‘Whitey’ has been our pressman for 50 years

Editor’s Note:

This column was originally published on April 5, 2006.

“Whitey” has been our pressman for 50 years

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I went into our normally-closed printing plant and saw “Whitey” Hauxwell working on one unit of our 5-unit press.

A replacement part had come in and he chose this down time to install it. Please note, I said ‘he chose this time.’ That’s because Whitey has no bosses at Sherman Publications. He knows what has to be done and does it, downtime or any time.

That’s the kind of employee he is, which is the same kind of person he is.

If a customer needs their envelopes, hand bills, letterheads, etc. Whitey will see that they are done on their time requirement.

If Abitibi chooses 7 a.m. to deliver a load of newsprint, Whitey will be there at 6 a.m., in case they come in early from Canada.

And it’s been that way for 50 years.

When he came to work for us in 1956, a 16-year-old high-schooler, he already had the work ethic. I remember so well seeing him stop in the middle of his fast pace, think for a minute, then resume that pace.

New on the job, he had to stop to think of what he was supposed to be doing next.

He was a sweeper, a paper jogger, a smelter and gofer. Smelting was one of those jobs no one did by choice. Our plant, as were all weekly newspaper printing plants at the time, was a lead-using plant. After each issue, the lead had to be melted, the dross skimmed off and fresh lead poured into molds (pigs).

It was a hot and splattering job that only a working lad like Whitey could enjoy. It was one of the early jobs we made our son, Jim, do. We called it a “controlling agent.”

Soon, Whitey was flipping pages into our big, old Cottrell printing press. Don’t tell me about child labor laws. Whitey willingly accepted a job that would actually produce something tangible.

It’s probably hard for you to visualize a person flipping (to get air under the sheet) a 32-inch x 44-inch piece of paper into grippers that would carry the sheet around a cylinder and deliver it upside down on the outside.

But, that’s what Whitey did, hours at a time, for eight years . . . before we bought an automatic-feed press. A press-run in those first days was 20 hours a week, usually over two days.

When he wasn’t doing that printing, he was working the hand-fed platen presses, or making pads, running the folder, distributing type or, yes, sweeping the floor and smelting.

It was a grand day in all our lives when we took delivery on our first Goss Community, roll-fed, offset printing press in 1966. It was a revolution in the printing industry, and we were on the ground floor, being the second weekly newspaper in the state to have this state-of-the-art press.

Whitey may have been the happiest of all. All, except us, who had Whitey as an employee. First there was one Goss unit, then two, then three, four and five.

Whitey moved, and moves, fast enough to make tension, ink and water adjustments to keep spoilage to a minimum. In the industry, there’s a rule-of-thumb of one printer per two presses.

Another printer or two in our plant would only be space takers. Whitey would run over them. Periodically repairmen come in. Seldom do they find anything Whitey isn’t onto.

About 30 years ago I raised my voice to Whitey. I don’t remember why. Other than that one time we’ve been fellow workers, laugh-sharers, planners and friends.

Many times, including that recent Saturday, Whitey has looked like he’d been “worked hard and put away wet,” as the saying goes, because he’ll be covered in printer’s ink from elbow to wherever.

So it is with Worker Bees, like Lawrence “Whitey” Hauxwell.

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