ITEMS of interest
Known for his red fedora, Sommerfield was the home's postmaster and bingo caller for years. He's lived in the home longer than anyone. If you ask, he'll show you how he once ran the Linotype machine.
"You press the buttons here and pull the lever there," he demonstrates, working an imaginary machine in front of him.
Years ago, everyone in the home would have known exactly what he was talking about. Today, just a few understand.
"It's dwindled down," notes Connie Miller, administrator and executive director at the home. "We used to be full of printers. But that's all changed."
In its heyday, the Union Printers Home had two dormitories and boarding rooms in the main building. Food came from the home's dairy and farm. There was even a hospital on the grounds.
At its height, as many as 400 printers lived in the sprawling complex of sandstone, Victorian-era buildings.
Today, the farm, dairy and hospital are gone. The dormitories hold only storage. Residency has been opened to the public, serving skilled and assisted-living seniors, who pay through state and federal programs. Printers who pay privately still are offered special rates.
But there are fewer of them, contends Bob McMichen, former chairman of the Union Printers Home board. It's all because of one thing, he says: computerization.
"I can do more with my computer at home than 10 printers can do," he adds. "It's one of those things you have to accept. You don't fight it…It's the passing of the hot-metal era. It will never be what it was because they don't need that many people to put out a newspaper."
Decades ago, newspaper composing rooms were noisy, bustling places that smelled of cigarette smoke and molten lead. Linotype operators set type in lead, and makeup people arranged chunks of type to fit on a single page. Proofreaders read the finished product to make sure everything was in place.