Molasses and the Natural
by J. Ed. Newman
Who do they think I am? Martin and Willametta are not ones far to be easily fooled. I just hope I can do what they want. As I stand here in Shady Acre, the AJ Capital of the world, I’m overwhelmed by the honor. “You must provide us with material for a Visiting Fireman,” they said.
Me? In AJ only a few short months. Me? Write for the King and Queen? Surely they jest. But as I pinch myself I am aware that it’s for real. I feel like the little fellow with the part on the Sunday School program. His lines were few, his appearance on the stage brief, but the success of the entire play depended upon him. Striding boldly on stage he was to say the Master’s immortal words, “Be not afraid, it is I!” Came time, and the magnitude of his responsibility dawned on him. His knees smote together and his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth. Seeing him immobile, a fellow thespian came to his rescue with a huge shove which carried him to the center of the stage. As the multitude awaited, his remaining courage departed and in a tiny, quaking voice he managed, “It’s me. And I’m scared.”
So it is with J. Ed. I can only do as my dear Mother taught me. “Son,” she said, “Always tell the truth.” I will do just that.
Effective writing, publishing and printing come naturally to some people and they can produce at the drop of a hat with one hand tied behind their back. Not Me. Although I love every aspect of, and I find extreme pleasure in, the hobby, it takes real effort. Most of my productions are Molasses in January. A faint glimmer of an idea slowly drips for weeks, gumming up everything, impossible of completion. I write, rewrite, fuss, change, delete, add, destroy, and start over; compose in one type face, tear down and try another, and a thousand and one other things before, in utter exasperation, I let it go. I’m never satisfied with it and sometimes destroy the whole thing.
But on rare occasions I do have my moments. I encounter The Natural. Before I have finished two sentences – Zowie! – like lightning I see it completed. Instantly, no thought, no planning, no nothing. It’s all there, down to the tiniest detail. The proper words, the proper type face, the illustrations, the composition, everything; and true to predestination, the execution of the project is effortless. Types leap up out of the case into the stick of their own volition. Spacing, always difficult for me, is easy and the first proof shows only a tiny error, an inverted “n” or such. The type faces have never looked so beautiful before, perfectly wedded to their subject. I spend only a fraction of the usual time on preparation and the press run – Duck Soup. Then back to the salt mines.
But after publication comes the paradox. The papers go out and the letters come in. Anxiously I tear open the envelopes. Invariably I always read, “Boy! You sure musta burnt the midnight oil on The Natural. It shows the results of real planning and effort. But, and I mean this kindly, old man, if you’d only spent an hour or so on Molasses it could have been so much better!”
New Star in Our Firmament
by Willametta Keffer
The moon and stars of our heading, and the star border, are not used merely because Ed. Newman’s other hobby is astronomy, tho that inspired it. Every year we enroll new members, hopefully encouraging them, guiding them, actually prodding them along in hope the divine fluid is in their veins. Even after all these years we don’t face the truth that a new planet is discovered only at long intervals among all the lesser stars without which, however, our hobby would be dull. We would not downgrade those of lesser magnitude – a sky full of suns would be unendurable. But amateur journalists are not immortal and when we lose a Vondy, a Burton Crane, or a Vincent Haggerty we are blessed by the fact that we gain a Milton Grady, a Bruce Towne, an Emerson Duerr to add to our stellar galaxy of Babcocks, Segals & Moitorets, to mention a very few of our many cherished contemporaries.
You will be hearing so much about Ed. Newman that we will not try to cram into the few remaining spaces our enthusiasm for this newcomer who has a voracious appetite for everything we can tell him about the hobby and fellow amateurs. Thanks to our well-filled unofficial clearing house of amateur journals, we can keep him well supplied with reading matter, and his contemplated new home will probably have a library annex to the print shop! His activity will probably be mostly in NAPA and APA, and if we needed any influx of enthusiasm he’d supply it!
Although WDBJ, where he is Chief Engineer, is not far away, his home is in north Roanoke whereas we live three miles south of town. But the building site for the new home is in Penn Forest which is just this side of the Diamond home (for those of you who’ve been in Roanoke) and thus only a couple of miles from Shady Acre. A propitious conjunction, wouldn’t you say?
The Mister Speaks:
by Martin B. Keffer
We hope Sheldon Wesson, the “Tired Blood” candidate for President of two amateur press associations, has learned that Russ Paxton does NOT do our printing, as he once credited him with doing – probably to Russ’ chagrin. Ed. Newman, Vic Moitoret, Ray Albert and several others who have used it to help produce a Visiting Fireman, can prove that we have a print shop of a sort, if you’re willing to call such a conglomeration a print shop. Come to think of it, Russ Paxton has never condescended to help get out a V.F. (ran out of small caps), so both he and the Wesson are extended invitations.
Visiting Fireman is the Keffer house organ, issued to commemorate the visit to Pica Palace of any amateur journalist who gets starry-eyed at the sight of type cases, ornaments and a composing stick. We are sorry that this issue does not provide space to display the newest additions to our galaxy of type – a whole series of Goudy italic (with cursive caps, yet!), Greco Adornado in 10-, 12-, 14- & 18-pt., and Trafton Script in 30- & 48-pt. Instead, this issue is set in 8-pt. Goudy by those of us involved and blasted off on March 5, 1966, to mark the entry into our orbit of
J. Ed (period) Newman, ASTEROID
Roanoke, Virginia 24014
From the Shady Acre Private Press of
Martin & Willametta Keffer, OBSERVERS
Roanoke, Virginia 24014