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2018-09-12 / Front Page

Looking Back at the News Office

by Sterling McGinn

Merle B. Fretz, Newberry News Editor from 1949- 1971, stands next to the diamond paper cutter manufactured by the Challenge Machinery Company. Merle B. Fretz, Newberry News Editor from 1949- 1971, stands next to the diamond paper cutter manufactured by the Challenge Machinery Company. The Newberry News office, located at 316 Newberry Avenue, is among the ranks of the oldest buildings in Newberry, if not the oldest .

The building was constructed around 1883 for the first Methodist Episcopal Church. It remained a church until a new building was constructed on West Harrie Street around 1890.

Over the next few years the News office housed a dry goods store, post office and classroom until William G. Fretz acquired the building for his newspaper shop around 1906.

The first Newberry News print shop was located on East John Street. The fourpage paper was five columns across and 15 inches long. Two pages were home-printed and the other two pre-printed in Detroit and mailed up every Thursday.

The Newberry News in 1969 with parking meters. The Newberry News in 1969 with parking meters. The paper was organized by a group of businessmen, with R.A. Jenney as the head and Clyde W. Hecox as the first editor. The first edition of the paper was printed June 10, 1886.

In the early years the Newberry News had three rivals. The first was the Newberry Independent, May 2, 1891 - January 1892, the Newberry Enterprise - 1894 and the Newberry Journal, which only lasted several months.

Jenney sold the paper to Charles Brebner, who took over as editor from Hecox. In January of 1899 Brebner sold the business to William G. Fretz. Fretz remained editor until his death in 1949, and had worked at the paper from its inception in 1886.

His son, Merle, took over as editor until his death in 1971. William M. Fretz, Merle’s son, became editor and ran the paper until the sale of the business in September of 1989 to William R. Diem.

The smaller section of the building over the years housed a tailor shop and home, cigar factory, bakery, shoe repair shop, plumber’s shop and Fountain Brothers Paint.

The early newspaper press in the first print shop location was powered by hand and foot: two feet operated the treadle, and two hands inserted the paper. The metal type was all hand-set, which consisted of individual letters being painstakingly placed in order into wooden frames. After the paper was printed the type had to be cleaned and filed back into wooden drawers.

A gasoline engine was purchased to furnish power to the press. An overhead line shaft distributed the power with pulleys and leather belts leading to the equipment.

By the early 1900s the News was at its current location. William G. Fretz purchased the building in 1915.

In 1918 Fretz purchased a Model L Linotype ma chine. A Linotype machine, which melted blocks of lead and casted one “line o’ type” at a time.

The Linotype operator would enter what was needed on a keyboard, and then the machine casted the slugs with a whole line of type. Today, the Linotype is proudly displayed in its original position in the front window of the office.

In 1920 the Chicago-Taylor press was replaced with a better model. This press was used until 1959. A fourpage flatbed letterpress was installed, but junked in 1975 and not replaced.

In 1971 the Manistique Pioneer-Tribune purchased a modern web offset press that could print and fold the paper in 15 minutes. The Newberry News copy and headlines were set on a computerized photo typesetter known as the compugraphic.

The pages then were individually photographed and the negatives driven to Manistique for printing and assembling. Today, the paper is printed in Powers, MI, where pages are sent via the Internet.

Not only is the Newberry News building possibly the oldest in town, but it’s also the second-oldest operating business in Newberry. Foster’s Hardware is the oldest, originally Manhard’s Hardware. M.R. Manhard was James C. Foster’s uncle.

Another interesting fact about the Newberry News is that the Fretz family owned the business for 90 years, providing three generations of editors.

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