From the files of Jon Huisman: How I became a photographer at the Lansing Journal

349

Local Voices

Jon Huisman, former photographer at the original Lansing Journal

This post is a continuation of Jon Huisman’s earlier Local Voices pieces, “How I joined the Lansing Journal” and “Early days at the Lansing Journal newspaper.”

Some time in the spring of 1960 Carl Wulfing (the publisher, my boss) came to me as I was working and asked, “How would you like to take pictures? Have you ever operated a camera before?”

photographer
Basic Brownie camera (Photo: cogdogblog – https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/14809795240/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56942780)

Stunned, I said, “Yes.” And, well, yes — I had a little brownie box camera I took on the senior class trip. But no, I had never “operated a camera,” sensing that was somewhat more complicated than pushing a button.

Wulfing was the photographer for his Lansing Journal, and I had seen him going into his darkroom, which was in a corner of the print shop. He was going on vacation and asked me to fill in for him for two weeks. He would teach me, give me a company camera, prepare me in all ways before he left. I said yes — sounded good to me.

So he gave me an Ikoflex 120 reflex camera and an afternoon off to “go take pictures — of anything and everything. Burn up a couple rolls of film, and we’ll develop them together. I’ll show you how.”

So I did. I took pictures of my car, my sisters playing on the living room floor, the forest preserve, my house, Oak Glen Church, etc. Mr. Wulfing then demonstrated developing, printing, drying, cropping — all the basics. In a couple of days he was confident enough to leave for two weeks, leaving me as the official Lansing Journal photographer, yet working in the print shop when I was not photographing.

As I mentioned earlier, the Lansing Journal was a 16–24 page broadsheet weekly newspaper at Lake Street and Williams, just a block north of Gus Bock’s hardware store on Ridge Road. The paper was a “hot type” operation, using all the raised-letter technology of the time — all type set in lead melted down repeatedly and cast into forms. Carl Wulfing and his wife Olive started the mom-and-pop operation in the 1930s. She was writer, editor, copyreader — everything editorially speaking. He sold the advertising and printed the paper. They soon added employees, added on to the building, bought a large, used, rotary newspaper press, improved everything, and started a “job shop,” an all-purpose printing company for letterheads, brochures, political placards, business cards, wedding announcements, everything. Bought linotype machines, 6–8 small printing presses, bindery equipment, you name it. When I went to work there part-time in 1957, Wulfing had 4 women working in the office, about 4–5 people in the editorial department of the newspaper (a full-time editor-in-chief), 3 guys selling advertising, and 8–10 printers/pressmen putting the mechanical part of the paper together and doing the printing. Olive had retired, and Carl was soon to retire to Florida. He was about 70. They lived upstairs above the print shop.

In 1960 the entire operation was sold to Calumet Publishing, an old daily newspaper at 92nd and Baltimore in South Chicago. End of Wulfing’s rags-to-riches success story and all of its history and development. A historic loss of many things — start your own business, learn on the job, mom/pop/family involvement, being an integral part of a town and community, hiring local people, etc. All gone. Now it’s a bottom-line business venture, absentee owners, corporation mentality, regulations, education qualifications, etc.

So the Journal was bought by Calumet Publishers, who owned the Daily Calumet, and I was “promoted” to work there in South Chicago at 9120 Baltimore. The Daily Calumet needed a photographer to spell their own photographer (Ron Chibicki, who planned a vacation, a two-week stint). Could the Journal spare me? Yeah, they could.

Jon Huisman

P.S. There is much I don’t know about the Lansing Journal pre-1956. Don’t know how the building at Lake and Williams came about, main structure, additions, first employees. I only know that Olive and Carl Wulfing started it — or did they buy a smaller enterprise? — and lived upstairs and the shop was downstairs. It’s murky, foggy, I don’t know. She could write and type, and he learned to be a printer — I think on his own. If he had a prior skill, I don’t know. I think he must have sold advertising, but I don’t know. How, why, when, where did he buy the linotype machines, presses, and other specific equipment? What/where was the circulation of the paper? How did they get it out there? I don’t want to pretend I know the background and then produce a mish-mash of unsubstantiated stuff that provides not much at all in newsworthiness. I think Wulfing bought the big newspaper press from the Drover’s Journal on the west side of Chicago at scrap price and hauled it all to Lansing to install and build a building around it. I think. I cannot say that to the public as fact.

Most of what I remember about my Journal years is contained in what I’ve submitted here. I suspect I could remember more, but who would care to read the dotterings of an old man who “usta could.” Anyway, hope you get a bit of a kick out of reading this old print stuff.

Installments from the files of Jon Huisman:


Local Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Jon

    I think I remember you when I was hired for the second time as a reporter for the Journal.

    The first time I was hired, Steve Sarich, who was Managing Editor at the time, came to our Journalism class at TF South and gave a talk on writing and reporting. I was a senior at TF South, and when Sarich talked about Ernest Hemingway and his early days as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, he grabbed my interest because I wanted to write short stories and plays. Later at the Journal offices on Lake and Williams streets, Steve noticed I had callouses on my ears from wrestling while he had callouses from being a pilot. So we had that in common. After high school, I joined the Marines and was stationed at Guantanamo Bay during the missile crisis. Then, after i finished my enlistment and came back to Lansing, I was hired by Ed Washak to be a sports reporter again, and I think that’s when I met you. I remember going with on a story where you were going to grab a photo but a policeman told you to stop.

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen any high school reporters working for the Journal. I would definitely say that it was a great time for me, and if opportunities for student reporters still exist at the Journal, it’s a shame students aren’t taking advantage of it.

  2. What a delight to read the memories that dear Jon has shared here! I have memories of Jon too during his great Illiana days. How wonderful to know of his early days of working for the Journal and how much our world of media has developed into these electronic days. Thanks, Jon, for sharing and please don’t hesitate to send in more. Lots of us ‘usta coulds’ will enjoy them!

  3. Thank you. It’s always interesting to learn the history of things–esp local things. Yeah, with the advent of digital, do they even have dark rooms anymore?

    Thanks for sharing your insight. πŸ“ΈπŸ€”

Comments are closed.