Dolly Brock is a living link between today's Magnet and the paper of yesteryear
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Dolly Brock is a living link between today's Magnet and the paper of yesteryearBy Robin Bass
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Sometimes the best sources of history are the ones who lived it. So if we want to get a glimpse into the past of the Spencer Magnet, the logical place to start would be with Dolly Brock.
The Brock connection with the Magnet goes back to the 1930s and spanned most of the last century. Dolly and her husband Claude purchased the newspaper shortly after World War II, but Claude had spent a couple of years working at the paper before the war.
Dolly said Beauchamp never married and had some eccentric ways.
"She was an old maid and she always wore black with a black hat," recalled Dolly. "She went down the street and she'd tip her hat to everyone."
Beauchamp and her sister ran the paper from a large two-story house that still stands on the corner of Washington Street and Main Street, across from the current Spencer Magnet office. Dolly said in addition to running the schools and putting out the paper, Beauchamp and her sister also ran a hat shop, although by the late 30s, Dolly can't remember them doing a lot of business.
What Dolly does remember is that Beauchamp was responsible for the Spencer Magnet's name. When Beauchamp bought the publication, it was known as the Spencer Courier. She noticed that the newspaper served as a vehicle to draw people together, and decided to rename it the Magnet. Appropriately, the name stuck.
In 1939, Beauchamp bought a used linotype machine from the Courier-Journal in Louisville. She then hired Claude Brock and sent him to Chicago to learn how to operate the machine. That surely was no small task, as the machine had some 6,000 moving parts.
For two years, Brock worked at the Magnet, helping write and set type for the printer. When World War II broke out, the Brocks' moved to Detroit where Claude took a job helping develop collapsible fuel cells for war planes. Dolly said her husband had wanted to enlist in the military, the but government deemed his civilian work too important to the cause for him to leave.
When the war ended, the Brocks' stayed in Michigan for a couple of years until hearing that the Magnet was up for sale. A change in ownership had the paper in the hands of John Carr, and he was looking for a buyer in 1948.
The newspaper bug had bitten Claude, and within a month after hearing the paper was for sale, he and Dolly were back in Taylorsville as the proud new owners of the publication.
Putting out the paper was a team effort. Claude did the reporting and worked the linotype machine while Dolly sold advertising, worked the front desk and helped set type as well.
Before the days of computers, so much had to be done by hand. Dolly said it was tedious work, with every letter that was printed in the paper having to be set. Cast metal blocks with raised letters had to be inserted, one at a time. She said they were placed in backwards and upside down, and before long, Dolly said she could read that way as fast as the normal position.
It made for long days at the office, and for Dolly, the worst part came after the paper was printed. The letters had to be removed from the linotype machine and placed back in their box in alphabetical order so they would be ready and organized for next week's edition.
While it was painstaking labor, it was also interesting to many in the community. Dolly said school groups would come to the Magnet office and watch the process.
Soon after buying the paper, which was then located in a dilapidated building near where the current library stands, the Brocks purchased from the school board a little white building on Jefferson Street that formerly served as a school for black children. There the paper remained until the mid-1990s.
In addition to the new location, Dolly said they implemented a few other changes to the Magnet as well, adding more local news on the front page and sometime in the 1950s, began using local photographs. That meant buying and learning another piece of complex ,machinery called a photo lathe, that transferred a photos image onto an aluminum plate for the printer.
The Magnet was actually printed in the office during this time as well, a job performed by hired tradesmen.
The Brocks followed this routine until the seventies when the new waves of modern newspaper technology reached Taylorsville. They stopped printing the paper in-house in 1972 and soon after, they were able to buy their first computerized equipment, this being a copygraphic.
This machine had a keyboard and printed copy in columns that could then be cut out and pasted onto the page for the printers. Claude continued to use the linotype machine for parts of the paper, until he began suffering from Alziemers in 1975 and had to retire.
Dolly kept at it however, continuing to put out the paper each week for another 15 years. Claude passed away in 1987 and three years later, she made the decision to sell.
Neither of her two sons, Claude, Jr., or Keith, expressed an interest in the paper, so Dolly kept a promise she had made to Landmark Community Newspapers earlier. She said they had approached her about buying the paper, and at the time she wasn't interested. But she promised them that when the time came, she'd contact them first.
Landmark purchased the Magnet in 1990 and Brock stayed on for a few months during the transition. Landmark took steps to recognize the role she had played in the Magnet's success over the years, and sponsored a reception in her honor and began a scholarship in her name for local students interested in pursuing a career in journalism. While she left the Magnet full time in 1990, she still kept her hand in the business by writing a weekly column up until just a few years ago when her deteriorating eyesight made it impossible.
Today, Dolly said it's impossible for her to read the type, even with a magnifying glass, but occasionally friends will read it to her and share with her the news of the county. She's listed in the Magnet's masthead with the honorary title of Editor Emeritus.
Speaking from her Taylorsville apartment last week, Brock said she has only one regret, and that is that she didn't keep the old linotype machine her husband labored behind for so many years and that was still in use even up until 1990. She wishes that old machine could be displayed in a museum. She wasn't too keen on the Magnet changing locations from the old school building either, but she's grown to accept it.
"It broke my heart when they moved out of the building and into the pool room. But it's nice down there."
While Dolly's tenure at the Magnet was complete years ago, she and newcomers to the county today have something in common. She said she was welcomed and accepted into the community back in 1937, even though she wasn't a native, a sentiment echoed by many who move here today.
"People in Taylorsville never gave that a second thought," she said, explaining that she grew up in nearby Crestwood.
It's that community spirit that kept her motivated at the Magnet for so many years. She has a love for the people here, and that love is returned.
"I loved everything about the newspaper. I loved my advertisers and the subscribers. They were always so complimentary. We had mistakes, but they thought we hung the moon."
After leaving the paper, Dolly didn't hide away in her home. She remained active in the community, and only until her eyesight made it impossible, she drove to town often to visit with former customers and other friends. Her involvement in the community extended far beyond just her work at the newspaper, but included her work with the Chamber of Commerce and womens' clubs.
The love affair she said she had with the Magnet was shared by others. She said Spencer Countians have always relied on the Magnet for news and information, and said it's a vital part of the community.
"People read it. They love it and they always have," said Dolly.
She said she's had men tell her that they'd be out in the fields on their tractor but when they mail arrived, they pull their tractors along side the mailbox, turn off the engine and read it the paper front to back. Likewise, she said women told her that they'd stop their busy housework, get the Magnet and sit and read it all the way through.
Technology will surely bring more changes to the newspaper industry and the Spencer Magnet is no exception. The paper may change the way it's printed, the way it looks, and with the advance of the internet, even how it's viewed, but Dolly's confident of one thing - "There will always be a Spencer Magnet. It will always be here and that's the main thing."
©2007 The Spencer Magnet
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