Gulfport pressmen did a fine job and they will be missed

Pressmen are going the way of the typewriter, never to be seen again.

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.

 

Please follow and like us:

I’ll never forget what Roy Rolison taught me

Sports editor Roy Rolison in a print ad for the South Mississippi Sun in 1973, the newspaper's first year.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

For the past seven days, I’ve spent considerable time remembering Roy Rolison, my teacher and my friend who passed away on Aug. 26 at the age of 67.

Roy was the sports editor at The South Mississippi Sun in Gulfport from 1973 to 1982, and I was a rookie sportswriter at The Daily Herald in Gulfport in 1973.

The Sun was a new morning newspaper that year and The Herald, where Roy had been a sportswriter, was a traditional afternoon newspaper. Both were owned by the same company and both operated in the same building.

The Herald newsroom was near the front of the building and The Sun newsroom was in the back, and though we worked different hours, I became friends with Roy and in 1978 he hired me as a sportswriter at The Sun.

I was just 21 when I started at the Herald and Roy was only two years older than me, though he seemed to have 200 more years of knowledge, newspaper experience and talent than I had.

His knowledge included the Gulfport-Biloxi night life. Without him, I would have never known Spider’s, T.O.’s, The Sports Page and The Fiesta. Hanging out with him kept me from being a monk.

Ham sandwiches

 My late-night memories include a 2 a.m. phone call I answered about a year after Patty and I got married. Roy called. He was across the street with some guys at Mike Tonos’ house. Tonos was a city editor at The Sun.

Roy asked for ham sandwiches and said Patty and I could bring them to Tonos’ house. I didn’t think that was funny. The call woke me up and put me in a foul mood. I said something rude to Roy and slammed the phone.

I’m surprised I wasn’t fired the next day because Roy was my boss.

Roy taught me through observational learning, even when I was at The Herald. I watched how he worked.

I read his column, Sunny Side Up. I would try to emulate his inspired writing style. One or two times, I stole a phrase from his column because it was so good.

I was also influenced by his headline writing and the way The Sun sports pages were designed.

‘Rip ‘Em Rolison and Kick ‘Em Kirkland’

When I was at The Sun, I worked with Cliff Kirkland, my longest-running friend to this day. Roy hired Cliff as a sportswriter around 1975, and Cliff became sports editor after Roy left the paper.

Roy and Cliff were the writers I wanted to be. As columnists, they were provocateurs. They would tell it like it is, to borrow from Howard Cosell, and would get a rise out of readers who disagreed with their opinions.

They became known as “Rip ‘Em Rolison” and “Kick ‘Em Kirkland.”

Scoops

Roy loved to get scoops, and he helped me get my own.

My most memorable was when I found out the name of the new Gulfport High football coach well in advance of the athletic director’s announcement of the hiring. This was in 1978.

The AD would not confirm the name, but Roy told me to go with the story with the name of the new coach.

We were right and the AD did not like that we broke his news.

At a press conference to announce the hiring, the AD said to me, “John, would you like some coffee? It’s not poison.”

Picks

We lived for covering high school and college football and the New Orleans Saints.

Pigskin Picks was one of The Sun’s most creative football features. Each week during the season, the sports staff and a guest picker would make predictions accompanied by a story that was like a comedy piece. It poked fun at the guest picker.

Tonos, who looked like Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Davey Lopes, was the guest one week and two pictures ran with the story. One showed Lopes laughing and the other showed Tonos imitating Lopes laughing. I believe this was Roy’s idea and it worked to perfection.

When I started at The Herald, I gave up my pursuit of a journalism degree because I had the job I wanted and Roy Rolison was among people who would educate me.

He was the main one. I’m forever thankful.

Editor’s note: The picture with this post shows Roy in a print ad for The Sun in November 1973. Years later, The Sun and The Herald merged to become the Sun Herald, a morning daily. I retired from the Sun Herald in March. One of my retirement gifts was a picture showing me with Roy and Cliff covering a basketball game. Cliff presented me with the picture.

Please follow and like us: