Folders, darkrooms gone by the high-tech wayside
Mike Brown

This column changed right in the middle. I was sitting here, word processing away on a not-terribly-interesting bit of prose, when the phone rang.

It was my virtually lifelong friend, the Rev. Morris Cook.

I won’t refer to him as “lifelong friend” because neither one of us is through living yet.

I also won’t use his childhood nickname because he’s giving me $5 not to. Of course I have to give 50 cents back.

Morris wanted me to know he was finally out of the spring-loaded folders he had purchased at The Reporter w ay b ack w hen he was pastor of First Baptist Church here.

Spring-loaded folders are, or were, exactly what they sound like.

They aren’t folders with rings that snap shut to hold paper with holes in the margins.

They have springs in the sides, triggered when you slide a button that opens up brackets, paper is slid in and then the whole thing snaps shut by moving the button again. Morris recalled that The Reporter was having a sale on spring-loaded folders back then and he bought us out, no doubt stopping by to visit each office of the newspaper for several hours afterwards.

I imagine the spring-loaded folders Morris bought, presumably to keep his notes in, were the size of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. I’ve heard some of his sermons.

It’s obvious he had a good supply since Morris hasn’t lived in Rockdale for almost 16 years. and he only ran out last week.

But he did run out and Morris went to his nearest office supply store in a North Texas city, marched up to the counter and asked the young man behind it for “spring loaded folders.” Deer-in-the-headlights look.

The poor kid couldn’t have been any more confused if Morris had addressed him in Mandarin Chinese.

No, that’s not right. Anyone is now able to punch a few buttons on a phone and translate anything into Mandarin, and probably Klingon for all I know.

The young man called in his supervisor. She also had no idea what a spring-loaded folder was.

So Morris left, folder-less, feeling bewildered, confused and old.

To make himself feel better, he then tried to think of someone more bewildered, more confused and older.

That’s when he called me.

We commiserated about our ages, decided it was better to get older than the alternative and I told him about an incident I had read in a national opinion journal.

Seems that at one of the national political conventions, someone had decided to play a little joke on the abundant news media covering the show by hanging a sign on a storage closet in an area frequented by the press.


Har, har. Digital stuff does not, of course, need darkrooms.

The joke backfired. The numerous 20-somethings covering the latest speech by Senator Spenditall saw the sign, got confused looks on their faces and asked “what’s a darkroom?”

I can relate. We still have two unused darkrooms at The Reporter. One was used for developing film and the other for “line work,” production on the newspaper that was rendered obsolete by the digital revolution.

Occasionally, Scout troops will come by to tour the facility and I usually am the tour guide.

Over the years the youngsters gradually changed their responses to the darkrooms.

You could tell that in former decades everybody knew, more or less, what they were and the response was usually “cool,” especially when I turned on the eerie red overhead l ight.

Then it gradually changed over the years as kids started to carry more technology in their pockets than they would see in our darkrooms.

Finally, I opened a darkroom door during one tour, a young man stepped inside, sniffed and pronounced “smells like vomit.”

I figured the days of “cool” were probably over for good, so far as darkrooms are concerned.

It’s pretty obvious the days of spring-loaded folders are.

A nd the moral of all this? That’s easy:

If your friend is a newspaper editor and he’s in the middle of writing a not-very-interesting column, don’t call him unless you want to be the subject of his column for that week.


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2013-01-10 digital edition

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