“Roy was just seventeen in 1953, and starting his apprenticeship at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I knew his father, Joe, a veteran PD printer whom I had worked with on many occasions at the PD. Joe was a very good printer and tramped some himself during the Cleveland strike.
As you will see, Roy was a very active tramp printer starting exactly the day he got his ITU traveler which allowed him to travel. Until he called me recently and dropped by my home I wasn’t even aware of him being an ex-tramp printer. He started his journey about the time I was becoming a homeguard at the Des Moines Register. He worked in at least fifty-five papers and thirty to forty job shops — some many times. He was qualified to do anything in the composing room except being a linotype machinist. His titles included union officer and foreman.
He dropped out of school when fifteen and worked at many jobs until his dad got him an ITU apprenticeship at the Cleveland PD. The PD was the largest paper (and still is) in the state and had about 450 composing room situations and at least thirty to forty subs on the slipboard. One printer he relied on for information and advice was Ed Cady, who was thought of as a three-city tramp. (Cleveland, San Francisco, and El Paso). Roy said Ed was a very good floorman and the best ad mark-up man he had ever met.
He became a tramp because he wanted to travel. He thought Deo Padgett, the PD composing superintendent was a genuine nice guy. However, when Roy quit he spoke to Deo and simply told him, “____ you Deo, I am going to quit.” Deo then said, “Roy, that is probably the best move you will ever make.” His first traveler was deposited at Toledo and he wondered in his mind if he was really competent, etc. Actually he stayed in Toledo until he was 100% confident of his ability. He then left for St. Louis, Des Moines, Denver, and Cheyenne. At this point he felt he was on his way to becoming a tramp printer.
Roy liked to listen and learn from the tramps. He kept a log of the composing room shift starting times, financial work weeks, vacation credits, cash-in men and the chairmen. He always got a lot of good tips from the tramps as to good places to work and always hated to see some of the tramps abuse themselves with booze, etc. Had he not decided to become a tramp printer he wouldn’t have met his wife, Linda, thirty-five years ago.
Roy was tramping when new printing processes took over and he was sorry to see the “good old days” vanish. He felt the tramps were generally better printers with a few exceptions. He always felt he gave a foreman a good day’s work and would be welcomed back later. He said he got along well with homeguard printers and found a few a little bit envious. Sometimes he would change his job classification on the slipboard in order to allow another printer hired also.
Tramps came and went as they desired, by-passing the personnel departments. He felt some tramps took advantage of things which he regretted. The happiest time of his tramping was in New Mexico, in 1960, when he married his wife, Linda. Roy was twenty-five and Linda was twenty. He had a 1953 buick and bought a nineteen-foot trailer in Las Vegas. Roy said it seemed everybody doing what we were doing was about sixty, drove a cadillac, and pulled a airstream trailer.
He recalled one experience he won’t soon forget. They pulled into a trailer park with a gas tank half-full and only two dollars. The lady manager of the trailer park let them pull in but wouldn’t hook them up until they had the rent money. Roy went to the Long Beach union headquarters and found he could get hired the next morning. But he wanted work that night and found a commercial shop with a late starting time. Thus he got his pay pretty quick and paid the trailer park.
His son was born in 1961 while they were traveling in the nineteen-foot trailer. In 1964, when their eldest daughter was born they were pulling a thirty-footer. Roy’s daughter was not feeling well and was in hospitals in four different cities. Today he says she is a thirty year old beauty. In 1967, their youngest daughter was born.
The St. Joseph, MO News and Press-Gazette was his choice place to work as the last hour was spent at the poker table. A close second choice would be the El Paso Herald Post since it was so close to Juarez, Mexico. The Chicago Tribune had the best timed shift from 1:30 pm to 8:45 pm. Roy said you could stay out until daybreak and still get enough sleep. Also in Chicago you got a day’s vacation for fourteen days worked.”
Here are the many cities he worked in — mostly newspapers but some commercial plants:
AZ – Phoenix & Tucson; CA – Brawley, Long Beach, Signal Hill, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, & Berkeley; CO – Denver, Pueblo & Colorado Springs; IL – Springfield, Peoria, Champaign, East St. Louis, & Chicago; IN – Indianapolis, Terra Haute, & Hammond; IA – Des Moines, & Council Bluffs; KS – Wichita, & Topeka; KY – Louisville; MD – Baltimore; MO – St. Louis, & St. Joseph; NE – Omaha, & Lincoln; NV – Las Vegas; NY – Buffalo, & Niagara Falls; OH – Cleveland, Medina, Findlay, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, Akron, & Youngstown; OK – Tulsa; TX – El Paso, & Ft. Worth; WI – Milwaukee; WY – Cheyenne.