Brian and George

In the basement of the Crimson sit a set of refurbished and aging Goss community presses: for anyone with a nostalgia for newspapers, they’re beautiful machines.
By Elias J. Groll

In the year that has gone by, my predecessors on this page have written about everything from an experience as a failed youth basketball player, an abiding fear of monsters in the deep, to a memory of a dying family member. Some were excellent. Others probably needed some work, but, hey, this is college, man. Risks were taken. Sometimes they paid off.

Either way, if you, dear reader, are part of that dwindling tribe who reads this magazine in its print form, then you hold in your hands a page and a magazine that was lovingly produced, pored over, and scrutinized by an overworked and underpaid staff with 23 magazines under its belt. At some point in the night, they pulled the trigger on their last issue and handed it off to the Crimson’s two pressmen, Brian Byrne and George Dioguardi.

And it was by these two men—with 50 years at the Crimson between them—that this last magazine was finally made.

In the basement of the Crimson sit a set of refurbished and aging Goss community presses that roll with a clattering hum. They sit in a sea of paper rolls and bathe in the distinctive smell of industrial vats of ink. They’re cranky as hell and far from cutting edge. But for anyone with a nostalgia for newspapers, they’re beautiful machines.

Brian has worked for the Crimson for the past 30 years and over that time hasn’t missed a single day of work. He wears black sweatshirts and jeans (good for dealing with ink stains). He smokes thick cigars that he leaves hanging off the edge of a table while the presses run. He speaks in a Boston accent, loves the Red Sox, and is something of a mechanical miracle worker.

And he’s got stories. Some years ago he arrived to work at 5 or so in the morning to find that the Lampoon had dumped hundreds of pounds of manure in front of the Crimson’s doors after an enterprising editor stole the metal ibis that sits atop the magazine’s neo-Flemish castle. He was also there to corral some large(ish) hogs that the aforementioned humor magazine had let loose inside 14 Plympton St. On another occasion, he picked up a Crimson president he particularly disagreed with and put him in a dumpster.

But this is all stuff of Crimson lore. The Brian of the everyday is the guy who grouses about how there aren’t any ads in the paper, worries what his son will do once he graduates from college, and, then, somehow, makes those old presses hum again, turning and twisting an infernal combination of knobs and levers to make the colors all line up.

His partner in all of this is George, a cranky, squinty-eyed man who shows up at around 3 every morning in a plaid barn coat and a cup of Dunkin’ coffee in his right hand. He usually sports a couple days’ growth, which he sometimes shapes into a trim mustache. He’s missing most of his middle finger and smokes long, generic cigarettes. He speaks with a wheeze that can be difficult to understand and is sometimes described as a bit “scary.” When things go wrong at the Crimson—and they often do—it’s George I get a call from. The call is always the same, and the wheezy voice on the other end has probably made it hundreds of times to dozens of managing editors.

“Hey Elias. It’s George down at the Crimson. I got a problem.” “Fuck. What is it this time?”

“It’s page seven again. Somebody needs to come in.”

Cursing all the way, I’ll drag myself down to 14 Plympton St. through whatever weather Cambridge decided to dial up that morning to fix dates, blurry photos, misplaced ads, malfunctioning computers, or whatever else has decided to go wrong.

But things always get fixed one way or another, and the paper goes to press. And there, in the basement of the Crimson, I’ll share a cig with the pressmen, the two guys who every day coax the paper into existence some time between 5 and 7 in the morning.

Brian and George are the last of a dying breed, the middlemen of a disappearing product, two Bostonians who made you this magazine using their time worn hands. They bear ink stains that won’t fade, and the markings of a soon to be bygone era. Brian and George are men who still make things, who know about ball bearings and understand the importance of perfect alignment, whose hands are calloused.

This issue of FM might have been the last time George called me in to the Crimson in the middle of the night. If so, I cursed the FM chairs for messing things up again and had a smoke with George before making the fix.

For the sake of seeing something made, I probably stuck around until the bitter end to watch the presses roll.

—Elias J. Groll ’12, the Managing Editor of The Crimson, is a social studies concentrator in Leverett House. He claims to be only faintly nostalgic.