Palm Beach Post Turns 100

Palm Beach Post - America's Fastest Growing Major Daily Newspaper 09-30-1988The Palm Beach Post is giving itself an extended pat on the back for surviving 100 years. I logged about 35 years there, stretching from the early 1970s until I took a buyout in 2008. I congratulate the publication on surviving, even if it’s a shadow of its former self. It was billed as “America’s Fastest Growing Major Daily Newspaper” on a coffee mug dated September 30, 1988.

A recent house ad bragged that “The Post’s newsroom has more than 100+ Journalists…” (They must have laid off the copy editor who would have known that “more than” and “100+” is redundant.) In 2007, the newsroom had three times that many staffers, but, who’s counting?

Clatter, clutter and ringing of bells

Palm Beach Post newsroom Election Night 1976Here’s what election night looked like in 1976, an era when reporters used typewriters (mostly manual), election results arrived by telephone and were tabulated by hand by scowling reporters and editors keeping an eye on the deadline clock. News came in on a bank of wire service teletypes with much clatter, clutter and ringing of bells.

REAL cut ‘n’ paste

Palm Beach Post newsroom Election Night 1976You can see glue bottles scattered all over the newsroom, from an era where “cut” was done with scissors or the edge of a pica pole. The “paste” part was done with homemade paste or – in the case of the upscale Post – rubber cement.

OSHA doomed the “spike”

Palm Beach Post newsroom Election Night 1976OSHA must have put an end to another old newspaper standby, the “Spike.” When I first got into the business, almost every desk had a wicked-looking spike attached to a flat base. When you were through with your notes or other paperwork, you’d “spike” them on the sharp thing that looked like a long needle. It screwed into the base so you could remove the oldest stuff from the bottom when the spike got full.

With practice, you could hold a paper flat in your palm, and slam it down on the spike without getting speared as it passed between your fingers. I punctured a finger from time to time until I mastered the technique, but I never heard of anyone falling across a desk and impaling himself on one.

The terminology outlasted the tool. If an editor decided to kill a story, he or she would “spike it,” just like you’d drive a stake through a vampire’s heart.

A photo gallery of characters

I’ve held these photos for a couple or years thinking I’d get around to telling the story of some of the characters who inhabited the newsroom in the days before the office and its denizens were domesticated. The folks who wrote the stories were often more interesting than their subjects. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery. Posties, feel free to leave comments with your memories of this fascinating crew and era.

Civic Center 1967

Here’s another story that’s fallen into Google’s black hole. These photos of girls at South Cape’s Civic Center were taken February 22, 1967 for The Missourian’s Youth Page. Unfortunately, there’s a whole range of dates missing from the Google Archives for that period, so I can’t tell you exactly what’s going on and who the girls are.

As best as I can remember, a young lady from Southeast Missouri State College showed up to lead the girls in something. I can’t tell if it’s modern dance, stretching or, in one photo in the gallery, the proper way to carry a heavy rock.

How the photos were taken

Since I don’t have any other info, let’s talk technique.

I got a little sloppy with this photo. See the legs of my tripod light stand in the back left of the photo. This must have been when I was experimenting with “hot lights” to boost the illumination enough that I wouldn’t have to use flash.

That’s a technique that I used for most of my career. Some guys are able to visualize what the light will look like when their strobes fire. I can’t. I have to SEE the light. That’s why I used photo floods or quartz lights. My theory was that if God had wanted the world lit by flashes, he’d have made lightning the standard, not the sun.

Rube Goldberg lighting

In addition to more formal lighting, I carried some homebrew contraptions.

The photo staff made up a sets of Rube Goldberg-looking portable lights that used a peanut-sized 1000-watt light bulb that fit into a special ceramic socket with two bare wires protruding from it. We’d twist those wires onto some lamp cord, attach the sockets to a huge metal clamp with pipe clamps and be on our way. The more diligent of us would solder and tape or use heatshrink tubing on the junction. They were great because you could clamp them just about anywhere and they’d throw out a LOT of light. OSHA and the loss control department would probably frown on them for a number of very good reasons.

As much heat as light

The bad thing is that they’d also produce a lot of heat along with the light.

One election day, chief photographer Jose More and I went around to all the campaign headquarters and stuck lights up so the shooters wouldn’t have to deal with it on the run. The next day, Jose and I went back to retrieve our gear.

Oops, one of the lights had shifted, leaving a large charred mark on the drywall. Jose and I looked at it, looked at each other, nodded, then slapped a huge campaign poster over the damage and bolted. Thank goodness this was still back in the day of smoke-filled rooms. Nobody noticed that the place was nearly on fire.

Civic Center Photo Gallery

If you recognize anyone, call ’em out. If you remember what was going on, please fill us in on that, too. I shot a sock hop at the Civic Center in the summer of 1967. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.