My memories of the Picayune Item

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 25, 2015

Every time I walk into the Picayune Item office and see the old linotype displayed in the lobby I have fond memories of my very first job there back in 1959, earning a whopping $30/week.
The Picayune Item was then located on South Main Street in the building now occupied by the Williams, Smith & Stockstill law firm. I was 17 years old, had completed my high school credits at McNeill High School at mid-year, and would graduate in the spring. I was hired by Mr. Chance Cole, the newspaper’s feisty owner and editor, whom I quickly developed upmost admiration for.
He would dash in and out gathering his news stories, go into his little cluttered office, push his glasses down on his nose and type away on his little manual typewriter.
He and Mr. Murphy Weir, editor of the Poplarville Weekly Democrat, were two of the finest small-town journalists you would ever come across. Mr. Cole hired me to operate the monstrous teletypesetter, and I would pound away on the keyboard all day long – and when I say “pound” I mean that literally.
I loved typing the copy given me by him and the couple of other reporters, feeling I was one of the first to know the local news and anxious for everyone to see it in print.
But I wasn’t so happy typing all those tedious legal notices. My typing efforts came out on tape which was then proofread back in the print shop and given back to me for any corrections. I even learned how to read those tapes somewhat myself.
I shared an office with Mrs. Cole, the bookkeeper, who took me under her wing and always invited me for coffee breaks next door at the counter of City Rexall Drug Store operated by the Griffins
. On Wednesday evenings everyone stayed until whatever hour the weekly newspaper came off the press and we folded them for distribution.
While waiting I loved walking around the corner to the Pic Theatre and picking up the best hamburger in town. The entire small staff at The Item was a joy to work with, and I remember every single one of them.
In my retirement, as I think back on my work years as secretary and court reporter, from manual typewriter to electric, word processor to computerized court reporting, so many technological changes – I still relish my memories of The Picayune Item and that old teletypesetter.

By Matty Jo (McNeill) Fox

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox