NORMAN — In 2004, Paul Russell retired after 40 years with The Norman Transcript. In the early years, he worked with hot metal typesetting in composing which later became the production department.
“Back when I started, it was called the composing room. I started at the Chickasha Daily Express and monitored the automatic linotypes,” Russell said.
Women staff members punched a tape and when that tape was finished with the story on it, the tape ran through a mechanism on the linotype that turned the punches into letters and words. Headlines were handset. The process had to be closely watched.
“Sometimes the lever would jam and make a mess all over the floor,” Russell said.
Hot lead was used in the process, and employees had to be very careful with it. Russell came to the Transcript for a couple of years during that time period, then went back to Chickasha, then to Ardmore. In Ardmore, Russell trained to operate the linotype.
Jack Wyatt, the composing room superintendent at the Norman Transcript, heard Russell had learned the method and convinced him to return to Norman.
“I came back in ’65 and was there until I retired,” Russell said.
He is one of dozens of Transcript retirees that lives in Norman. The group meets for coffee the second Tuesday of every month at Johnny’s.
In the early days, the men had to wear special aprons to protect clothes and skin, and their shoes would get graphite in them.
“When I went home I had to take my shoes off in the garage,” Russell said. “The changes started about 1970.”
The Transcript plant more than doubled in size in 1974 when a new press was installed, replacing the letter presses in the back of the original building. That area became a newsprint storage area and the pits for the presses were eventually filled in.