The name of the current flu virus is the Coronavirus. When I first heard the name, I thought the virus was named after the old Corona typewriters like the one that used to sit on my desk at the Times office years ago.
}I started my column back in 1958 and its original title was “Typewriter Talk.” At the top of my column was a caricature drawing of me typing away on an old style office typewriter. The drawing was the creation of DeForest resident, Betty Triggs. I decided to change the name of the column years later when it occurred to me that I had not composed my column on a typewriter for years.
When I first started at the Times-Tribune in 1967, the newspaper was in the process of changing its printing from letter press printing on an old letter press in the basement of the DeForest building to offset printing at a new cooperative printing plant called South Central Publications. It was located a mile off the Interstate highway, near Lake Kegonsa State Park.
All of the type in the paper came from either Linotype slugs or handset type. I composed my column and all of my news stories on the old Corona typewriter. I have no idea how old the machine was. It was all black and weighed a ton (figuratively not literally) and it worked well. All of my copy would then be reset on the Linotype, a proof made and this proof would then be pasted onto the layout sheet of the newspaper.
Every week all the layout sheets would be taken down to South Central for printing on the offset press and then brought back to DeForest for mailing and distribution.
Shortly after I started at DeForest, we bought an IBM Selectric typewriter. The typed proof from this typewriter was superior in quality over the old Linotype produced slugs. I could then set my column and news stories on the new Selectric and it was ready for paste-up. Soon all of the news copy for the Times-Tribune was set on the IBM machine. Only the headlines and ads had to be made up with hand set type.
Our next major equipment purchases for the newspapers were the Compugraphic machines. A newspaper layout could be completely made-up with type produced by these versatile blue boxed machines. There were only two major drawbacks to the Compugraphics — the photo paper required was expensive and when the machines broke down there was only two companies that could fix them. One was the Compugraphic Corp., who had service techs stationed in different sections of the country (we were in the Chicago section) and the other company servicing the mid-west was Hollenbeck & Sons out of Dubuque, Iowa. When a Compugraphic broke down the publisher knew the machine would be down anywhere from one to three or four days and it was going to be expensive to get it going again.
Then we eventually moved the typesetting over to Apple computers. The DeForest Times-Tribune today is set on computers with special typesetting and layout functions in its central office in Waunakee. When the layout is complete on these computers it is electronically sent down to the printing plant in Janesville. After printing, the papers are brought back to DeForest for mailing and distribution to stores.
With all of the changes over the years, the old Corona typewriter found itself being demoted from typesetter for the editor to a place in the back room where it was used occasionally to make address stencils for our labeling machine.
A few years after I sold the newspaper, the downtown building on Market Street was bought by the village to make way for the new library. All the current machines and office equipment was moved into an office on South Main Street. The old newspaper press was moved out of the basement and set on the vacant lot next to the old office. There was also a pile of obsolete printing equipment setting next to the press and it was all picked up and hauled away by a junk dealer. The old Corona typewriter was gone for good.
The Smith Premier Typewriter Business was founded in 1886. The first Corona models were introduced in 1914. The company grew over the years until it reached its peak in the mid-60s as a manufacturer of typewriters and mechanical calculators. Then computers started taking over the business world. The company went through two bankruptcies and shut down its typewriter division for good in 2005.
I put out many stories and columns on that old Corona typewriter but it was moved aside by ever-changing technology. Now the only Corona that I know of other than the virus is the beer from Mexico topped with a lime slice.
Dick Emerson is the former publisher of the DeForest Times-Tribune.