Thursday, January 23, 2014

It will turn up, if I press the issue

Last of a kind, a hold out in techno-adapted planet

By Rob Carrigan, 
It is a mystery that probably will eventually will be solved. But like such mysteries, it might take some time, and pulling some threads, and listening to a yarn or two.
I am talking about figuring out where several tons of printing iron went.
The old flatbed press I knew in my ink-stained childhood. Namely, six thousand pounds of magic, that I first caught copies off of the Dolores Star on Thursday afternoons back in the late 1960s, and folded for a half cent each.
I grew up next to the folks that owned the Star and their son, Andy, was a few months younger than me. Pleasants gave me an opportunity to learn elements of a disappearing craft at the last of of the hot type era.
Printing is sort of like voting for me. Do it early and often, if you can.
Larry Pleasant and Filbert 'Shorty' Lobato were the masters of the craft.
"Larry and Shorty continued with hot metal and the old press for a few months while I made the switch to offset. The press was still there when I left in '80,"according to Lewis McCool, who purchased the Dolores Star from the Pleasants.
Larry and Shorty continued on with a job shop in Dolores, running various smaller offset presses.
The topic came up the other day when Ellis Miller, who folded a paper or two in his own day, mentioned I might know something about the old press from Dolores. 
"I remember it from when my Uncle Tom Johnson was editor of the Star, but that was a long time ago," Miller said. "Shirley Dennison might also have some idea."
Indeed she might. 
I sent Shirley a message, and she was unsure of what might have happened to the old press, but had acquired a wealth of stories about when it was running, including one where the job required so much time and attention, that it was actually possible (but dangerous) to fall asleep while operating the beast. 
She suggested I try Larry's son Tim, or possibly Dean Coombs in Saguache. 
"I have a picture of it loaded on a flatbed trailer, but don't know where it was taken. Sorry, by that time, I was in the Marine Corps, and wasn't around to see and know," Tim tells me.
On to Dean Coombs, who I know from my time at the press association. Dean is running the last hot-type newspaper operation in the country, and probably the world. Saguache Crescent ... Last of a kind, a hold out in techno-adapted planet... so strange a being, that news organizations all over the world report on how he reports on the little burg of 500 in the San Luis Valley. 
"Yea, I'm supposed to be on CBS Sunday Morning sometime this month," he said. Along with with being featured by the LA Times and Al Jezeera, he adds.
"I bought some of Larry's stuff but I don't have that press," Coombs   says. 
"I have parts of one that he had in the shed there. It was kind of sinking down into the dirt. But it was a smaller one, like what I am printing on now. The parts are interchangeable. I got an old Ludlow (typograph device that casts bars, or slugs of type) from him. Seems like if I bought anything, Larry would always throw something else on the truck when we were getting loaded up. He was generous that way."
Coombs wasn't sure either where the larger press went. 
"Seems like it went to museum or something down in New Mexico," he said. "Though with so few of us running, I probably should have kept track." 
"It will turn up," I told him confidently. It will turn up.


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