ABOUT BOBCAYGEON INDEPENDENT
By F. H. Dobbin, In Printer and Publisher
Being now of some mature years and beyond the days when if good sized composition roller, newly washed with lye and water, fell on the office floor and consumed much needed time in picking from its surface the basswood splinters that adhered so persistently, memory recalls incidents associated with the old-time handcraft and exigencies of each day's work. To-day the printer is more or less of a specialist. In fact often a sort of glorified machine tender a part of one whole that makes for what men delight to speak of as efficiencies. Presently the all-round printer will be a being of the pact, likely for his own good too. But I take it to be true (loud calls from the gallery of "No,") growing out of practice, application and experience, that the printing trades as followed, outside of the large centres and as worked at fifty years ago, called for an application of more ingenuity and general resourcefulness than any other trade.
The plant, for instance, was sparsely supplied. Type was often so to speak, worn down to the first nick before being discarded or replaced. The helps to speedy working that we now find set out so alluringly in the specimen and sample books of the type founders and supply houses were absent. Dotted **** for instance persisted in cutting the form rollers and all sorts of expedients had to be tried to combat the damage. The first coated paper that came to be used gave the press a fright.
It seemed so impossible to do printing on such shiny stuff.
A moment before I referred to the attribute of Memory... A most wonderful thing, that stores in the cells of our brains the details of long - forgotten incidents. But memory needs to be provoked in order to act.
I a few days ago burned a finger while wrestling with the kitchen range. Immediately recalled the fearful accident to a friend who lost his right foot by the overturning of a pot of melted iron on the foundry floor. Had not thought of the accident for thirty years but my trifling burn recalled the tragedy. So one night, while mending a hole in an otherwise perfectly serviceable coal scuttle, memory digged up a happening of past printing experience, and I place it on paper in support of my contention that the printer of years ago had to be more resourceful wham he now needs to be.
The Home of Obliging Fish.
Off from the north western edge of the county of Peterborough lies the village of Bobcaygeon.
The name is a household word amongst the fraternity of those who go a-fishing for fish and occasionally buy what they do not catch. The village has two little industries, lumber and rod fishing.
The latter survives as a sort of perpetual franchise. Men addicted to fishing, men from the big cities where they spend the days in among the tall buildings and long for the open shores of the lake, bring the implements of sport, inhabit the important hotels and spend the days in joyous piscatorial pursuit and the nights in statements that lack fact but rebound in romance. Bobcaygeon owns a renown that passes far and near as a reliable fishing preserve, one that never disappoints and where fish bite and stay on the hook. If fish be not in the vicinity the inhabitants will go out prospecting and inveigle fish to come and locate. Such shows true citizenship and a recognition of the financial fact that the professional angler is apt to be generous, and his habits are to pause at trifes. He wants what he wants when he wants it. The village escutcheon is said to be that of four rods, rampant, two maskinonge couchant, the whole entwined with eels and garnished with tackle galore. this presented in colours forms quite a halo.
The village is the home of the Bobcaygeon Independent, a paper of parts and prestige, one in a class by itself. Absolutely an enduring example of the personality conducted journal. that doesn't give a shoot for any politician, premier or potentate on the visible earth. It was started that is the paper, not the earth---- many years ago by Stewart I, who came out from the Old Country, an intense Radical, lugging with him a virulent animosity against crowned heads and titles persons. He is said to have used as a pen fluid a solution of acetic acid and gall, with a particularly biting effect. People delighted to sit down, open the paper and dwell on the process of vivisection, and to select issues of the paper
in which some offender against public principles was immolated, and send copies to the victims across the pond who were under criticism. When Stewart I undertook to flay not his was the method of the claymore. The swath he cut was markedly visible. Presently friends of the deceased called around to view the remains. It is even said that men sick of fever and approaching convalescence disdained to consume a tonic but asked for the Bobcaygeon Independant first thing.
And as an indication of a coming back to interest in personal affairs.
Now there are two newspapers in Canada that have from time to time in memorial blazoned at top of the page and under the title words defining the position of the paper and invoking the principles it upheld. One is the Toronto Globe, with its classic quotation, " The Subject who is loyal to the chief magistrate." Etc. and another is the Bobcaygeon Independent, which in and out of season, amidst turmoil and clatter, in affluence or privation, inculcated that its chief mission in this life was to uphold the propagation of "The Good, the True and the Beautiful," whatever that means. Possibly, as one might say, it may have related to the discovering and retaining of excellence in fishing opportunity.
Anyway there was the motto and there was found the vertility and deftness to sustain it.
In process of years the paper came into possession of Stewart II. Possibly it was entailed on him. He carried it on adding to its columns the zest of infinite humour. Original, fresh, and kindly, inculcating a cheerful view of life and its involvements, the paper stood alone as one of a fast disappearing number such as the one-time Burlington Hawkeye, the Dansbury News, and others, now only a memory. The Independant is still esteemed for what he says in its types and for an occasional unique view of life. Especially so in the good old summer time when frequent and exhilarating paragraphs disclose of the luck of fishermen and notable catches.
Carried on with the newspaper is a general jobbing and printing business. This adds to the gaiety of nations, for boys of the village come into the fold become the cub apprentices, absorb of the handicraft and afterwards go out and take responsibility in printing offices up and down the land, and even further abroad. A long line of journeymen, several of them now opulent proprietors, have graduated from the Bob office. By their works you will know them, grounded in the intimate mysteries of case and roller, in lock-up and justification, artists of the mallet and planer, brought up to work and the craftsmanship of the handset years.
In the Sacred Sanctum.
Tacked up on the walls were specimen posters, the chef-d' oeuvres of past printers, thus leaving their work behind. one placard stated that, A Bottum had gotten in his stock of hoop skirts and corsets for the spring of 1869. Another intimated that the entirely desirable young stallion, Young Sir Tatton, was at the service of farmers for a moderate fee, with results almost guaranteed. A couple of announcements of by-gone political meetings and scraps were in evidence. The whole surroundings were so congenial that I at once felt at home and tempted to slip off one's coat and go to work. Such is the allurement of association.
Over in a corner stood an old Oshawa Gordon press. These presses were offshoots of the enterprise of one Erastus Wiman, of early reciprocity fame, who in 1865 brought over the patterns, together with those of the old Taylor country cylinder, from the other side of the line. The machines were built at the Joseph Hall works, in Oshawa, where they made the first agriculture machinery turned out in Canada. They put together the reapers and mowers sort of loose-jointed so they could run over logs, sticks, stones, snake fences and silos and still keep up a decent working motion.
Many of the presses, especially the Taylors, were of this kind. Often has a rural printing office resounded of a winter morning with the imprecations and words of violence when the distributor rollers would be thrown across the room from the ink plate of the old Taylor press. The machines were a means to an end and only jump removed from the hand lever press days. At the Gordon press the hands had been working, running off a bill-of-fare for the local hotel. When I picked up a sheet to look at it I almost felt that I had tears in my eyes, the thing was so badly slurred. My feelings at once of large sympathy. Well, I knew what was the matter; I too had passed under the rod. So I hunted up a strip of railroad board drove the flies away from some paste that lay on a piece of paper on the imposing stone, trimmed the card and deftly stuck a couple of pieces on the projections underneath the feeding board, and where the gate that steadies the bed on the impression engages when the two parts come together. I left the sacred precincts and bade adieu to the cat.
The Miracle Had Happened.
Having finished my errand as to the books, along in the afternoon I strolled back to the print shop. I found Stewart II, at the table grinding out copy after copy. After greetings Stewart said " it was about that old press in the corner I wanted to see you." It has been slurring most disgracefully for the past week or so. Someone told me that you knew all about the cursedness of such and diverse machine.
Today we thought we would give it another trial. Put on job and try our darndest. We shifted the form from the fiddle to the side then to the bottom and top of the chase swore, pleaded, invoked all the saints had no use. She still slurred. Just glance at that."
He handed me at sheet. It was just about as bad as it well could be. His language was justified.
Then brighten up, he added " do you know, a most wonderful thing has happened."
" What was it Stewart?" I asked.
" Has some subscriber called in to pay in cash instead of produce?"
"No, its not that," he said, " though that would be very good.
We tried, as I have said, and gave it up and went to dinner.
Coming back we gave her one more trial, and by George, there she was all right.
No slurring. Right as a trivet. Going along in great shape.
Come and see.
Leaning back in his chair, he stuck one foot on the sill of the window, curled the other across the extended leg, poked his thumbs into the armholes of his vest and asked the question.
" How would you explain that?" Sorry to have bothered you about it, but it's all right now."
Said it just as if he was proposing something of a poser that would be unanswerable.
"Stewart." I said, " it seems to me that the only logical explanation is to assume that this is one of those Dispensations of Providence sent in recognition of the Good, the True and Beautiful."
And I led him over to the press and explained cause and effect.
"Gol darn it all," spoke Stewart, "and to think of it, that I have been monkeying around that piece of chaos for the last twenty years and never looked below the feeding board."
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