Over the next dozen years children became teenagers and teenagers became adults, floods, storms, accidents, births, deaths and other coming and goings were recorded in Story’s tales. My business grew and I put on four employees. Having eyes inside my business helped the community sort out true from false stories that sprang up out of speculation.
At a craft festival outside of Point Pleasant, WV, I met Austin Jones demonstrating an antique letterpress. Austin convinced me I needed a letterpress of my own and he knew where one was. “In Dayton, Ohio, the widow of a press restorer has a nice press for sale,” he said, “10×12 Chandler & Price Old Style.”
When we were in the widow’s basement, she explained her husband used to drive around the county and stop in at old general stores to ask if anyone knew where an old press was. She said this press had come out of the basement of a school in West Virginia. When he found it, the flywheel, ink platen, and treadle were broken. He’d replaced everything with proper parts, and it was his press, the one he held onto and printed on, I learned from Austin how to dance with iron, and the press come in through a window of my store.
When Dennis, one of my best employees, came in to work and saw the press, it was like he’d seen a ghost. Approaching it gingerly, he closed his eyes, place his left hand upon the flywheel and gave it a tug. His right foot caught the treadle at the top if its arc and guided it down in a sooth cadence that brought the press alive, He stepped away from the press, opened his eyes and watched it coast to a stop. “You know,” he said, “We used to have a press exactly like this at the old school. Mis Johnson, our old teacher, wanted to retire so Zedic began look’n for a replacement. He found a young man from Salem, Missouri, who was getting out of teacher’s college. Matt was his name, and he drove here in an old farm truck with the press strapped to it back. His grandfather, a resurrectionist, bought the letterpress new and used it to start his church; later when his son became a preacher too, he passed the press on to him. When Matt graduated from teacher’s college, his dad gave him the press. When Matt arrived, just about everyone in Story showed up to help unload the letterpress into the school basement.
Matt taught us how to set type, pull proofs and operate the press. He gave us assignments to compose stories from our own experience. We’d pull a proof fand turn it in. If there were any spelling of punctuation errors, he’d circle them on the proof, cut the string and dump the type. We’d have to put the type away and reset the piece. Hew was a strict teacher, be we loved him for it.
We got really good a spelling forward and backwards. So good in fact, kids from our school started winning statewide spelling bees!
Oh, and it got even better…” Dennis enthused.