In Partnership with the Southern Weekend

The Heart of Louisiana: Antique Printer

Over a century ago a revolution hit the information business.

James Gabour is an antique printer.

He’s old enough to remember troops marching off to fight in the World War – the first one.

“He put me up on his shoulders, one of the fellows did. Marched around with me on his shoulders. I was just a little fellow then,” Gabour said.

And when the Second World War came around more than two decades later, he remembers cooking breakfast for a Col. Dwight Eisenhower at the Louisiana maneuvers.

“I saw where he was elected president of the united states, Gabour said. “When I saw it in the paper, I said, ‘my gosh that’s the man I fed breakfast to.’”

Gabour was born in 1913.  He’s 102 years old.  And for about 80 of those years, he has worked as a printer.  And some of the equipment in his Pineville shop is older than he is.

“This is a model five,” Gabour said.

That model five Linotype came out in 1906.  James has used it, and other Linotypes, to print newspapers, invitations and company stationary.

When the Linotype was invented in 1886, it was called the eighth wonder of the world by Thomas Edison. That’s because it revolutionized the way that people could communicate and get their news.

“Like I say, lowercase letters will be here, capital letters over here, and your punctuation and figures in the middle,” Gabour said.

Before the Linotype, you had to place each letter, one at a time, in a block of type.

“That’s your hand-set type. That’s the letter O,” Gabour said.

The Linotype creates an entire line of type that allowed newspapers to go from weeklies to dailies.

“It would take days and days to get the news out,” Gabour said. “With the Linotype, they could get it out in one day.

Gabour printed the news in Pineville for about a half century. He remembers getting a visit from Gov. Earl Long during one of his campaigns.

“He told me how he got his votes, and how we went out on the road and went to houses and nighttime and got people to get up and fix coffee for him, and it was really interesting,” Gabour said.

Printing is the first job he got out of high school in 1931.  He said he figured he’d do it for about 10 years. He finally called it quits around 2010.

“I didn’t know it was going to be the last, but when I went home, my back was hurting lifting up all that heavy lead type,” Gabour said. “I told my wife, I said, ‘you know, I think that’s the end of it.’”

His advice? Be sincere about what you do, and if you like it, stick with it.

Gabour enjoys showing off his old Linotype machines and printing presses to school groups, but he figures he’ll probably end up selling the machines since he no longer uses them for printing.