2014.02.26 The Tiger Cubs visit

The Tiger Cubs have come and gone, and a good time was had by all.

Most every year the Tiger Cubs from Fayette visit the Observer office. Why? So they can legitimately lay claim to an achievement bead.

It's 4G on the list of achievements—Go visit a newspaper office; find out how people there communicate with others—and it leads to a black Go See It bead.

I probably shouldn't have read the details because now I know how I fail the Tigers every year. I always figure these first grade kids don't really give a darn about newspapers—but they did know what a newspaper was—so I don't do my job and talk about communication. Instead, I lead the Fun and Noise Tour.

I greet them in the front office, I tell them that they're about to enter a dirty, messy space—actually, it's my apology to the leaders—but I point out a lesson here: If you don't clean up your room, it could end up like this.

We move into the back and I have them write their name on a little peel-and-stick Tiger Cub name badge that I made. This is in case one of them gets lost.

I show them an old newspaper from the 1960s and compare it with the shrunken contemporary version. That's about where the newspaper office visit ends and fun begins. Behind me is the big paper cutter. I start to load it up with left-over Observers.

"Do you think it can cut through this many?" I asked. "How about this many?" The drama builds as I add a few more and turn on the power. It's a horribly noisy thing and it quickly slices through five inches of papers. 

I turn off the cutter, pull a chair up close to it and ask who wants to sit on the wheel on top to take a spin around. I remember the year when I saw the look of fear on a parent's face. Since then I only look at the kids. One by one they step onto the chair, then onto the deck of the cutter, then up to the wheel that I spin around once.

We move on back to the old printing area. I warn them about ink and how they must resist touching it. We go to the now defunct Linotype and I show them a line of type. I step onto the back of the Linotype and tell them how my kids used to stand there and pretend it was a garbage truck.

Next comes the Heidelberg press. I talk about the large wooden crate that it came in and how it was the best playhouse ever. I select a volunteer to press the "on" button and the wheel begins to spin. I run a little bit of whatever is on the press to show how the paper goes in there and comes out over here.

We look at other presses and I explain how the thickness of the dust helps determine when it was last used. We look at objects used for printing envelopes (this year's group was particularly fascinated), then move on to a drawer of old metal type. I pull out a couple of big wooden letters that measure about six inches tall.

The old foot-powered hole puncher is next. They all take a turn and then I have someone discover the little drawer underneath that catches the punches. I throw a few into the air for confetti, knowing I will have to sweep it up later. I notice the punches all over the floor and know that I never swept after last year's visit.

This year we walked past the Leaning Tower of Newspapers and I forgot to point it out. I'm sure the leaders took note of it. 

Now we're back in the newspaper section. We take a photograph, we place it onto a fake front page of the Observer, each visitor adds his name to the caption, I print their newspaper to take home. This year's group was very interested in the dial telephone. One visitor successfully called his mother standing two feet behind him.

There's nothing left but the Q and A. Probably the most probing question asked this year came from Isaac who asked, "Why are you so weird?" I hope his mother wasn't mortified. By that point in the tour she probably realized that the question was perfectly acceptable.

My answer: "I was just born this way." And I held back from saying, "And what's your excuse, buster?"

I gave them each a newspaper—this year I forgot to give them a skinny scratchpad for narrow-minded people—and sent them on their way. I think it was definitely worthy of a black bead.