Guest Essay By A. E. P. (Ed) Wall
Eighty years ago I watched my grandpa as he read the Jamestown Post.
My grandma read Street and Smith’s Love Story magazine, while my mom was immersed in the CLSC – the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Society. I still have the diploma she was awarded at the Chautauqua Institution sometime around 1930. My dad went for detective stories.
I thought my grandpa’s choice was the best, because newspapers had comic strips. It was like learning how to play the game when, at age 4, I was enrolled in kindergarten, where Rose Crane taught me to read. Since then I’ve read every word that’s passed my eyes, beginning with signs posted in the streetcars warning that spitting was awful. It took me a while to learn that spitting may be awful, but the sign really said it was unlawful. So many words. So little time to learn them all.
Maybe it was genes, maybe it was destiny or maybe it was just plain luck that I became a newspaper reporter and editor. Maybe it was a blessing from God, like my children and grandchildren.
My life has been wrapped in newsprint.
So how come I’ve just cancelled my subscriptions to four daily newspapers?
Before that, things happened. Newspapers stopped using lead type and Linotype machines. They stopped using zinc for pictures. They even stopped using typewriters. Ways to publish the news have changed since Ben Franklin printed a page at a time.
The online newspaper editions are pretty good, and getting better. The arrival of an Amazon Kindle book machine at my house this week stirred things up. I stopped home delivery of countless pounds of paper and subscribed to two of the dailies via Kindle. The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune are ready for me by 5 in the morning, and dozens of papers are reachable through Kindle and my computer.
My dad earned his living playing the pipe organ during silent movies, providing the “bells and whistles” for the celluloid dramas. As a boy I learned how to set type by hand, reaching into the right compartment for each letter without a glance. Movie and publishing methods have gotten a lot better. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Gutenberg.
(Wall, 84, is former managing editor of The Honolulu Advertiser.)