For more than 107 years, since before Oklahoma statehood, my newspaper was printed in Ada, in the building where I work. The room that housed the press even burned once, in 1959, destroying our first press. Recently, however, as our News King press got quite old and parts got harder and harder to find, our corporate offices decided to migrate the printing of our paper to a much newer, more capable press in Norman, Oklahoma.
One important result of this is that we are selling our press, possibly to a Mexican newspaper, which will leave a huge empty space in our building. Suggestions of making it into a racket ball court have, as of yet, gone unheeded. The other result is that our news staff, understanding that we are seeing history pass before us, has been trying to record and preserve this important part of our legacy.
Last week Brenda, our associate editor, and I went prowling around in the now-abandoned production area. She bore a notepad and a roll of tape to put “Do Not Throw Away” signs on all kinds of stuff, like a rack of old newspapers from the 1940s. I, on the other hand, was sort of scouting for anything down there that I could actually use. Sadly, most of the junk down there was junk. I did manage to salvage two large dispensers of hand lotion, so now I am the office go-to guy for the dry-handed.
We scouted and scrounged, until we got to the very center of the downstairs portion of our building. There we found two rooms that had gone unused since about 1998, the year we got our first imagesetter. Starting that year, instead of the old school X-acto knife and wax paste-up composition, we began to use today’s modern desktop publishing. The first piece of hardware we mothballed, which Brenda and I had finally come across, was the process camera. This device is the size of a compact car, and was used to rephotograph everything from the images we put in the paper to the pages of the paper themselves.
One thing on the process camera that caught my eye right away was the rotating lensboard, which held two APO-Nikkor large format enlarging lenses. I removed them from the lensboard in anticipation of displaying them with other items Brenda and I are collecting for a historic exhibit in our trophy case at the entrance to the building. After hunting a bit more in the flotsam of 13 years of neglect, I found the boxes for them, on which were notes indicating we purchased them in 1974.
The lenses are a 305mm f/9 and a 480mm f/9 Nikkors, and they are the only lenses I have ever held or even seen that stop down to f/128. They both appear to be in excellent shape, and were made in the middle of Nikon’s peak of optical and manufacturing dominance., and are therefore beautifully made. The bigger of the two is the size of a cereal bowl, and has a statesmanlike heft to it. It’s a pleasure to have them and make certain they are preserved.