On the Town

Why a former Lowcountry proofreader still has newspaper ink running through her veins

Babbie Guscio
Babbie Guscio

I love newspapers.

I was a proofreader at my hometown newspaper for two years when I was in school. The paper was printed in the basement of the newspaper building where they also set the type by hand. The whole process was amazing.

My desk was the first one everyone who came upstairs saw. There were no secrets to be kept because all of the reporters, editors and freelance writers were in one big room. The AP ticker would "bing bing" loudly to alert us that a very important event had just happened. It also spit out yards of paper tape, sharing the news with us and all of the world.

The society editor was a crusty old lady who, when a bride to be brought in her engagement announcement, would act as though it was the most marvelous thing in the world and later make funny, irreverent remarks about the affair. I can't repeat some of the things she said about wedding announcements but will say they were usually hilarious. She also kept a bottle of bourbon in the bottom drawer of her desk but then again so did the editor.

I was on my toes the whole time because the typesetters downstairs would sometimes misspell words to see if I caught the mistakes in time. I had a red pen and, if I found the mistakes, would use it with gay abandon, which meant the presses had to be reset. The press foreman would dash upstairs, yelling cuss words that would curl your hair.

Much to my dismay, we never had anyone on the staff who looked like Clark Kent.

The State newspaper and the Charleston Post and Courier are two of my favorite reads after The Island Packet, of course. We have a subscription to The Packet and I must say we have the most remarkable delivery person. We have never missed a delivery. Even in the pouring rain, our paper is wrapped in plastic and in our driveway no later than 6:30 a.m. That is a miracle.

It is a hard job. You have to get up very early, pick up the papers and motor off into the early morning darkness to bring all of us our news for the day. There is something so nostalgic and comforting about walking out to get the paper while the coffee is being made.

I was quite thrilled to read that the Los Angeles Times has been saved from extinction and new life will be breathed into it.

Got milk? (I mean, beer)

Agnes Pinckney will be interested in this next tidbit.

She and her husband used to have a dairy farm in Pinckney Colony. There is a diminished demand for milk as we know it because of the varieties now offered, including almond and soy milk.

Some American craft breweries got their start using second-hand dairy machinery. To make money, dairy farmers have discovered they need to find other ways to use their idle equipment. Pretty clever of them, I think, because beer is a more profitable beverage of choice for many Americans.

An English Bluffton?

Colyton, England, is a town of about 2,000 persons in Devon.

In a way, it is much like Bluffton and our town's storied "its state of mind."

The townsfolk have a reputation of resistance. There is a lady there who loves to hang her laundry outside to dry. One day she received a letter telling her to use a dryer and not hang her clothes outside because it was unsightly. Her house is on the road leading into town and is one of the first things visitors see.

Well, the letter was spread around on the internet and got the other town residents in a twit. The next day people all over town were hanging all sorts of garments around the outside of their houses. Some residents now want to have an Annual Underwear Airing Rebellion Day.

Ah, the good old internet.