Connections: Ink-Stained Memories

Our centennial issue was published on Dec. 26, 1985 — the actual anniversary date, to the very day

Copies of The Star’s 100th anniversary edition were dug out recently for the edification of several new staff members, and we found ourselves reminiscing about people who worked here over the years. 

Our centennial issue was published on Dec. 26, 1985 — the actual anniversary date, to the very day. Some of the memories the centennial issue brought to mind were wistful, some humorous. 

One indelible memory was of a man named Chester Browne, a former U.S. Marine who had been wounded in France in World War I and who worked as a Linotype operator and proofreader at The Star from 1923 until the late 1960s. When he died in 1977, he was remembered in his Star obituary as a real American archetype, a character you might read about in Dos Passos: 

“As a printer of the old school, he deplored the appearance of vulgarisms in type, and on one occasion fought long and hard, without success, to prevent the use of the colloquial verb ‘skunked,’ in the sense of having been held scoreless, in a sports story. He was equally affronted by improper hyphenation, and perhaps fortunately had left the business before the advent of electronic typesetting, in which word breakage is sometimes left to an illiterate computer.”

In a photo from 1930 reprinted in the anniversary edition of 1985, Brownie, as we all called him, is seen in the building at 78 Main Street where the paper used to be composed.

One of our favorite stories, back in the old days, was of Brownie. One day, he arrived at work before every one else and was surprised to see folks gathering across Main Street at Guild Hall. He couldn’t figure out what they might be doing at Guild Hall at that hour, but as time passed and no one else showed up to work, it slowly dawned on him: He had fallen asleep after dinner that night and, waking up to glance at the clock, saw that it was 7:30, and rushed off to work. It took a while for him to realize that it was 7:30 p.m., not a.m., and that he still had a long night of sleep ahead. 

We laughed about this for years. The deadlines of newspapering do make a person anxious.

Looking at our special edition also made me nostalgic for the processes and equipment that went into putting The Star together many years ago. Even the 1985 anniversary edition itself seems like a relic at this point. When we said “cut and paste” in those days, we actually cut and pasted! 

“When we think of small-town newspapering as it was,” the 1977 Star obituary for Chester Browne continued, “Brownie will be there, wearing a clean white shirt, a brown apron, and a small smile, and bearing a galley-proof.” Those of you who, like me, enjoy a good trip down memory lane might appreciate knowing that the East Hampton Library has already scanned and digitized every copy of The Star from its inception through 1968, which is as far as they got before the grant that made the project possible ran out. (Perhaps new sources of funding will be found sometime soon to complete this expensive project; I have my fingers crossed.) 

If you go online to nyshistoricnewspapers.org, and click on The East Hampton Star, at right, you will see how easy it is to look up old friends, old football games, old birth announcements, with a simple key-word search. You not only see the text, but can zoom in on high-resolution images of the page. Try it, you’ll like it.