Millenium Countdown: 1956

Paper: Daily Appeal - 43 days to the millennium - Monday, June 18, 1956

Editor and Publisher: Neal Van Sooy

Advertising: William Dolan

City Editor: Bob Smith

Classified ads: Olive Newton

Foreman: Monte Hanes

An independent newspaper published evenings except Saturday and Sunday at 102 S. Division Street.

Telephone: GR2-3461

Leased wire: United Press

Printer says fond farewell to trade after 31 years

By Kelli Du Fresne

Two retirements were in the news June 18, 1956.

Lester O. Groth is leaving the state printing shop after nearly 31 years and the phone company is retiring its three-digit phone numbers in favor of seven.

Groth's retirement from the state printing office was a short lived respite.

"Dad didn't like retirement per se," said George Groth. "He used to do a lot of hunting, but it got to where he couldn't do as much walking - didn't enjoy it.

"He went to work for (Charles Macquigan). Mac had a funeral home where the (Kitchen Emporium) is and he drove the first ambulance in town.

"Dad wasn't a funeral director, but he would assist with the body, pick up the body and help with the funeral."

Groth died six years after retiring but worked almost up until his death, George said. He died in 1962 of stomach and lung cancer.

The 1956 article in the Appeal said: "Lester Groth to Retire as State Printing Foreman"

Lester O. Groth, composing room foreman at the state printing office for the past seven years, will retire June 29 after almost 31 years of continuous service.

Groth went to work for the state office in September 1925. He has served as foreman of the composing room since 1949.

During the election of 1942 Groth sought election as state printer, but was defeated by Jack McCarthy. Both men sought the position upon the retirement of Joe Farnsworth.

Groth was born in Carson Valley, Nov. 20, 1894. He attended Carson School and started his apprenticeship as a printer at the Carson City News Jan. 12, 1914.

During the first world war he served with the Navy and then returned to the News to finish out his apprenticeship in June 1920.

Groth then worked in San Francisco and Sacramento for a year. He returned to Carson City in 1921 and went into partnership with E.T. Clyde at the News, where he had learned his trade.

He remained at the News until 1923 and then went to Auburn, Calif., to work. He stayed there for a little over a year before returning again to Carson City.

In 1922, while still at the News Groth and the former Maude DeVoe were married. The couple have two sons Lester H. and George R.

Lester H. is following in his father's footsteps working in the state print shop, where he is a machinist operator. George is supervisor for RCA in South San Francisco.

"He was a darned good man," George said. "He was a printer for his entire life."

In addition to his professional life, Groth liked fast cars, had a great sense of humor, liked the outdoors and played the "peck horn" or alto saxophone for the Carson City Band for as long as he plied his printing trade.

He was also a Mason with top honors and an avid outdoorsman.

"Our family wasn't all that musically inclined to a great extent," George said. "But he taught both his sons the love of music and we played with my Dad in the city band."

The band gave weekend concerts throughout the summer.

George said the state printing office, which was then in the big stone building behind the capitol, "was a neat place to be if you loved printing. Both of us loved printing though neither of us made a career of it. Les worked for a while with the Nevada Appeal, but I did other things.

"We spent lots of time in the old stone building. It had wooden floors, the Linotypes were huge and the printing presses were great.

"The Linotype machine was a huge monstrous machine. You would type on a keyboard and the lead would be squirted into a certain place as all the letters formed that you just typed into a lead casting. Then this big arm comes down and picks that up.

"The lead, that was molten lead just 10 seconds before, would cool fast, but my dad could pick up those things. You learned to read backwards in those days as a printer. Dad would pick those things up and check them to make sure there wasn't an error. He'd hand us one once in a while. He could hold them. He had skin as thick as callouses on his hands, but of course we'd drop them. He'd always get a big laugh out of that.

"He was a fun-loving guy. Printers used to have this badge of honor. They'd do a lot of dirty joke telling and a lot of them drank a lot. Dad told some terrible jokes."

Lester O. Groth also served as a member of the Carson City School board and awarded diplomas to both of his sons. Lester H. in 1941 and to George in 1945 at Carson City High School, on the corner of Thompson and King streets.

The Groths lived for 10 years in a house where the parking lot of the Ormsby House is now and George was born across the street at 111 E. Sixth Street where All State Insurance is now. In 1927, it was the home of his grandfather George Gillson. Les was born in 1924 at the home of Mae Noonan, at 710 E. Telegraph St., and is one of 26 Carsonites brought into the world by the midwife.

For most of George's life he lived at 624 S. Nevada St. and in the great outdoors.

"Dad was a great hunter, from about 1935 on we went hunting just about every weekend from the first of September to the end of January. We did some fishing and a lot of camping," he said.

The Groths had two favorite camping spots one called Mattie Roch in the Pine Nut Mountains and the other at Genoa Peak.

The family would camp for a week at a time. In the Pine Nuts the boys would scout for deer and at Genoa Peak they would cut wood to keep them warm through the winter. The family traveled in a 1924 Chevy truck and a 1934 Chrysler.

"Dad liked fast cars," George said. "I remember this one he had a 1934 Chrysler Royal with a straight eight. The hood was about 14 feet long. That car would really get up and move.

"It had a speedometer that went up to 100, but we got going across Nevada and I thought we were going as fast as the car could go. It felt like we were flying."

By this Monday in June, most of Nevada has outgrown its three- and four- digit phone numbers and has graduated to a seven-number configuration.

Over the years, the Appeal's phone number changed several times it was "main 315," in 1912, changed to 1101 in 1916, then to 412 and in 1956 it changed to GR2-3461. GR stood for the GRanite exchange and the letters G and R were used as the first two numbers of the three-digit prefix.

Other exchanges were FAirveiw for Reno, ELgin for Sparks, FIreside was the prefix for Stead Air Force Base and ENterprise dialed in Nevada Bell.

The ad in the June 18 paper outlined the process for residents.

"How to Dial the New Carson City telephone numbers.

"Carson City now has dial telephone service and brand new telephone numbers. All the new numbers include a prefix and are listed in your new telephone directory.

"Dialing the new numbers is easy.

"Here's all you do.

"Look up the new number in your new directory.

"Listen for the 'h-m-m' of the dial tone.

"Then dial the first two letters and the numeral of the prefix, and then the four other figures for example... say you want to dial GRanite 2-1406.

"First dial the letter G...

"Then dial the letter R...

"Then the figure 2...then the figure 1...

"Then the figure 4...then the figure 0...

"Then the figure 6."

Carson City first got dial phones May 21, 1929. Virginia City numbers were still listed as two, three and four digit numbers. The fire department could be reached at 311, the Brass Rail Saloon at 951 and the Storey County assessor at 55.

Virginia City residents couldn't make a phone call without going through an operator until 1975 when dial phones first made it to the Comstock.

Ironic, as Virginia City was one of the first towns in America to get telephone service in 1877.

Calls to Cosgrove No. 3 or Mount Tobin No. 1 will cease in the new millennium as Nevada Bell extends its seven-digit dial phone service to the remotest areas of the state. By Dec. 31, 2001 the few dozen remaining toll stations will be converted to dial phone service.

The seven digit system was brought in when phone companies began to differentiate between local and long distance calls.

In 1956, it cost $2.20 cents to call Chicago and talk for three minutes during the day and $1.75 at night and on Sundays.

These rates make today's dime-a-minute plans are sound rather cheap.

It cost 55 cents to call Sacramento and $1.35 to call Seattle. A three-minute call to Anchorage was $8.25 and the same call to Germany or Korea was $12.

Adjusted to today's inflation rate, the $12 spent on the call in 1956 would cost almost $72.

However, because of technological advances and competition the cost of the call has not kept pace with inflation and placing the call using AT&T's base rates now costs $4.44.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment