, to remember print craftsmen, people who contributed to the industry as a whole, allow my roster of long-ago friends from Webster's front office and back shop: Percy Hillsman, Ed Gevry, Ed Fournier, Charles Forand, George French and Steve Angelo, linotype operators.

George Normandin, Joe Wadie, Bill Lane, Leonard Jacques, Charlie Motyka, Gerry Meagher, compositors.

Bud Berger, Harvey Bienvenue, Walter Maly, Noe Decelles, Al Stasko, Ernie Jewell, Whitey Helpa, Don Moore, all pressmen.

Henry Dowgiewicz, Russ Putnam, Lenny Tackson, job pressmen. Part-timers, mostly high school kids, poured hot lead into metal forms, turning out about 10-inch-long cylinders with hook ends. They fed the “hot lead pots” to linotype machines, providing the lead that cooled into print type, only to be added to and returned through the melting process.

The after-school crew included brothers Pat and Dick Bohenko, Bill Koupas Jr., Tom Rafferty, and others whom I can't remember. They were all nice kids, so the line requires an apology. Maybe some of them from the '50s will jog my recall.

John J. Lonergan was the general manager, and later the publisher. He serviced the company's major printing accounts in Boston, Providence and elsewhere, meaning he was on the road much of the time. Virginia Barry, his secretary, proved very efficient in his stead. Francis I. Love, William Koupas, Jim Rafferty and Ralph Miller were department managers; Laurence J. Daly was the editor; and Marion H. Norton the associate editor. Janice R. Moore held the same post for the Oxford Times, a replate to several pages. Connie Connor, Elizabeth Recko and Mary Ann Magiera were general reporters.

Severin J. Ritchie was the advertising manager.

Don Peters, a sportswriter-photographer, returned from Army service to handle advertising after the post became open. John Bialy, also a sportswriter-photographer, added the circulation manager's hat, becoming the busiest employee in the place.

Office managers were a hot commodity at one point, and in succession, Paul Mason, Harry Seifert, Bernie Gevry and Shirley Kilian handled the multiple duties required. Tony Saborowski left the paper just before I happened along. Sports, his part-time pursuit, fell to my plate until Joe Chmielewicz took up the weekly byline. Joe's political pursuits resulted in his subsequent election as Webster town treasurer. Bob Prince, a teacher-coach at Dudley Junior High and an outstanding athlete in his own right, took over the sports job. His professional career took him into school administration and away from news writing.

There was always a front-desk person, such as Iona Meagher and Bernice Mansfield, who did just about everything. It was a multiphase assignment.

Billy Tourtellotte and John Meciak were engravers, and Grace McGovern and Diane Poblocki were proofreaders and, typical of the business profile, handled other tasks.

Printers and their ilk lunched at the Main Lunch, mostly a soup and sandwich place that had one of the corner stops in the Vito Building. It's next-door competitor, started as The Campus, catered to a similar crowd.

The Main Lunch was an 18-hour-a-day business.

Sandwiches, even hamburgers, were served on sandwich bread, peanut butter on toast was an option and coffee was drawn from a large metal urn and served in heavy mugs.

The Campus, long owned by Anna and Speed Ryan, catered to downtown clerks, suits and town hall types. Slices of off-the-bone ham was the Sunday morning special. Coffee was brewed in glass percolators and served in cups. There was a floating element to the adjoining places. Open seats made the choice for some patrons.

Some of the guys stopped at Koko's, a popular Jericho bar, after work, and others meandered over to the Colonial Grille a few storefronts up the street from the printing complex

Turning their labor haunts into a police station won't register with the few who remain. None of the regulars ever wound up in jail, or even in small claims court. They were full-time printers, and took pride in their work. The Times got away from day laborers, as transient printers were classified, long before any of the people in our group ever got a printer's apron.

Mrs. Prudence Sheldon and her son, Raymond W. Sheldon Jr., were the principal officers of the news corporation and its allied Sheldon Press Co. during most of my years at the weekly.

The printing plant and the paper were sold to different parties, ending the long relationship.

The printing business was folded into a modern offset plant, and the weekly became one of its accounts.

Recall is from another cut to life, of different times, systems and people. Demolition of the one-time printing plant and press room says everything is history. Memories of some pretty wonderful people is the bequest that I'll forever hold in honor!

For my part, I mostly covered government and eventually sat in the editor's corner.
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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