by John Howells and Marion Dearman
(Discovery Press, copyright 1996)

Lydia Avery

Another woman who qualified as a tramp printer was Lydia Avery. But her name wasn’t well-known among those of the authors’ generation; she did her traveling earlier in the century and then settled down in New York to spend 40 years working in one city. Lydia was well-liked and respected by all. We received the following story when she was almost 100 years old.

“I’ve worked everywhere: worked north, east, south, and west. In my time, I had some 30+ travelers and met many old-time tramp printers. I started when I was less than 20 years old and I’ve had an International Typographical Union journeyman’s card for 78 years. I’m sure I got an earlier start on the road than most, although at that time there were plenty like me, before and during the first World War, who joined the union long before age 20.

I did piece work on the San Antonio Express, the Atlanta Constitution, in Galveston, and all through the South. My travels also took me west to Frisco, where I worked on the Ex and the Chron. I also held a sit on the Sacramento Bee for a time. In the north, I worked various places in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, etc. 

I finally stopped traveling in No. 6, when I took a sit on the Brooklyn Eagle for 20+ years, and then on the New York Times for another 20 years. I retired eight years ago to Minnesota.

In those days, we took no nonsense from any foreman; we developed an independence that remained until the end. In Terre Haute (The Hat), when a regular laid off to put on a sub to kill overtime, the regular was forced to keep you on till he killed all his overtime. They gave me a situation so the overtime operator could go back to work. I only kept it for a short while, though, and left for the next town!

One stay in a little town in Michigan on a morning paper comes to my memory. A long, tall operator named Shorty Comfort (R.I.P.) hired me to work for him, and he indicated the round pigs that were being used, admonishing: “When you set two of these, you know your string is up.” Then before lunch he reappeared to ask if I had lunch money. I told him I had with a gracious thank you. I left that morning for the next town, so never again did I see Shorty. He had made many towns himself in his day. (Author's note: see story about Shorty Comfort in another section of this book.)

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About the Authors

Pages by John Howells and Marion Dearman,
authors of "Tramp Printers"

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