By Louie Graves
This is the second time I’ve moved into the building at 418 N. Main St., Nashville.
The first time was in the summer of 1967, and my family employer, the Nashville News, was located at 208 South Main on the other end of the business district.
The late Arthur Corbell was the contractor for the new building which was steel beams and concrete and no frills at all.
The newspaper’s crew borrowed trucks to haul all the old equipment from old to new site, and that included the heavy old printing press. My father, the late Louis “Swampy” Graves, was the editor and owner. He had found the printing press for sale at a newspaper in Seguin, Texas, to replace his old one. Years later it was taken apart again for the newspaper’s move to North Main.
It was “letterpress,” which is now an antique way of printing everything from books and magazines to newspapers.
Letterpress printing presses were unique in that there was a deep pit underneath where the printers could stand while servicing the monster.
The new building had two darkrooms because the boss wanted us to eventually process our own photographs for the newspaper.
In the “new” building sometime in the early ’70s, the Nashville News upgraded to offset printing, and then the old press was silenced. By this time I had completed college and was a full-time employee. Also, married with a daughter.
For a couple of years we printed our newspaper on the offset press of the De Queen Bee, but finally Swampy was able to get a loan and buy our own modern offset press.
As best we could, we kept up with technical advances in newspaper production. One thing we did was to build what we called the “Cold Room” where our word processing computers were kept. Somewhere along the way, we had been told that there would be fewer expensive service calls if the computers operated in the cold. Everyone that worked in the room got a company jacket.
When we got the new offset press, we disassembled the old press and the old Linotypes and dumped them in the old press pit. Then we covered the pit with concrete.
In the early summer of 2003, my late wife, Jane, and I, along with fellow employees John R. Schirmer, Pam McAnelly, Tracy Denny-Bailey and John Balch, started the Leader at 119 N. Main, less than three blocks away.
And in 2016 John Robert purchased Graves Publishing Co., and merged the newspapers. His purchase included the building and printing plant at 418 N. Main.
Because we dreaded the physical work of moving, we postponed moving back into the News building, but we finally did it last week.
I have been boring my colleagues with tales about the press pit and the gas lines for the old Linotypes and other lore from earlier days. The photo darkroom has been filled with new stuff. Some of us have moved into the Cold Room, although its special air conditioner no longer works.
We’re getting accustomed to our new desk locations, even the ones in the old Cold Room.
But it’s nice to smell the rolls of newsprint and the barrels of ink, again.
A look back
Getting back into the News building again made me think of the wonderful people with whom I’ve worked dating back in the 1950s. This list includes some living, some gone on to their reward. Some worked here briefly; some for decades. Some were in commercial printing; some in production, some administrative and some writers/photographers/advertising.
Forgive me if I forget a name, but my list includes (some by maiden names, and I am not even trying to mention the names of paper boys other than Jimmy Dale and Nate Coulter):
Max Sively, Dormon Scoggins, Harold Spigner, Johnny Graham, Charlie Finley, ‘Cheesey’ Roberts, Hal Scoggins, George Williams, Curtis Smith, Cecil “Birddog” Harris, Mary Harris, “Miss Fern” Ferguson, Mallie Dyer McLaughlin, Bernice Cowling, Clifton Crews, Faye Crews, Rosa Deloney, Mr. A.G. Smith, Johnnie Couch, Ed Jacques, Phyllis Turner, Donald Thompson, Gayla O’Bryant Rowe, Michael Howard, Rusty Steel, Marcus Ray Blakely, Nate Coulter, Dennis Ritchie, Ken Bissell, Mark Trout,
Cindy Butler, Terrica Hendrix, Ashley Starr, Amy Beene, Jennifer Ramsey, Hilary Butler, Thomas Ellis, Thom Copeland, Matt Williams, Scotty Floyd, Bobby Chambers, Holland Powell, Morgan Robinson, Kayla Sparks, Emily Alexander, Kimberly Harrison, Jana Copeland, Molly Freel, Ali Davis, Nicole Tracy, Natasha Conway, Dixon Land, Cherie Pile Wright, Lynn Ramage, Mickey Myers, Sandy Myers, Jeanette Busby, Denise Cobb, Kathy Barnhill, Don Hall, Gary Funderburk, Leeman Gilley, Kenny Jackson ….
Swampy and Wilton, Jane, all of the Graves boys and girls ….
and today’s news and ad gathering crew of JR, Pam, Tracy, John and me.