ELLSWORTH — It’s not every couple who can work together harmoniously in a newspaper’s fast-paced production building when the printing press is rolling. Like a well-oiled machine, the tiny crew numbering a dozen handles, assembles and straps thousands of copies of the weekly issue in a matter of 2.5 hours while delivery vehicles wait outside.
At The Ellsworth American, where the EA, Mount Desert Islander, Quoddy Tides, Weekly Packet, Castine Patriot, Island Ad-Vantages and many other publications are printed in the course of a week, Jon and Lorraine “Cookie” Foss have been an essential part of the operation. The Fosses officially retired on April 30.
“They come from a different generation,” Operations Manager Matt Martin said last week, praising the couple’s work ethic and pride they took in their job. “I never had to worry about them. They were going to be here every day.”
In good weather, the Fosses sometimes could be seen walking to work down Bridge Hill from their Ellsworth home. Occasionally, they would stop and share a cup of coffee at Rooster Brother. After punching into work, the pair were all business. As a press tender, Jon would fill ink wells, wash press blankets and other tasks before the Goss Community press got rolling. Then, he would switch to being a “jogger,” swiftly grabbing and neatly piling copies of the newspaper’s section as it rolled off the press. He then carried stacks to the adjoining post-press mailroom, where Cookie and other collaters rapid-fire fed sections into the inserting machine that assembles the week’s issue in the proper order.
Working in the mailroom since 1979, Cookie was one of The Ellsworth American’s longest-tenured employees. She always wore a tidy blue apron to keep the papers’ ink from ruining her clothes. When Jon joined the company in 2003, his petite spouse gave him some ground rules already having had 24 years of experience at the newspaper. Since then, they have kept out of each other’s hair.
When the press is running, the crew must be mindful of each move around the various machines operating in a small space. It’s like a dance with everyone deftly darting here and there and navigating between tall metal cribs called Gaylords, holding newspapers, which are being pushed around.
“We’re good at that,” Jon acknowledged on his last day. “We try to stay out of each other’s way.”
Like a family, the newspaper’s production crew has weathered through too many power outages to recall, machinery malfunctions, mishaps and memorable moments together. Like the time the Boston Red Sox crushed New York’s Yankees in a historic comeback. The former’s fans made life miserable for the latter’s sole supporter in the pressroom.
Cookie remembers when she and others used to laboriously put together by hand all the newspapers’ different sections and inserts instead of feeding them into a machine.
“It was a really good group of people,” she reflected. “Everybody helped.”
Martin and The Ellsworth American’s remaining crew will sorely miss the Fosses.
“I am very happy for them, but I am sorry to see them go,” he said.