Cub Scouts’ faces offer reminder

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just like a pack of wild Tigers, we could hear them coming.

A troop of Boy Scout Tiger Cubs visited the newspaper Tuesday night, and as they gathered outside our front door we could literally hear them through the walls.

Six or seven 6- and 7-year-old boys can be loud, as any mother will tell you.

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But this was a well-behaved group who were definitely wearing their thinking caps.

One boy raised his hand with a question before the front door had even closed behind him.

As we toured the building, they asked smart questions.

How much does that barrel of ink cost? If people pay their bills to you, does that mean you can pay the people who work for you?

The boys were a bundle of questions, comments, laughs and noise.

A group of obviously involved parents followed their children, helping me wrangle little fingers away from sometimes-dangerous places.

But the highlight of our tour had them momentarily silent and awestruck.

Normally, tour groups take a stroll through the heart of our building, the pressroom, when it’s quiet. The presses don’t roll until late evening at the earliest.

And our press foreman prefers to keep his room free of little hands when the equipment is in use. It’s not exactly a safe place.

But a little planning and a little luck meant these Tiger Cubs got to see it all. One of the troop’s leaders, Charla Mophett had asked to come when the presses would be rolling. We’d replied with a time but said the boys would have to watch from outside the actual pressroom for safety reasons.

When the tour started, the press wasn’t running. But just as we were rounding the corner to leave the pressroom, a pressman on the other end of the room started things up.

The previously squiggly line of boys fell into perfect order, their mouths shut and their eyes big.

Aside from the occasional raised hand to point at a part of the moving press they found particularly fascinating, the group just watched.

I made sure they were a safe distance from the equipment, and their leaders helped me maintain said distance. Then I simply let them watch.

For boys, the attraction is the very loud, massive machine and all its moving parts. As my husband tells me, guys just like that stuff.

But their faces reminded me of how I felt the first time I watched a newspaper printing press roll.

I was in college, editing the campus newspaper. Presses there rolled at 3 a.m., and often our staff of college students was up late working on the paper until just about that time. Sticking around to watch the presses became a favorite pastime of mine.

The train-like sound and the whizzing paper is fun to watch for anyone, but I wasn’t just intrigued by the guy-factor of it all.

To me, the presses symbolized power.

The machine has been necessary for so long to inform, educate and entertain the masses. Before the Internet, e-mail and Facebook, the rolling presses brought the news.

Our industry has changed over the years. You get much of your national news from television and your local gossip from text messages.

But just like the boys’ faces read Tuesday night, the power of the press is still amazing.

And the mighty machine in the back of our building is still the only source that brings you the score of the Dixie Youth coach-pitch game, the photo of your science fair winner and the latest antics of the Natchez Board of Aldermen all in one easy to use, easy to handle package.

Rest assured, we’ll press on.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551.