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Pencils-n-Pipes: 1954

        UPDATE: Our man in Chicago is Sun-Times copy editor Dave Karno, photographed by Mike Rito. Read more in the comments.
From August 4, 1954, we bring you what seems to be an editor in the tobacco-friendly newsroom of the Chicago Sun-Times. Awaiting his ID from any fellow ink-stained wretches out there. 4x5 acetate negative. View full size.

        UPDATE: Our man in Chicago is Sun-Times copy editor Dave Karno, photographed by Mike Rito. Read more in the comments.

From August 4, 1954, we bring you what seems to be an editor in the tobacco-friendly newsroom of the Chicago Sun-Times. Awaiting his ID from any fellow ink-stained wretches out there. 4x5 acetate negative. View full size.


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I'm his great niece

Hi - I'm Lauren, David Karno's great niece, and I was delighted to read some of the comments here. AndrewM, my mom would love to thank you for your kind words. She is curious about your comments, and if you would be willing to email with her, please let me know.

David Karno remembered

By the mid-1960s Mr. Karno had become wire editor at the ST. He was also an adjunct Reporting II teacher at NU's Medill School of Journ. He was very demanding and very generous w/his time & lessons. Each week he would tote home in a grocery bag one entire day's spiked (rejected) stories (see photo foreground). On Sunday afternoons I would go over to his house. We'd sit on the couch and go thru the spiked stories. He'd tell me why he rejected each one--no age included, inconsistent name spelling, fishy details, unsourced quotes. Profound tutorials. I sucked it all up like a sponge, which he seemed to like, and I used those lessons and attempted alertness every day throughout my 49 year career (so far). I've also tried to be generous w/time & advice for eager young writers. Though nothing as profound as his. Thank you again, Mr. Karno.

Desktop PBX

Those switches on the desk are "100" type key boxes. The larger one is a six-line double-sided key box.

The 100 key equipment provides for multiple appearances of central office, PBX, or automatic ringdown lines. These telephone lines are terminated in key boxes to permit one or more persons, each having his own telephone set, to answer, originate, or hold calls.

By the time I went to work for AT&T, these were being phased out and replaced by the six-button key set (a desk phone with five lines and a hold button).

One midnight shift, I opened up my boss's 6-button key set. A multitude of small springs erupted. I spent the rest of the shift praying that I found them all and replaced them in the proper slots. DONE. But only just before the boss came in.

Dave Karno is Correct

David Israel Karno and Michael Anthony Rito

I found David Karno in the 1940 Census living at the "Kenmore Hall Hotel" as a lodger, his job being "Editorial Work" with the industry being what appears "Investigation Government". He was born in 1906 and died in November 1969.

I found a "Mike Rito" in the 1940 Census, occupation "Photographer, Newspaper," born around 1912. Based on his parents ("Dan and Kate") I was able to find him in the Social Security records (his parents were Donaldo and Catherine - he also had nine brothers and four sisters!). He died in Miami in October 1990.

Editor and photographer names

As a 15-year-old high school student I worked at the old Sun-Times Building as an editorial assistant during the summer from 1956 until the paper moved to its new headquarters, since replaced by Trump Tower, in 1958. When I first came across the picture I knew the face was familiar, but his name was lost somewhere in my brain and then it finally surfaced. I believe his name is Dave Karno or (Carno) and was most likely an assistant city editor or possibly a news editor. I am pretty sure I am right, as there would be no way I would have remembered that name without the picture being the trigger.

Based on the initials (MR) that each photographer put in every one of their film holders, so as to make it easier to know who took a picture, the person who took this one was most likely Mickey Rito. Probably taken as an in-house gag shot, which was quite common of the time.

I tried a short search of the web in an attempt to find Mr. Karno, but no luck. Maybe someone else an can verify if I am correct in my identification.

[Excellent work! What can you tell us about the switchboard on his desk? - Dave]

Spike = Spindle

As in, "Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate"

Still printed on New Mexico emissions test reports, even though they haven't been punch cards for decades.

Weaponized editing

I can still see the photo editor of our college newspaper falling backwards onto my desk one day in the mid-70s, and the spike on the desk missed going into the back of his skull by about two inches.

And we were still using criss-cross directories at the wire service I worked at, well into the 80s at least. Incredibly useful for getting eyewitness accounts of a fire, or a hostage situation, or whatever mayhem was happening in the neighborhood at the moment.

By any other name

I always called the item being referred to as a spike a spindle. Is there a difference?

Newspaper technology

The first paper I worked for in 1972 after getting out of J-school was put out using the same technology as you see above: manual typewriters, clunky Western Electric phones, paper galleys for stories, editors using old editing symbols to butcher your copy, hot type in the composing room, clacking-ringing teletype machines going non-stop, and lots of smoke. I quit smoking in 1971 and I was the only non-smoker in my newsroom. Funny, but I don't remember it bothering me, certainly not like it would today. Oh, and that spike. We had spikes all over our newsroom. I had one on my desk for phone calls and notes to myself. My goal was to have an empty spike at day's end. We had three spikes for stories, one for the original, and two for carbons. I used a spike on my desk for the next 10 years. Had no idea I was going against OSHA.

Hanging heavy

Is the box suspended by the truly heavy-duty pipes in the background a teletype monitor? It is 1954, after all.

[It's a TV set. The "teletype monitor" would have been a roll of paper in the wire room. -Dave]

To quote Sherlock Holmes

It appears to be a three pipe problem.

"Do Not Remove Criss-Cross Book."

Indeed an indispensable item for the 1950s newspaper reporter, the Criss-Cross book was a listing of names and telephone numbers organized by address rather than surname.

Drinking problem

Watch you don't put an eye out. But maybe he does the Sunday cartoons too and smears wet colors on them from his arsenal.

The disappearing spike

The pointed wire spike at the front of his desk was used to hold edited copy. In the early 70s OSHA declared them to be dangerous and caused the tops to be bent into a candy cane shape which rendered them completely useless. Judging from the look of the copy on his desk, I would guess he was the wire editor. And most of those pencils would loaded with red "lead".

Two-Pipe Technique

One for tobacco, one for blowing soap bubbles. Practitioners are cautioned always to remember which one to draw in with and which to blow out through, although medical opinion differs as to whether an Ivory solution or Prince Albert is more hazardous for the lungs.

A Roll of ...


Significant Headline

This headline marks the moment Dwight Eisenhower threw Senator Joe McCarthy under the bus (to use a metaphor not common at the time). The progressive Sun-Times would have played that to hilt. As a sickly kid who was bedridden that summer, I saw the Army-McCarthy hearings live, including Joseph Welch's "have you no sense of decency sir?" remark, something I will never forget. That December the Senate voted to censure and two and a half years after that McCarthy was dead, probably from drink.

A Roll of ...

There are what look like mints on the desk. If he's trying to quit tobacco, they're not working. Or, maybe, he used to be a four pipe man.

Gum eraser

On the desktop, near the roll of Life Savers. I remember them as very crumbly, almost greasy.

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