The weekend after Gregg Beals turned 14, he went to work at The Hutchinson News.

He was too young for a driver’s license, so he rode with his brother Steve who worked at the newspaper.

It was a part-time job, mostly on the weekends, stuffing inserts into the newspapers which came out twice a day.

Now 50 years later, the now-production director is saying goodbye to The Hutchinson News.

Back in 1968, Beals was one of five part-time workers who came in about 10 p.m. and worked until 3 a.m. hand stuffing the newspapers. But many nights after work, he didn’t go right home.

“We would ride around and help deliver the bundles of papers, even though we didn’t get paid for it,” Beals said.

When Beals started at The Hutchinson News, Stuart Awbrey was the publisher, and the press room had an antique “Hoe” hot lead press. The News bought it used when they moved into the current building in 1957.

The Sunday comics were on the outside of the paper. The “funnies” would be labeled ahead of time and bundled. Then Beals and other workers would hand stuff the rest of the newspaper inside the comics. He stuck with the part-time work for four years.

After graduating from Hutchinson High School in 1972, he started full time in the mail room. There was a time he thought of becoming an accountant, but his parents didn’t have the means to send him to college.

"We were called mailers,” Beals said. “They no longer call it the mailroom; they call it packaging, which is probably a better word. Mailroom sounds like you’re sorting mail. We bundled and labeled the papers.”

Minimum wage in 1972 was $1.60 and Beals starting salary was $2.19 an hour.

“I thought I was rich,” he said.

“The web, which is the sheet you see going through the press, was 34 inches wide which is the same width of your paper held out. Today it’s 22 inches wide. That’s a big difference,” Beals said. “ You had to have long arms to read the paper in the old days.”

Hanging on his office wall is a picture of Beals back in 1973, stuffing papers alongside inmates from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. About 15 inmates arrived by bus to work at the newspaper.

“I had a full head of hair back then,” Beals laughed, pointing to himself in the photo.

By 1975 The News got its first inserting machine. After that, everything went inside the paper including the comics. In 1977, a second inserting machine was purchased.

A future at The News

In 1987 Dick Buzbee promoted Beals to packaging manager. Ginger Martin worked in the mail room with Beals around that time.

“Gregg was just one of the young kids, and he was a worker,” Martin said. “He worked his way up, and he stuck around.”

Even after being promoted he continued working hard just like the rest of the crew, she said.

“I had lots of bosses, and Gregg ranks right up there with one and two,” said Martin who left after several years to work at Carey Park Golf Course.

When Hutchinson attorney Matt Bretz turned 16, Beals hired him for the packaging department.

“I had no experience with a job, other than mowing lawns and throwing newspapers, but he gave me a chance,” Bretz said.

People didn’t use the word mentor back in the 1980s, but Bretz said that’s wheat Beals was to him.

“Gregg worked hard and led by example," Bretz said. "He taught me the importance of honesty and dogged tenacious determination, and he also taught me the importance of being diligent."

In 2004, Jim Bloom promoted Beals to production director. He supervised 40 people during the day and night shifts and oversaw the pressroom, packaging, pre-press and the warehouse, as well as housekeeping, and taking care of the grounds.

For the past 11 years, The News has done commercial printing for 45 newspapers from Dodge City to Eureka.

“It has always been a challenge, as things change in the business you have to change with it,” Beals said. “ As I went up the ladder I had to learn; I taught myself. There was no production director before me; I was the first.”

Bretz said Beals taught him that persistence and hard work paid off.

“If there were problems with the machines, Gregg would stay on it until they were working properly and the newspapers went out,” Bretz said.

“If there were problems with employees, Gregg would stay on it until the problem was fixed. Seven mornings and five afternoons every week -- come rain or shine, come snow or ice -- Gregg got the papers out.”

Over the years, Beals kept a notebook of the many people he had hired. He quit counting when he reached 1,000.

“I look at these names, and I remember almost every one of them,” he said. “In the old days, we had two people a week who would leave. It was part-time work, and it was hard work, and we had a constant turnover.” 

Keeping it in the family

Working at the Hutchinson News has grown into a Beals family tradition.

“My brother Steve worked here and then I worked here, and my son Scott has been a pressman for 23 years. And my youngest son Brett worked for the Bee.”

Even Beals' wife Judy was involved, delivering papers when their boys were young.

Bretz said Beals wasn’t just about work. He often spoke of his family.

“Gregg was an example of how a man should talk about and treat his wife,” Bretz said. “In all the years I have known Gregg, he has never said even one thing that was negative -- even jokingly -- about Judy.”

Beals admits he never thought of going anywhere else.

“I liked coming to work,” he said, trying to hold back the tears. “I still like coming to work. If I didn’t, I would have retired a long time ago.”

Scott Beals has accepted the position of Regional Production Manager. He will assume responsibilities over all departments covered under production in both Hutchinson and Salina.

“He’ll have an advantage because he can call his father whenever he needs to,” Gregg Beals said.

Stan Ochs has been named assistant production supervisor, overseeing the press and packaging operations in Salina. He’ll report to Scott Beals. Jeremy Coen will manage packaging during the day shift.

“As 50 years working for The Hutchinson News demonstrates, Gregg has the highest level of loyalty to his employer,” Bretz said. “He showed that to his employees as well, taking time to teach employees how do to do their jobs.”