The core of the Vineyard Gazette pressman’s job is the press itself, a scuffed and ink-blotched Goss Community offset press, teal and baby blue, encrusted in cranks, levers and big red buttons.

When acquired in 1975, it was cutting edge printing technology. In an article announcing its purchase, one reporter wrote: “The Gazette shop was always a regular stop for visitors interested in newspapers and how they’re made...You’re welcome to stop in most anytime to watch us battle with modern technology.”

Summer visitors still often pause to get a glimpse of pressroom operations, but it isn’t just the press itself people watch. At the controls for the last 20 years has been pressman Jeremy Smith and his longtime second in command Karl Klein, both working hard every Thursday evening, tinkering and scrutinizing to keep the press running and the paper published on time.

Reeve Musica Moreau takes over as the Vineyard Gazette pressman.

Where Mr. Smith is fiery and energetic, Mr. Klein is cool and collected, a natural problem solver.

“The duo of Karl and me is once in a lifetime,” Mr. Smith said during a recent press run. “If I’m Batman, then he’s Robin.”

But on Thursday, Dec. 22, the dynamic duo of Mr. Smith and Mr. Klein delivered their last press run, retiring from the job Mr. Smith first started when he was 26 years old.

Mr. Smith estimated that he has printed more than a million papers during his 20-year career at the Gazette, and said the decision to retire was not easy. His passion for paper began as a child, growing up in West Springfield. He recalled how his father, vice president of a paper company, would take him to the factory to work menial jobs on weekends.

The dynamic duo has never missed a print run in twenty years.

“I can still remember the smell of the place,” Mr. Smith said. “Those old wooden floors, printing machines all over the place. I was just mesmerized by the grandness of it all.”

He was hooked. After high school, Mr. Smith got a job in another paper factory and to put himself through college he worked at wrapping paper press.

“I always sort of had a feel for it,” he said of printing. “I got a suit and tie job for a while, but I was never really cut out for the suit and tie world.”

At the age of 26, Mr. Smith first landed on Vineyard and began to work as the Gazette pressman, managing the weekly, and for a time during the summer twice-a-week print runs, along with the aging Goss press.

“The machinery is by no means state of the art,” Mr. Smith said, reflecting on the intimate familiarity he has developed with the press. “I can always tell if something is wrong because it doesn’t sound the same, that’s all done by feel of hand, there’s nothing computerized or high-tech about it whatsoever.”

Working with such technology requires quick, on-your-feet thinking. A pressman must be ready to fix any break and solve any problem on the fly. Though press nights have sometimes dragged on into the early morning, Mr. Smith says he has never failed to get the paper printed. He even pulled together a fix when the machine’s main drive shaft broke, getting the paper out on the same night.

“Somehow we always managed to do it,” he said.

Another edition, hot off the presses. — Ray Ewing

Responsibility weighs heavily on the pressman’s shoulders.

“You feel the pressure. It’s all on you. If something breaks, you have to figure it out,” he said.

The burden is too much for one person alone, Mr. Smith said, and he couldn’t have managed without Mr. Klein, who was hired a few years after Mr. Smith.

“I would have quit years ago if it weren’t for him,” Mr. Smith said. “He’s very good at talking me off the ledge.”

Indeed, their bond has transcended the Gazette; the two founded the Smith Yard Maintenance company, a thriving landscape company. It began, of course, with an advertisement in the Gazette, and with them driving to jobs with a mower in the back of an old Chevy Caprice.

“I can’t imagine what customers thought,” Mr. Smith said.  

Smith Yard Maintenance has grown far beyond that Caprice over the years, and now both pressmen are retiring from the Gazette to work there full-time.

“This place has always been such a part of me,” Mr. Smith said, explaining how he had “chickened out” on his planned retirement last year.

Still, he believes he is leaving the Gazette in good hands with successor Reeve Musica Moreau, who Mr. Smith hired straight out of a summer job at Vineyard Scoops.

“He can take apart anything and put it back together without any issues,” Mr. Smith said of Mr. Moreau’s natural technical acuity.

Mr. Moreau, too, feels ready. At 26, he is the same age as Mr. Smith was when he took over the job.

“They are very big shoes to fill,” Mr. Moreau said. “He’s taught me everything he knows, much like a father.”

Mr. Smith, meanwhile, said he will be keeping one foot in the door, staying on call to help with any mechanical mishaps that pop up.

More than anything, though, he will miss the camaraderie.

“I’ve gotten to see people grow up while working here,” he said. “I mean, when I got here, I was just a kid. I grew up here.”