After 60 years, T-J's Gerry Mickle hangs up his hat
Mark these dates:
January 19, 1958 and February 5, 2018.
Those are the beginning and end dates of Gerry Mickle’s 60-year employment at the Times-Journal.
Longtime manager of the commercial printing operation, Mr. Mickle was still active though working part-time the past few years.
“He always did a good job and took pride in his work,” said Publisher Jim Poole. “Gerry had tremendous institutional knowledge of the print trade.”
Mr. Poole is the fourth publisher Mr. Mickle worked for. Charles L. Ryder, who bought The Cobleskill Times in 1919, hired him in 1958.
Mr. Mickle had been laid off at Fenimore Fabrics in Cobleskill, and with his wife, Jeanette, pregnant, he needed a job.
“My wife saw an ad for a job at the paper, and I asked, ‘What can I do at a newspaper?’ ” Mr. Mickle said.
But he took the job and started under printshop manager George Mesick, who was also president of the school board at Cobleskill Central.
“He was the smartest man I knew,” Mr. Mickle said. “He was sharp.”
He ran two large Miller presses, printing pages for the Eastern Milk Producers magazine and two Cooperative Extension newsletters.
Mr. Mickle ran those two slow, sheet-fed presses every day––except Wednesday, when everyone in the small shop delivered the paper.
And he didn’t answer to just Mr. Mesick; Mr. Ryder oversaw his work, too.
“He’d come out and look at it, and if it didn’t suit him, he’d tell you to throw it away and do it again,” Mr. Mickle said.
Mr. Mickle started in the hot-type days, when text was set on Line-o-type machines. Production stayed that way into the early 1970s even though computers and offset type had become more common.
The T-J’s major printing competitor, The Middleburgh News, “was way ahead of us,” Mr. Mickle said. “They had offset long before we did.”
But the Times-Journal caught up on the newer, faster technology. One who helped was George Spencer.
Mr. Spencer worked for another competitor, The Cobleskill Index. When Mr. Ryder bought the Index in 1966, he sent Mr. Mickle to check out the equipment.
“It was obsolete,” Mr. Mickle said, “but they had George Spencer, and he came to work with us.
“He was a lot of help. . .a good darkroom man and good with computers. He helped us go offset.”
As computers advanced, so did the printing industry. Mr. Mickle has worked with century-old hot type, with metal pages weighing 75 pounds to be put on a flatbed press, to cold type and then to offset, which requires a darkroom, negatives and light metal plates.
And now, all composition is done on computers.
Along the way, Mr. Mickle worked with many people, including three publishers after Mr. Ryder died in 1974. Jean Ryder Mahar, who was Mr. Ryder’s daughter, was the second, and she sold the business to Dick Sanford in 1979. He, in turn, sold it to Jim and Sandy Poole in 1992.
Mr. Mickle hired key people himself. He hired Karen Slater, now the T-J’s graphic artist, in 1981, and Will Beekman––now a teacher at Radez School––in the mid-1990s.
“Karen was a good person to work with,” Mr. Mickle said. “Always did a good job and never complained. And Will took to printing right away. He was a fast learner.”
Most recently, Mr. Mickle worked with Denise Smith, who’s in charge of The Printers.
“I’ve been pleased to have a lot of good people to work with,” Mr. Mickle said.
Sixty years is plenty, however.
“I’ve seen a lot of big changes,” Mr. Mickle said. “There was a challenge every day. I like a job with a challenge to it.”