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BUFORD PARKER: Remembering running the press for the Franklin County Times

PROGRESS 2019—

“I worked for Russellville Flowercraft for about two years, then I started with G.C. Lingerie, a garment factory in Muscle Shoals. I worked there for a couple years, and then I learned the Franklin County Times was wanting to hire and train a pressman.”

“Mr. Claude Sparks owned it, and he interviewed me. They wanted somebody to train to be a pressman who didn’t know nothing about it. They had hired people who were supposed to know, and they were tearing up the presses. So, Mr. Sparks hired me, and they trained me to be a pressman. We made an agreement: If I didn’t work out in 90 days, if I wasn’t suitable to him, I would be dismissed. I took the job because I knew I could do it.

“So they started training me on the presses, and he agreed to give me a raise. I started working for 60 cents less than I was making at G.C. Lingerie – that was back when you made $1.50 an hour – I was making $2.10 an hour, but I took the job making $1.50 to train to be a pressman. So the agreement was after 90 days, if I did OK, he’d raise me back up to $2.10, and in 90 days, he did. He kept his word, and he kept me on. And every year he gave me a raise – I didn’t have to ask for it.

“I learned every press in the operation. I was mostly in commercial printing, but he also trained me to run the newspaper. We’d take turns about running the newspaper, so I ran the newspaper for eight years – Franklin Times, Red Bay News. I also got up at four o’clock in the morning then and delivered the papers – same thing I’m doing now. Mr. Sparks depended a lot on me.

“I really enjoyed working for Mr. Sparks. He was a good man to work for, and he took care of his employees. I was honored to work for him. He took care of me, and I ran the presses for him and made him money.

“I enjoyed working in the pressroom. It takes a special person to learn to run printing presses; you have to be well mechanically-minded. We went through a lot of men back there. Some of them never made it. It was my place to train them to run the press, and if they didn’t work out, it was my place to tell Mr. Sparks. If I told him they weren’t going to work out, he let them go. He trusted my word.”

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