I’ve been in the newspaper business since 1961; 19 years in Craig, CO before moving to Denver in 1980. I started my career in my hometown of Craig with The Northwest Colorado Press, which grew into the Craig Daily Press a few years later. This is how the story begins:
Returning home from the army and doing ranch work, I started spending one day a week from my ranch duties selling ads for Al Schafer, the new publisher of the N.W. Colorado Press. He, and his wife Gloria, had purchased the Routt County Republican, located in Hayden, CO based in Routt County. The County seat was east of Hayden, 25 miles in Steamboat Springs and was the pioneer Steamboat Pilot founded in 1885. Pioneer owners for three generations were the Leckenby’s, Charles, Maurice and Chuck.
The Craig Empire Courier, with roots circa 1895, was a weekly newspaper that started publishing a free Friday publication, The Yampa Valley Flash and distributed it in Hayden. This infuriated publisher Schafer to the point that he packed up his letterpress shop and moved his newspaper 18 miles west from Routt County into Moffat County and Craig re-starting his newspaper. This movement under Colorado laws, and postal regulations, disqualified him as a legal newspaper for a 52-week period. To be legal again he had to publish for 52 consecutive weeks to qualify for a new second-class postal permit. All legal newspapers must possess a local postal permit to be legal in any Colorado county. His membership in the Colorado Press Association was canceled because, at that time, only legal newspapers could be members. The president of the Colorado Press Association was the publisher of The Craig Empire Courier.
Working every Monday, I had success selling ads on the streets of Craig to the point that Schafer offered me a partnership in the newspaper if I would continue to sell advertising for him. That worked well for both of us. Ad commissions added to my ranch wage of $300 a month that was shelled out by my generous father. It exceeded my former army pay of $228 a month at Ft. Knox, KY.
Housing was tight in Craig, and my wife Gerri and I, purchased a mobile home and parked it at a new River Bend trailer park with plans to move it to the ranch. I commuted the 28 miles to the ranch early every morning in a Renault CV4, a used compact mini car that had belonged to my cousin Patricia My duties were to assist my father in feeding livestock, horses, dogs and a bevy of cats that resided in the barn. Days were spent working with the cattle, fixing fence, repairing farm equipment and there was always work to be done. The livestock had to be fed every day during the cold winter months, and summers were spent herding cattle, irrigating hay meadows, and harvesting the hay crop. I was raised on this ranch and had spent my youth learning ranching skills. My father graciously let me work at the newspaper one day a week. I think he was actually pleased that I could design and sell advertising.
This arrangement worked for about six-months until Schafer advised me that he and Gloria would like to sell the newspaper and move back to Denver. He asked if I would like to buy his interest in the newspaper for $10,000. Starting as a youngster, I raised a 4-H heifer that, years later, multiplied into a small herd of my own cattle. Visiting the local bank, I pledged the livestock for a loan and purchased the newspaper. I was excited and thrilled to have my own business and with my wife Gerri, who was a business major at CSU to assist.
During my time working Mondays, I had learned some skills about the equipment, but I was in for a brutal experience of how to become a printer. Al and Gloria stayed a month, and I learned how to operate the linotype, some basic printing skills, and how to hand feed the ancient Stonemetz printing press.
Headlines and “ad guts” were handset out of California job cases. I It was a very challenging experience. But the first week after they left, I produced my first 16-page letterpress newspaper. I had worked days and nights to produce the newspaper. Gerri would bring our infant daughter Saundra to the paper office at night and run the newspaper folder for me. Together we survived and after the first month we had grossed $1400 in business and could pay the bills.
My lifelong belief in “divine providence” arrived soon when in the newspaper door walked Jerry Manure, a printer from Illinois looking for work. He was a skilled linotype operator, experienced printer, in his late 20s, and on his way to live with relatives in Utah. He was a blessing like so many people that I have worked with presently, and in the past.
Manure signed on, but with a provision that in one year he would leave and travel on to Utah. He was a good teacher, we were young and vigorous and together we put out a spirited newspaper. But, sadly, true to his word, exactly at the end of the first year he loaded up his Oldsmobile, said, “goodbye,” and left. During that year, working with him, I had partially mastered many printing skills and could carry on alone.
Almost immediately, divine providence happened again, in walked Bill Alcock, an experience pressman from Pennsylvania looking for a job. He, and his Scottish wife Maggie, became part of the family and Alcock was another savior.
Bill started repairing the old presses and the first week he said, “Bob, there is a better way to print this newspaper, it’s called “photo offset.” He told me about this new process of using a new printing technology. Shortly after the discussion, he and his family drove 120 miles to Grand Junction where he found a used Davidson offset job press, an antique wooden frame camera using 10×15 film, a homemade plate/film box where the film could be placed under glass against a sensitized aluminum plate. Ink would adhere to the exposed surface of the plate and then attached to the offset press cylinder. He purchased the package for $400 and hauled it home in his station wagon. Within a few weeks we ordered film and plates and could do commercial printing on this little press. The system was perfect and spelled the end for letterpress printing. Another miracle was about to occur. We went offset.
TO BE CONTINUED: