HOT T YPE SPARKED COOL MEMORIES
On seeing your article in the summer edition on metal type and letterpress printing,
fond memories of my first years in journalism came trooping by.
In olden days, (1967–71) putting together The Bucknellian did not mean sitting
in front of a computer screen and launching an application. It meant bringing your
typewritten story down to Art Miller’s print shop on Market Street, near the
There, editors such as Bob Feir ’69 or Larry Baker ’70 would edit your story
and often have you rewrite it before the copy went back to Billy, the linotypist, who
miraculously turned it, line by line, into a galley of lead. Photos were reproduced
on metal plates supported at just the right height by wood blocks, and headlines
were created from cases of type, which are now collectibles at flea markets.
The headlines, photographs and advertisements were put together in a heavy
metal frame or chase which, upside-down and backwards, became that week’s
newspaper when cast into a curved metal plate shaped to fit on the press roller.
It was the age of en and em spaces measured in points with a pica pole.
My training served me well, since my first newspaper job featured basically the
same technology. I was allowed to write stories, take photographs, then lay out my
page in hot type. Trimming a story to fit meant more than just hitting the delete
key; you had to read the type and decide which chunk of metal would be recycled
back into molten metal.
The ability to read upside down and backwards came in handy as a rookie reporter
trying to interview a recalcitrant politician across a desk strewn with papers, any
one of which might be tomorrow’s lead story.
Thanks for the memories. It’s nice to know that hot type is still appreciated as
the art that it was.
Eric Riess ’71
FILM HIGHLIGHTED INJUSTICES
I was glad to see the feature story in the Summer 2016 edition of Bucknell Magazine
about the new PBS documentary, American Reds, by Richard Wormser ’55 [which
debuted Sept. 29]. I was able to view the film on DVD and felt that Wormser
handled the Communist Party with great sensitivity. The impression that the film
left me with was that Communist Party members were idealistic and went through
a lot of hardships because of their socialist beliefs and their desire to create a society
that treats everyone with kindness and respect. I was embarrassed by the historical
failure [of our government] to recognize that it was wrong to punish people for
their beliefs and for our delay in recognizing the evils of McCarthyism and
Hooverism until so much damage was done to the lives of so many people.
As a former FBI agent, I am convinced that if it were not for FBI chief J. Edgar
Hoover’s unrealistic bureaucratic policies requiring all agents to develop confidential
informants by certain established deadlines, the tragedy of 9/11 could have been
avoided. FBI officials disregarded reports from the Chicago and Phoenix field offices
that Middle Eastern men were taking flying lessons on multiengine planes but were
not interested in learning how to take off or land the planes. That was a very heavy
price to pay for bureaucratic stupidity.
Jack Levine ’55
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