Here’s one for the lingering vestiges of the old crowd . . .
IT ALL TRANSPIRED 55 YEARS AGO, so I guess I can’t get in much trouble over it now. Anyone else involved in even the slightest way has been dead for years. Old age has made me alone the keeper of this particular memory. In itself it’s humorous, but it’s sad how many such little memories must die with each person that moves on.
I imagine right off that any artistic sorts, including those who make up the paper’s front pages these days, will shudder at this ugly, unbalanced, overcrowded image. The news columns even appear to be jammed together, but that was because it was back in the day when we used “column rules” as space-savers. They printed between columns a thin line that doesn’t show in this reduction.
The above was printed April 23, 1964, when the paper’s total regular editorial, advertising, office and production staff totaled 6. I believe I was still filling in as publisher pro-tem then—making me more than half the reportorial staff, the outside advertising department, the paper’s photographer—and I doubled as a printer and sometimes hand-fed press operator on production day (Wednesday, with the paper hitting the streets on Thursday). And I was still having fun through it all. There was a certain esprit de corps in the air.
What prompted this phony “extra” edition of the paper was the madcap mid-week afternoon wedding of Del Thompson of Port Ludlow, a good friend of mine and of Leader printer Claude Mitton. Claude and I usually moseyed over to the nearby Delmonico tavern for a couple of beers following our half-day’s work on Saturdays—and Del was always waiting. Del was short for Delores, which had been hung on him as a baby by unthinking parents. He was doubly attached to the Delmonico, which everyone referred to as “the Del.”
The Delmonico was a couple of doors east of downtown’s main intersection, on the north side of the street
Nothing would do for Del but that Claude and I absent ourselves from work on our busiest day of the week (Tuesday) and witness his brief between-beers wedding before the hapless minister and wife at the Baptist Church parsonage.
We were all to assemble at the Delmonico and ride to the scene in Del’s car. The bride was over an hour late—and I won’t go into the details of all the Keystone Kop humor and mishap that followed, including the low-brow ambiance of the actual ceremony. Suffice to say, it drove me to poetry that stole the cadence, rhyme-style and tone of Robert Service, the author of such work as “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” It seemed appropriate for the wedding of Del Thompson.
To get my effort into print, I stole back to the Leader under cover of darkness the following day, after the week’s issue had been printed and mailed. Having been raised as a printer, I set the poem in type, and removed the old-style type-high hot-metal multitudinous-piece front page in its locked form that was one of four still on the press rollers still inked, awaiting the dawn of a new work day. I then carefully removed part of the page and inserted my headline, poem and “extra” label.
Locked the page back up, returned it to the press, and ran off just four copies of a 4-page Leader. Then, of course, I had to replace the pieces of the original page and return it to the press, wash and replace a little hand-picked larger type into proper drawers, and consign to a melting pot the metal with which I’d cast the poem. The entire poem actually was picked a letter at a time in semi-large- type matrices into a composing stick a line at a time, then cast in metal via a hybrid machine known as a Ludlow typograph, 40 individual lines. So it was a bit time-consuming, even with my knowledge of type drawers and the printer’s indispensable “stick.”
Yes, it was a lot of effort that would remain unheralded by the world, but it was worth it when I handed Del his copy the following Saturday as he sat on a bar stool at the Del. And No, l don’t think I’ll append the poem here. It is seen in 10 stanzas, running down the left of the page in the illustration. It is immortalized in its own way in a book I printed in just 11 copies in 2015, a copy of which may or may not be archived at the local historical society. Only 2 copies made it into the private hands of non-family members.
I had an easier time with other somewhat work-related efforts—such as photographing in early February 1964 several local old-timers “harvesting bananas” during my ongoing battle in print with the woman postmaster in Sequim over which town has the best weather (lesser amount of rainfall per annum, more sunshine). For the photo, I borrowed an entire stalk of bananas from George Gunn who always kept one hanging at the front of his grocery on Water Street. Hung it on a fig tree at someone’s house on Monroe Street. The photo and story were used in the next issue of the Leader.
There was a night I strapped one of the office manager’s commodious brassieres onto the figure in Haller Fountain. But that was not used as a news item. It was merely fulfillment of a dare. Just a titillation of sorts.
April Fools’ Day 1965 fell on a Leader publication day. So for the occasion I crafted, had engraved and ran on the front page of the paper a photo of Bob (Scratch) Higdon crew member on the Whidbey Island ferry, posed beside a telephone pole on which appeared to be a salmon weighing perhaps 200 pounds—complete with story.
Everybody’s just so serious these days . . . well, maybe with the exception of columnist Bill Mann.
(NOTE to would-be historians: it was never “Delmonico’s” as some insist on fancying it up. The old identifying place name painted on the window read merely “Delmonico.” My uncle Frank Symonds was operating the bar, card room and Greyhound bus station there back through the ‘60s and beyond, while his wife Mary June (née Camfield) was running the lunch counter.)