a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Oscar Mayer treat

Oscar Mayer Hotdoggers Anggela "Angie Dogg" Pimentel Warstonh and Kevin "Bacon Bits" Jacobsen, far right, discuss the company's Wienermobile Friday with visitors Mike Runyon, second from left, and Lenny Gregg at a new Walmart in West Brownsville, Pa. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

By Scott Beveridge

WEST BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – Talk about a great job opportunity for a new college graduate, especially one who majored in communications or marketing.

Each June the Madison, Wisc.-based Oscar Mayer hires a new pool of new drivers known as hotdoggers to split up and travel around the United States in six large trucks, each shaped like a giant hot dog parked on a lightly toasted bun, to promote the company.

"We'll be riding down the road - we get waves, smiles and friendly hugs," said Kevin "Bacon Bits" Jacobsen of Philadelphia, a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University.

"We get to travel a lot, meet interesting people, and, we drive the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. That's the best part of the job," added Anggela C. "Angie Dogg" Pimentel Warstonh of Miami, Fla.

These hotdoggers were traveling around Pittsburgh this week, and stopped Friday outside a new Walmart store along Route 40 in West Brownsville, Pa.

"How much does it weigh?" asked Mike Runyan of nearby Daisytown, when he walked up to admire the truck's wheels.

Runyan learned it weighs 7 tons, "which is pretty heavy," he said.

It also has a V-8 engine that runs on pretend "high-octane mustard."

"It's awesome," he said.

Earlier Chatty Tinsley of Brownsville walked up to the bright yellow and orange Fiberglass vehicle atop a 2009 Chevy chassis with her 4-year-old daughter, Jackquari Tarpley.

"I love it because it's cool," Tinsley said. "We love Oscar Mayer wieners."

A recording of the company's well-known jingle softly plays while Warstorh and Jacobsen pass out free whistles, sticker and coupons to visitors.

This job lasts just one year, after these drivers complete training over two weeks in Wisconsin at "Hot Dog High" to learn how to drive the 27-foot truck, and it will look good on any new job-seeker's resumé.

"Finding a parking spot. It's not that easy," Warstonh said of the vehicle, which measures 8 feet wide and has a hot dog-shaped dashboard.

There is a fake squirt of mustard in its carpeting design and blue sky art on its ceiling.

With their job here in West Brownsville completed, the two were heading out next to Penn State to recruit new Hoddoggers.

Chatty Tinsley and her daughter, Jackquari Tarpley, 4, of Brownsville, get a kick out of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile after it pulled up Friday to a new Walmart in the area. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The fire truck doctor, whoever he is...

Well, I'm thinking about suggesting a new blog where I work at the Observer-Reporter as an extension of its popular weekly mystery photo feature, where print and Web readers are asked to help identify people and places featured in old photographs.

The blog would showcare more of these photos from among the hundreds and thousands of old negatives that have accumulated in the Washington, Pa., newspaper's archives.

We photographers tended in the old days of news gathering to have done a lousy job of attaching pertinent information to our negatives. Oftentimes there was just a number or code that could help archivists seek out that information while we went about the labor-intensive business of creating more images for the next newspaper.

Here is a photo that I took for the O-R in the early 1990s in Charleroi, Pa., of a guy I simply identified as the fire truck doctor. I didn't even take the time to write down the make and model of the vehicle in which he is behind the wheel.

Surely someone is still hanging around the Mon Valley who knows that information. If you do, email me at sbeveridge@observer-reporter.com - or post a comment, below, or at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/scotty.beveridge

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fond dreams of the darkroom

A general belly laugh

U.S. Army Gen. Carl E. Vuono photographed in 1991 in his Monongahela hometown in an image produced, grain and scratches included, in a newspaper darkroom before the digital age overshadowed the process. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – This morning I awoke from a sweet dream thinking about a female coworker and not in "that" sort of way if kinky images are popping into your mind.

This dream involves the many years I spent working in a photographic darkroom, and it reminded me of a recent conversation I had about that outdated job with Christie Campbell, a fellow photographer at our local newspaper.

She remarked in the office when that subject came up a few months ago about how much she enjoyed the work, while, I said I didn't miss being around the smell and touch of the caustic chemicals and time it took to make pictures come to life in the dark.

I was fooling myself, so this dream last night would teach me.

It took me back to 1987 when we were still using cameras to shoot 35mm film to create black and white news and feature images for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa.

The job required us to rush back to the darkroom, wind the film as if blind around a finicky wire-rimmed spool and secure it into a light-sealed canister. Then the sealed film had to be bathed in a developer, stop bath and then fixer chemicals all timed to the begin and end the process in accordance to the speed of the settings on the camera.

Once dry an in a room lit by a dim red bulb, a selected negative would be slid into a bulky enlarger, where a white bulb would project the image from a preselected distance onto photography paper. This skill was needed to correctly make the image's blacks perfectly black and grays the appropriate shades of gray, while also maintaining its white areas crisp white.

If the test run wasn't spot on, we'd use our fingers and hands to block out the light under the enlarger, or dodging instruments we crafted out of a long, straight strand of a wire coat hanger with a round piece of cardboard the shape of a quarter taped to its end. Then the photography paper was run through a similar bath of chemicals to bring a photo to life.

This really was making miracles happen with a magic wand.

And it wasn't the end of the business of getting photos into the daily newspaper for a photographer, like me, whose photos were a 20-minute drive from darkroom to newsroom.

I had to deliver the prints in person to editors, unlike today, when high-quality digital photographs quickly toned on a computer with Photoshop are dropped into their hands within seconds via email or a content management system.

No. I didn't miss those old darkroom days until a dream took me back with a broad sleep-induced smile to my old darkroom in Monongahela, Pa.

In slumber, the photographic chemicals that were there 25 years ago miraculously still worked perfectly.

I was so happy, and making plans to relocate that darkroom to my house to keep it alive, knowing this digital age would kill that way of doing business.

And, then it was time to go to work in the real world and tell Christie Campbell that she was right all along about old-school photographers missing the old way of making still pictures.