Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, July 4, 2016

SPEEDaumat Kills

I have had a knack of getting involved with the Job of the Future, only to see the future being some exhibit in a museum, such as the TAB Control Boards in the Smithsonian.I guess I can't really call Addressograph, at my time of involvement, the Job of the Future. It had been around since 1896 with a patent issued to a Mr. Joseph Smith Duncan of Iowa. He called his company Addressograph International, after all, who else in the world made such a marvelous addressing machine.
The company profited and in 1932 merged with American Multigraph of Cleveland, Ohio and became the quite renowned Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation. This company pretty much dominated the business of address printing for most of the next 50 years. Sadly, modern technology began to outstrip them in the 1970s. A name change to AM International and a move from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1979 failed to revise their standing and in 1982 the company went belly-up and its once sought after machines just another museum piece.
(By the way, look at AM's logo. Am I the only one who thinks it has a Gay quality in the imagery?)
Really, the history of Addressograph-Multigraph has little to do with me, except for a few years I was deeply tied to those machines. The overtime I mentioned doing in my letter to Ronald   Tipton came because of the Speedaumat conversion effort. I was working on this project directly with the head of the Division, whose name now escapes me. He was boss over all of the mailroom, the print shop and some of the other service departments. He was taking an active role in this effort. Ron Paul had no more say over what I did. He was reduced to being little more than one more Graphotypist, sitting at a machine puffing out a stream of smoke from his pipe like a stalled steam engine and brooding.
Now don't be confused by the name.  Speedaumat was nothing more than a pimped up Addressograph. Both machines looked very similar. The Speedaumat had a smaller footprint, little smoother lines and was gray to the Addressograph's sort of yucky brown.
It is amazing to me how technology always grows smaller, but the smaller always seems to holds more. First there were those 96 column punch cards that held more than the 80 column cards, 16 more columns on half the size cardboard.
Now Addressograph had come up with smaller plates that held as much as the old larger ones. The Addressograph plates we were using had all the names and addresses stored on a piece of metal one inch wide and three inches in length. After cutting these older plates you slid them into a metal frame. After that you ran them through the Addressograph machine and printed yellow labels of about the same size as the metal plate. These labels slid into the top of the frame and allowed you to read what was on the plate. (See illustration on the right.)

The Speedaumat plates were a real improvement. In size, they were an inch or so shorter. They required no frame or label. You could read the plate itself with ease. You could also get more plates in a tray and more trays in the cabinets, which was a cost saving right there. The only problem was we had to cut all new plates with the forty to fifty-thousand addresses we already had on file.

The plates had the name and address on the first four lines. On the fifth line was coding. The code told the region and district location of the addressee. In also had codes indicating what products were involved.
I would run the old plates onto galley sheets (long, narrow strips of paper). Then I would cut new plates from these galleys. I would print out galleys of the new plates. The division manager would compare the two galleys and mark anything that need correcting. I would then cut a corrected plate. This was a job that took months.
He and I worked on this conversion through the spring. We were very near the end of our conversion by June when the Postal Service issued a directive to corporations. It announced something called the Zip Code was going into effect for all mail beginning July 1, 1963. All addresses would contain at the end a five-digit number to aid in postal sorting. Furthermore, it stated there could be no coding after the Zip Code.
Our in-house identification codes were and had always been the last thing on the plate. Every Speedaumat  plate we had cut, all forty to fifty-thousand beautiful little plates, were now of no use. We had to begin anew
The division manager immediately suffered a heart attack.
Ron Paul was delighted.

I began cutting new plates

The Postal Service enacted The Zip Code on July 1 1963. Perhaps I should have taken it as a warning for the future, but the set back to the project only delayed its completion and extended my overtime. I got the plates finished and they finally rolled in the new Speedaumats and rolled out the old Addressographs. They rolled Ron Paul out with them. They gave him a lateral move to some other department in a universe far, far away within the company. (Photo left is Postmaster General J. Edward Day and postal carriers, 1963. Or perhaps it is the Postmaster General with Abbott and Costello.)

We had a new Supervisor in the Unit; that would be me. Only they didn’t give me that title. I was designated Group Leader and promoted to a Level 5, not to the Level 6 Ron Paul was. It would not be the only time a corporation broke their promises to me, but it is a good example of Corporate Think (more commonly known as Corporate Stupidity) in action. The Speedaumats were more efficient and faster than the Addressographs thus the Unit Head’s duties were now considered somehow less demanding than a Level 6.
Oh well, there was nothing I could do about this. I was in charge of the Unit and it was a four dollars raise. I was now making $64 a week.
Lois was working in Central Billing and still making more than me. She made $68 a week now. But she was pregnant.

Again, as the Dylan song reminded, things were blowing in the wind. Some of those things were not so good.
On June 12 someone gunned down the field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP in his driveway. His name was Medgar Evers. His murder came in the middle of a growing movement for equal rights for Black people. The authorities jailed Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama that April. King had become the most notable of the civil rights spokespersons.

The ugly opposing image to those struggling for these rights came to the fore in May. Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Bull Connor, ordered the use of fire hoses and police dogs against Black demonstrators.  The images of those attacks burned across TV screens coast to coast.
In August a crowd of 200,000 marched on Washington DC. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial.

On September 15, the day before Lois and my second wedding anniversary, there was a church bombing in Birmingham. This bombing killed Four little girls attending Sunday school at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
Cities will burn, and half a world away war was heating up.
And Lois was pregnant.

No comments: