Admitting addiction to ink and paper, hands-on print processes

  • Dawn Fraser Kawahara / Special to The Garden Island

    The Green Flash author is still trying to track down the printing press used to produce the first few editions of The Garden Island over a century ago.

It’s been a week since a poet friend of mine stated matter-of-factly that it will not be long until newspapers — paper editions, that is — will be a thing of the past. Like the Pony Express, I thought. As much as your “Green Flash” writer likes to “Save a Tree” by recycling paper in multiple ways, this hit me hard. I’d already mourned the fact that “we” gave up using our actual news press at The Garden Island plant some years back.

That was a real gears-&-wheels piece of oiled machinery. After each day’s TGI was “put to bed,” the resounding clank-clank-clank that followed the writing and layout process reassured the editor and reporters of forward motion so they could start on the next edition. With the digital process and the internet connectivity, it’s a different process to bring e-editions to the public, yet one that still produces tangible evidence of journalists’ reports and thoughts via a sheaf of oversized newsprint.

There are still some who don’t know that TGI in preparation beams across the channel to Honolulu’s Star Advertiser plant to be published/printed. The e-editions fly into our smart phones and tablets between midnight and dawn, as you may have noticed. Printed copies are bundled and flown back to us via an early plane before being sorted to be delivered to subscribers located in the different land divisions of our island — that is if a storm doesn’t knock out electricity, or if an emergency situation causing delay at either airport doesn’t develop.

Some 35 years ago when I went to work at TGI as an enthusiastic reporter and subscriptions clerk under a previous name, I was always buoyed when I strolled to the back of the plant when the press was rolling, smelling the ink and watching the great rolls of newsprint unfurl to carry what my fellow staffers and I, along with the galley “paste-up crew,” had created. Thinking back on the process now, I remember that the afternoon hubbub surrounding the arrival of the delivery people in their cars as they parked before coming to sort out their individual route’s stacks.

At that time I hoped to acquire a hand press for do-it-yourself publishing. I longed to set type and crank out poems and short stories in chapbook form working into the night, a la Virginia Woolf. When not preparing news releases and “Wa I Hala” yesteryear columns on the dinosaur computers we used then, or sorting the 3×5 file cards that were then the main record of tracking subscribers and subscriptions paid, or unpaid, I daydreamed of finding a press of that type on Kauai.

When, in passing, I mentioned this desire, it may have been either Jimmy Oyadamori or one of the pressmen who told me of an antique press that was used to print TGI and maybe Japanese-language editions way back when. My enthusiasm was stoppered when I heard the machine had probably been junked and ended up in an old shed, rusting. I found no further leads.

Then, in 2002 when I published my first memoir using the newly popularized method of Print on Demand (P.O.D.), a TGI item relating to that lost press caught my eye. I clipped and kept it, scribbling an inquiry to then-Editor Rita DeSilva, but neither she nor anyone else I asked seemed able to track the whereabouts of that old press any further. Please contact me if you can throw light upon this exhumed search.

Gosh! O gee! We’ve learned to live without dust-gathering shelves of encyclopedias and reference tomes, library card catalogues and plastic grocery bags. We download e-books into our Kindles, but there are always available substitute clones. I’m not sure what the clone of a newsprint edition paper might be.

Quite honestly, I retreat from envisioning my husband and myself starting our day staring at “devices” instead of companionably browsing our daily paper. This morning routine, even as an adjunct to other news sources, is a great conversation-starter with breakfast and coffee at hand. He, I know, would miss his early stroll over the lawn to our mailbox to ferret the rolled paper slipped into the TGI tube by our reliable delivery person. And I would sorely miss seeing him poring over the crossword puzzle.

And what might I substitute to absorb Kona rain blown in to puddle on the porch if not the newspaper stack saved for recycling? Or as a weed-protective base layer for planting beds?

Within my lifetime, the “real thing” has proved useful as the wrap for take-out fish-&-chips (Australia); for making kids’ flibbers (for fun, and sprayed green, to simulate palms in a Sunday school presentation), papier mache’ fun, and folding soldier hats and boats to float. What about spreading old newspaper for puppy training and lining bird cages, and for wrapping fish guts? I mustn’t forget snipping articles and photos as seeds of future writing as well as for scrapbooks or to mail to relatives and friends in letters. Letters — real, well-written and thoughtful letters carefully penned with love and aloha, chock-full of personal vignettes and family news.

Speaking of the Pony Express as a symbol of things past, it seems all business and personal communication now arrives in the form of digital pixels, quickly received and, for the most part, just as quickly gone…which subject, Dear Readers, perhaps points to a future “Green Flash” column.

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Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. They share the passion of nature and travel to far-away places. The writer’s books are available through Amazon and other outlets. For information, email tropicbirdpress@gmail.com.

1 Comments
  1. MisterM July 8, 2019 5:12 am Reply

    Talk about gratuitous glorifying of something that deserved to die. That papers (and books/magazines) are still printed is boggling. – the massive waste, the toxic chemicals, the deforestation, the fuel burned to deliver them is unconscionable. Yes, devices have their own toxic wastestream, but they aren’t dumped out on a daily/weekly/monthly basis – nor do we need to store old papers as reference. Good riddance. Now we just need to crack down on plastics and excess packaging.


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