GUEST COLUMN: Remembering Ellis

Our paths first crossed in the early ’50s, as a young woman, when I stopped by the Allentown Messenger to place an advertisement for any outstanding obligations upon the death of my grandmother, Mary Anna Oakerson

By: Ethelyn Maginnis
(This was a ritual all families did as a legal matter to be sure any and all outstanding debts/obligations were paid prior to settling an estate). I rarely see this today or maybe I’m out of tune with the times.
   I was greeted by a tall friendly man named John W. Naylor, (Ellis Hull’s father-in-law), who was the editor/publisher owner of the newspaper. At that time they were without a Linotype operator and I was approached on the spot to fill that position. I remember my reaction as being very fearful when I viewed that monster-of-a-machine with hot lead, hanging "pigs," key board and massive magazine. This was a first for me! I had never seen this machine, much less become an electronic typesetter.
   I met Ellis that day — a very friendly handsome man! We had an instant friendly connection and I agreed to accept the challenge, but not before Mr. Naylor asked me if I had ever been a member of a union. He was a self-made man and this was totally beyond his realm of acceptance.
   Another requirement by Mr. Naylor was that I learn how to do typesetting by hand, which was a backward, upside-down method of setting type, only to be cleaned, broken down and ‘thrown," letter-by-letter, in unmarked fonts (trays) for reuse. All major captions and part of all advertisements were hand set. Display pictures were processed/photographed and cast in lead or affixed to wood "blocks."
   "Proofs" were made of every column by running an inked roller over type which was then scrutinized for any errors that may have occurred while setting the type. No shortcuts here! Mr. Naylor was a perfectionist!
   Thursday afternoon, the office was like a little bee hive. The paper was printed, names and addresses were individually affixed, bundles tied, bagged for local post offices/stores and off to the races. While all this may sound "country," every one was waiting to read the Messenger, and it came with its fair share of tension, since the mail truck, driven by Charles (Charlie) Burtis or sometimes wife Carrie, arrived on time and schedules had to be met. The mail truck had already picked up the mail from the post office for delivery to the Trenton Sectional Center. Papers were on the news stands every Thursday afternoon.
   After the demise of J.W. Naylor, Ellis took over as owner and operator of The Messenger as it was so fondly known by locals, and life went on with Ellis on "the Bridge." I stayed on after my marriage to Nelson Maginnis until the birth of our first child, Nelson Jr., three years later.
   Fond memories race through my mind of my co-workers. Major players were William Mannering, former Allentown Borough clerk, who ate and slept the paper and could find any excuse to "stop the press" in order to check, re-check or re-set lead spacers; wife Nola Mannering, who maintained the subscription list and was the recipient of incoming advertisements; Mary Tracy, who was a dear fun-loving friend, filled a multitude of jobs where needed, including type setting. I am sure Mary had ink in her veins. Ann Taylor and daughter and Edward Weisgerber and daughter, came later. Elizabeth Oakerson (Haws) was a previous employee. One of the nicest men you would ever care to meet was Clarence Morris — who was always on hand to help meet publication deadlines and with the cleanup afterward.
   We all worked side by side — loving and laughing through the publication process. This was part of that doctorate degree in education I speak of from SHK University (School of Hard Knocks) — received at the hands of loving, trusting friends and co-workers.
   Ellis, it was a job well done. My hat goes off to you and the entire Hull and Naylor family!
   My "extended family" included Earle & Katherine Naylor Hendrickson (both deceased); Ralph (deceased) and wife Marjorie Naylor Musser and daughter Nancy and of course that beautiful family of Sidney and Betty Hull Olsen, of which Ellis was so rightfully proud.
   Our friendship lasted until the end. Always a pleasant word, handshake or peck on the cheek upon meeting. Ellis, I loved you and will see you again! Ink the rollers! Start the press! We may have work to do! Maybe our next job will be printing Bibles!
   Times change — life changes — but friends remain loyal! "You kept the ship on course!"
   How do I describe a gentleman like Ellis? Did you ever watch a mason snap a string line while laying brick or block" Bingo! — a straight narrow line for all to follow. Ellis was such a guy — he left his mark! I think if you look carefully, you will find a "string line" on every home in Allentown and surrounding area. I know for sure, we have one on ours!
Ethelyn Maginnis held the position of acting postmaster in Allentown in the mid 1950s; was author of "The Manor of Buckhoe," which appeared in this newspaper in 1972; worked with Ellis as chair of the Allentown Borough-Upper Freehold Township Bicentennial Committee; arranged for a 50th Anniversary dance in 1976 to honor Dr. Walter D. Farmer to commemorate his life and contribution to medicine and Allentown; was deputy municipal clerk and treasurer of Upper Freehold Township; self proprietor of Central Jersey Real Estate and is presently self-employed as Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors in Hamilton. Among other things, she has been a member of the Allentown Presbyterian Church for the past 48 years, where she taught second grade Sunday school in the ’60s, served on the Board of Trustees and held office in the Presbyterian Women’s Organization. Husband Nelson , retired, was among many things, the municipal clerk of Upper Freehold Township for 33 years. Nelson and Ethelyn will be married 50 years this November. They have two children, Nelson Jr. (wife, Cynthia); Karen Wagner (husband, David), four grandchildren, Michael and Pamela Wagner and Michelle and Tyler Maginnis.