CUMBERLAND — After 48 years of full-time employment at the Times-News, Composing Room Superintendent Paul Siefers is retiring.
“It’s been a great place to work. From day one, it has been an interesting learning experience. There were several processes we had to learn over the years, from hot metal to linotype and then to automation. When I started there were 64 printers in the composing room for both papers,” said the North End native and 1964 graduate of Allegany High School.
Siefers tasted the newspaper business up close during his high school days. He had been an ever-reliable Evening Times carrier for several years when he was offered a part-time job working Saturday nights in the mail room, inserting advertising supplements into the Sunday papers.
Not long after that, Siefers’ work ethic landed him a job in the editorial department where he carried copy from the newsroom to the composing room for typesetting.
In 1967, Siefers accepted a printer apprenticeship in the composing room.
“There were a lot of people retiring back then. Things were on the move. You had to complete lessons you had to submit during your apprenticeship. I was upgraded to a journeyman along the way. I never dreamed it would be a full-time job for the rest of my life,” he said.
During his nearly five-decade career, Siefers married Bonnie Brinkman, who is retired from Martin’s supermarket. The couple have two sons, Greg and Todd, and three grandchildren.
“I give a lot of credit for raising my family to my wife. I worked nights and she took care of the kids, took care of the house and always put a meal on the table. It’s hard to tell where I would have ended up without her.”
Siefers worked with a lot of good men and women over the years. “Owen Williams was a go-to guy. He was my mentor and I give him a lot of credit. Maggie Wolz always looked after me when I was carrying copy.
“And through it all is my best buddy, Davey Martin, who still works here. We’ve been through thick and thin. We grew up together on Columbia Avenue. I was working here when they asked me if I knew anyone who would want to work here and I told them about Davey.
“As people retired here, we moved up to where we are now,” said Siefers, who has served as the head of the composing room since 2003. “As the years went by, it was good for you to learn your trade. There were fewer positions as the years went by and you have to move around the composing room to different positions.
“This has been a good life. You never had to worry about your job. The railroad is still here but all the manufacturers from the old days are gone — Kelly, PPG, Celanese, but the newspaper is still here.
“Working for the McMullens — they were good people to work for. They treated you like a human being and they would help you out any way they could. Anyone I have been acquainted with here always helped you out.
“A lot of good people came through here, too many to mention without leaving someone out. (The late James) Rabbit VanMeter was probably one of the funniest guys you ever want to meet. It was one of the most hurtful things when he died,” said Siefers.
Times-News Publisher Larry Effingham commended Siefers for his dedication in putting out a quality product every day.
“I would like to thank Paul for providing the Times-News and our readers nearly 50 years of service,” he said. “I congratulate you on your retirement and hope that as this era comes to an end, your new life will be all that you hoped and worked for these many years.”
Siefers has been a member of the International Typographical Union, Cumberland Local 244 for 48 years. The union later merged with Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector, Communication Workers of America. “I thank the international union for all they did for their local union,” he said.
At the end of his shift Friday, Siefers bid farewell to the Times-News.
“I plan to do what I want to do. I walk a lot and I have a big lawn to take care of. We’ll take some trips out of town on occasion,” he said.
As for the future of the newspaper that he has labored for most of his life, Siefers remains optimistic.
“Somehow, the newspaper will survive. There will always be a message carrier to get the information out to the people. You can go online and get news and sports but you can’t get the local news unless you get it from your newspaper. I think newspapers will survive.
“At the end of the story in linotype, there was always a 30 dash so that you know it was the end of the story,” said Siefers. “I guess this is my 30 dash.”
Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at email@example.com.