Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Nostalgic Observation

By Obie Oakley

Observer Building 1951
There has been a good bit written in Charlotte about the sale of the Observer Building.  It is being sold to a developer (of course) for another mid-rise office building.  Charlotte's skyline is again being dotted with construction cranes and the town is booming with office buildings, high rise condos and apartments.

     As for the Observer, over two years ago, all production facilities were moved to a site up close to UNCC.  Typesetting, composing, presses and distribution all left uptown.  This left the new reporters, sports and business writers along with the administrative in place and recently even those have vacated the building. I've had occasions to go into the Tryon Street building recently (before the final move) and it is sad, really sad for its like a ghost town.  The employee morale is terrible and is is a mere shell of the glory days of yore.  The Monday edition of the Observer is so very thin although the Sunday paper is bulky but that's due to the ad inserts.

    Speaking for myself and another Observer alumnus, Warren Sparrow, we have a sentimental attachments to that paper.  For several years, Warren worked in the mail room inserting comics and flyers on Saturday nights.  He later worked in the newsroom while in college.  For me, from day one it was a part of my life for my dad worked at night in the stereotype department for over 30 years.  My uncle Versal was the press room foreman, Uncle Harold was also a stereotyper and uncle Jack was a linotype operator.

    My first direct involvement was while in high school as a paper carrier aka paper boy!  I had a route on Bay and Laburnum Streets with 100 customers and delivered the paper 364 days a year (didn't publish on Christmas Day).  Carrying the paper wasn't that bad, what I hated was collecting the money.  If I remember correctly, the cost for a subscription was 45 cents a week.  Every Tuesday afternoon I had to go down to the basement of the old building and pay my bill, they got 31 cents and I got 14 or $14.00 a week!

     Later when I was in college, during the summers and holidays, I helped out in my dad's print shop as he had started his own business by then.  My job often meant going to the Observer and taking up the large freight elevator up to the typesetting department, pick up large trays of type which I would take to the shop (in the back of our house) where I would make ad mats.  Then take the trays of type back up to be recycled.  Talk about blue collar work!

     So, as you can see, for me it is quite nostalgic to see such an institution go through such dramatic change.

    Bottom line for me however is, that I am very proud to have been associated with The Charlotte Observer during my lifetime!