By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief
I saw the news on social media Wednesday that the pressmen I know will no longer be printing the newspaper in Gulfport beginning Jan. 15.
Their jobs will be outsourced. One of the pressmen is Gary, my next-door neighbor. His wife, Lisa, also works at the paper, from which I retired in March after a long newsroom life in which I was a sportswriter, weekend sports editor, interim copy desk chief, copy editor and slot editor.
I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with Gary and Lisa.
Of all the pressmen, I’ve known Todd the best and the longest.
Todd is a funny guy. He’s a character. He can grow a beard that makes him look like Santa Claus.
Sometimes he would drive through my neighborhood with his friend Mark, who worked in the camera room, and Todd and Mark would throw empty beer bottles in my front yard.
As a member of the copy desk who checked the paper every night, I would call Todd to tell him whether a page would be re-sent to fix a head bust or factual error.
He would answer, “Johnny B!”
Sometimes I would say, “Uh, I’ve got a remake.”
Todd would say, “You have a comma out of place? Is that why you are re-sending the page?”
We would laugh, although I remember the days from long ago when you could re-send as many pages as you wanted and they would stop the press so that the remade pages would show up in print.
Eventually, it took an act of Congress to stop the press and the only way to expect the remake to get into print would be a web break, something that has nothing to do with the internet.
I re-sent so many pages in my career, I became known as “Captain Remake.”
When I saw the news about the outsourcing, I also thought of Dean and Matt and Rat and Brett and Charlie, friendly guys like Gary and Todd.
One pressman, who will go unnamed, enjoyed writing on the monthly employee birthday list posted in the break room and at the time clocks. What he would do was a merry prank and people got a kick out of it.
For example, he might scratch out the first name of a reporter with the last name of “Lee” and write “Robert E.” in place of the first name. A guy named Charlie James would be “LeBron.”
I like to think I got along with pressmen because my Dad was one when he was young, or maybe he worked with pressmen. I’m not really sure what his printing job was.
I believe he worked at R.R. Donnelley in Chicago before he fought in World War II. The company is the world’s largest commercial printer.
Other pressmen I’ve known are Bob, who passed away a few years ago; Stennis, who was a jogger; Brian, a hockey fan from Canada; and Mr. Melancon, whose son attended my high school.
I believe the grandfather of one of my longtime friends, David Lawrence, was a pressman at the paper many decades ago, long before I ever worked there. I think Mr. Bills was David’s grandfather. Bills was not his first name. It was his last name.
Ink is in my blood because of guys like Gary and Todd.
All of them have done a fine job for many years. They will be missed.