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Remembering after 50 years on the job

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July 22, 2014 | 04:51 PM
50 years — They said it wouldn't last.

Who said that! Co-workers and even my grandmother.

What wouldn't last? Me working at the Regional News. Co-workers thought I was too prissy because my hair was always in place, wore fashionable dresses, heels and had long polished fingernails. They placed bets on how long I would last and none of them gave me credit for staying more than a few weeks. They didn't think I would be able to stand getting my hands dirty.

Well, I have had more ink and paper dust rub off on my hands than possibly anyone. Often times it found its way to my face and clothes. We used to manually correlate the sections of the paper every Wednesday (stuffing day) for many, many years.

My grandmother had previously cleaned for the owners of the news and said they could be tough to work for. Well, it's over 50 years later and I am still working here.

I admit in the first year I would complain to my childhood sweetheart (later to be my husband) that the job was tough, the boss could be tough. It was hot without air conditioning and melting lead heat up the place almost daily.

Flies buzzing me as I was trying to type because the doors had to be left open so we wouldn't keel over from heat. Yes, melting lead that was used to create lead slugs for the linotype machines.

Each line of type in a newspaper was a separate slug of lead. It was crazy trying to proofread and rearrange the slugs that got turned and out of order as they came through the linotype and slid onto the tray holding the galley.

We did a lot of printing back then for other businesses and had an assortment of presses to handle the various jobs. As soon as we were done stuffing the paper on Wednesday and getting it out for delivery, we would start in on other printing jobs. We would create auction bills, receipt booklets, garden club booklets, booklets of all sorts. Christmas cards, invitations, just too numerous to remember or mention.

The sounds of several presses running at once was like a symphony of tired machinery. Each with their own unique sound. Some I liked and some took some getting used to. I ruined a good share of clothes walking through the maze of presses and coming up with fresh ink stains. No way those stains were coming out. All the old presses are long gone and we mostly work in a silent building with just telephones and our own voices to be heard.

I never get bored with the work at the news because I do so many different tasks making every day different. Actually through the years I have done just about everything at the office except never learned how to develop a picture. Just wasn't interested I guess. I really get great satisfaction from meeting deadlines which has been so much a part of my work history.

I first started working for the Regional News June 1, 1964, forgoing my Badger High School graduating class picnic. The Regional News needed someone to start immediately, so I jumped in.

I heard about the job opening from my shorthand teacher, who knew I wasn't going to attend college for lack of funds and transportation. I interviewed with publisher Al Bearder, and that was the start of a long career at the paper.

When I told my dad I was going to work at the Regional News he said that one of our ancestors had been owner or editor of the paper back in the 1800s. I wasn't sure I believed him until I found out it was true from information in the archives.

My maiden name is Utter, and apparently I had a lot of relatives that lived in Lake Geneva in the early 1800s that were in the newspaper business. Before Wisconsin was a state, there were about 1,200 people living in Lake Geneva. Six of those Utter families were my relatives.

I have a copy of the "Geneva Lake Mirror" published by George S. Utter, Volume 1 dated February 7, 1861. I also have a contract between Geo. S Utter and J.E. Burton signed April 11, 1873. Utter was the publisher of the Geneva Lake Herald at that time.

I am an eleventh generation Utter in the United States. Nicholas Utter came from Sweden and arrived in New Sweden (Delaware) in 1654 after five months at sea.

He was on the ship named Ore (eagle). They voyaged to St Kitts in the Carribean, they encountered Turkish pirates, and about ¼ of the people on board died during the trip. After getting to Delaware the Swedes lost their colony in a fight with the Dutch out of New Amsterdam (New York).

My first job at the newspaper was to set type. At that time some of the copy was typed on an electronic Justowriter, a machine that punched a dotted code into paper ticker tape. This typesetting machine was blind typing and the only way to read the type was by learning the codes on the tape.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s new equipment was purchased and copy was set on machines that reproduced type on photographic paper. The paper had to dry once it was developed and humidity levels would raise havoc with the process, especially in summer months before air conditioning was installed.

I came up with an idea and designed a photographic paper dryer, which the Regional News had built and used successfully until that typesetting process was replaced by computers and printers.

It wasn't until 1987 that the Regional News switched over to computers. Upgrades and additional computers have been added over the years. Photographs were all developed at the Regional News until 1996 when the darkroom was shut down and now everything is done electronically on the computers.

Although numbers of subscriptions has not changed drastically over the years some of the methods in labeling papers to mailed subscribers has. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, labels were hand-punched on metal. Later, cardboard stencils with green or blue carbon paper were used to make labels which were glued on the papers. I was very glad to switch to computer labels in 1991 because of the many problems with gluing.

The size of the actual paper has changed on several occasions over the years and the width of columns changed also.

The Resorter started out as a summer-only publication from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the early 1960s. In the early 1980s it became a year-round publication like it is today.

In 1964 the newspaper costs 10 cents and now the current cost is $1.50. It would be interesting every time we had an increase to hear some of the disgruntled customers complain about the increases and what the paper was or was not good for.

Lake Geneva always has something newsworthy to write about but to me the biggest news stories may have been when the Playboy Club was built and of course, the riots downtown in the mid-sixties. The Playboy Club was construction and the riots were destruction to our wonderful city.

The most embarrassing newspaper moment was a headline that read, "Area Students Week in Spelling." That headline was submitted and appeared on national television on the "Tonight Show."

A little about my private life. I live in Pell Lake. I have two daughters Georgia, 43, and Alexandra, 36. Guess I can't claim to be 39 any longer. I have three wonderful grandchildren.

Georgia has an 11 year old daughter, Lexy and my daughter Alexandra has two boys, Miles, 5, and George born in March this year.

My husband George passed away 10 years ago in May.

Golf used to be my favorite past time. Don't get around to it much any more.

I now carry the title "office manager."

Oh boy, that means I get to take care of classifieds, subscriptions, answering the phone, waiting on customers, deposits, decide where the ads will go in the paper and how many pages, carpet sweep the floor when the leaves blow in (yup, you read that right), take care of street sales and the list goes on and on. . .but sometimes it's the little things that make a good day at the news. Delivering a newspaper to a senior citizen at their home because they didn't it in the mail. Sending a news article to someone living too far away to be able to get it and maybe they are not computer savvy. And already having knowledge of a lost or found pet when the owner calls to place an ad.

The Lake Geneva Regional News building at 315 Broad Street was built in 1946, the same year I was born. I guess it was meant to be!

Sue Hinske

Office Manager


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