HUNT & PECKER

     I’m a strange bird in many ways, and I admit to that.  As a prime example, even as a fledgling writer, I’ve never learned to type!  Yes, I’m what’s called a ‘Hunt and Pecker.’

    Once I actually attempted to learn, or should I say, was encouraged to learn.  That was way back in the early days of computers, with their ever present keyboards.  Some folks believe that ‘typing’ is required.

    I began (full-time) work for Jitney-Jungle in the fall of 1967.  Those first few years typing was never a requirement, as I was producing silk screen and hand-painted signage for the company.  I’m sure that by today, somewhere, there’s a silk-screen apparatus that has a key-board… but back then… none was required.

    Because I’d formerly worked in the advertising department of the Clarion Ledger Newspaper, the heads of state at Jitney decided… why ‘farm-out’ print advertising when we have a warm body already on the payroll who can do that!  So, I moved across the street and into the main corporate office, hired a couple of co-employees, and we began producing the weekly print-ad artwork, camera-ready for the newspapers.  

    Our first ‘typesetting’ machine was among the first photo-typesetters on the market… and it didn’t even have a keyboard!  Although electric, it was in no-way electronic. Each and every type-font came on a large plastic disk about the size of an old LP record.  Oh, and each type-font SIZE had it’s own separate disk!  Early expense requirements meant that we could have only a limited number of type fonts and sizes.

     The way this machine worked was: in a darkroom, the 35 mm paper onto which the type would be ‘exposed’ was fed into a loadable cassette.  The type machine itself looked somewhat like a cross between a record player and a pinball machine.  To produce the words ‘Chuck Roast’ you placed the desired font/size disk onto the machine, inserted the cassette into the side, advanced the paper to the ‘expose film’ area, then turn the font-disk until the ‘C’ lined up correctly.  Then with your left hand you pressed a lever which locked the font-wheel into the correct position, and next with your right hand you pressed a corresponding lever on the right side which exposed this first letter onto the film.  ‘C’ was now done.  Then you moved the font wheel to the letter ‘h’ and repeated the left right, lock-print lever dance.  Next came ‘u’ followed by all the others.  Needless to say, it took quite a bit LONGER to print out ‘USDA Choice Boneless Chuck Roast’ than it does today!  You see, knowing ‘how to type’ was of absolutely no benefit in ‘typing’ with the Varityper!  It was basically ‘Hunt and Pecking by default!’  

     Also, there were physical limitations as to the type size we could use.  The minimum was 14 points (about 1/8 inch tall) and the largest was 72 points… around 3/4 inches tall.  So, for the larger PRICE NUMERALS we often had to use ‘clip art’ numerals, especially for the larger ‘featured’ items.  

    All of these various ‘labor intensive’ requirements required that these earlier four and eight page ad ‘tabloids’ displayed only a minimum number of items per page… something in the neighborhood of six to fourteen items.

     Because type-setting was such a long, labor-intensive process, there were many, many times, (in order to be home with the family) I’d take the Varityper home after 5 and set type sitting at our kitchen table!  Like I said, there was no NEED to learn how to type.  ANYONE can ‘hunt and peck’ 2 words a minute!

     But things changed when computers came along, and with them, computer-generated type-setting.  The next generation of computer assisted ad layout meant that type could be set directly in position and onto a page layout clearly and accurately presented right on your computer screen!  Now, typing was almost a requirement!  So… Jitney sent me to TYPING SCHOOL at the then new R & D Center!  

    I must not be ‘cut out’ for typing.  I was a miserable failure at it… much like I was at learning to play the piano during grammar school!  Oh I played (a bit) but my piano teacher, Miss Nellie Robinson, told Mom that I was not learning the notes… but playing by ear!  Typing was like that for me also.  So, folks at Jitney finally ‘gave up,’ by saying that I could type with two fingers far better than I’d ever be able to using all ten!  They were right.  I typed this using only two. 

    In my ‘can’t type defense,’ when I was hired on full-time at Jitney we had only 22 Jitney-Jungle stores.  Our little corporate in-house Advertising Department was instrumental in ‘growing’ that number, within a couple of short decades, into a mega-chain with the largest number of employees of any home-owned and home-operated company in the entire state.  Yup, I can’t help but be proud of what my two little fingers, ‘Woody left’ and ‘Wood’ right, helped to accomplish! 

Bill Murphy

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