Napa Valley Register Bids Farewell to Massive Printing Press

Publisher Brenda Speth likens dismantled Gross Urbanite to an aircraft carrier.

There is a wonderful analogy articulated in Napa Valley Register city editor Kevin Courtney’s account of the end of the in-house printing era at his Northern California newspaper.

In the wake of a 2014 earthquake, the paper’s damaged headquarters has been sold for redevelopment and the damaged printing press redirected to a junkyard:

This is a sad moment, said Register publisher Brenda Speth, who likened the removal of the press to the “decommissioning of an aircraft carrier” — an event capable of bringing tears to those who served aboard her.

No one is more sentimental about the departure of the press than John Hawkley, the Register’s production manager, who started his career in the press room in 1978 as a “fly boy” assigned the grunt work.

“Millions and millions of copies were printed on this press,” said Hawkley, whose crew of four ran the behemoth, installed in the mid-1960s when the Register moved into its Second and Wilson home, and updated over the years.

The printing press, a 60-ton Gross Urbanite, had a learning curve for employees of five to seven years. The print side of things will heretofore be handled by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s Rohnert Park printing plant. That paper was recently reclaimed by a local ownership group.
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