Usually the silence of the press lasted only a moment or two, then people would begin calling for the paperboys to grab their papers and begin rolling.
The sports editor, who also acted as circulation manager, would tell the carriers about new subscribers, or old subscribers who had quit, or people that had reported their newspapers landing in rose bushes or mud puddles.
The main pressman would light another cigarette and begin cleaning the big gray machine, getting it ready for the next day's paper.
The photographer, who also helped run the press, would then start the labeling machine for the newspapers that had to be ready for the 5 p.m. truck at the post office.
The boy's father, who was the editor of the paper, would grab a stack of newspapers to be delivered to the various people he went to see every afternoon.
Usually the roar and racket of the press gave way to a few moments of dead silence, followed by the sounds of people beginning the final step of the paper for that day. The moment or two of silence was like a seventh inning stretch at a baseball game.
But on April 25, 1978, the silence was frightening.
The boy knew the paper was closing, but he did not yet understand what all that meant. He had heard his parents' anger and tears, and seen the glum faces of the other people at the newspaper.
He had been confused as his friends, the sports editor and the photographer, suddenly weren't there anymore. The political writer was already gone.
Their main jobs finished, they left before the end of the last day of the paper.
There was little reassurance in the walled-off corner that acted as the boy's father's office.
Many of the pictures and framed papers were already gone. Even the 'company' chair was gone, the seat where soldiers and policemen and truck drivers and housewives and a U.S. Senator sat to talk with the boy's father.
The paper had been purchased by the competition. The two papers were to be combined, the adults said, but the boy did not see much to indicate anything other than his father and mother's newspaper being closed down.
He knew his parents and his friends-the sports editor, Mr. Johnny, the photographer, Tim, and the political writer, Mr. Wade-had to find new jobs.
Both Mr. Wade and Mr. Johnny were sick (the boy wasn't supposed to know that) and he worried about where they would all get new jobs.
None of them would be going to work at the other paper, not even the carriers. In a way, the boy was glad about this, because as boys will, he and the carriers had fought the carriers from the other paper more than one time.
He worried he would get in trouble if his parents found out.
Someone had started packing up the big matte books of advertising art, and the boy thought briefly how Mr. Bill had occasionally let him help pick out the art for an ad.
It wasn't quite time for the papers to be counted, turned and stacked for delivery along the boy's route, so he wandered back to the pressroom to get the copies of the paper he handed out to the people in the office.
Even if they were gone, someone might come back for their paper.
It was always fascinating to see the finished product, especially after watching it be created. He remembered when his father let him write a column once, about abandoned animals.
He wasn't old enough to have his own column space, and Miss Grace ran the column in her own space one day.
He had written the column, haltingly, on his mother's typewriter, then made some changes to it with his father's typewriter, sitting on a pile of copies of the Congressional Record.
Then he'd gone with his father to see the lady at the new typesetting machine retype the story, adding a paragraph or two from Miss Grace.
They set the headline for the story on the Linotype machine, and made a cleaner copy of the box for Miss Grace's column with the Ludlow.
He wondered now if he'd ever get to write another column.
The Linotype used hot lead to create words and sticks of type, and for one of the first times in his memory the machine was stone cold.
Someone had stacked some trash on top of the Ludlow, an act so wrong the boy was horrified.
His mother removed something from the editorial page and placed it to one side.
It was the cartoon, although the boy never found very much funny about the editorial page cartoons. This one had the name of the paper, and someone had written -30- across the page.
The boy knew what -30- meant.
His parents always wrote that at the end of a story. Mr. Wade always typed it at the end of the stories he sent from Raleigh.
His daddy even told him to write it at the end of his first column.
It meant something was finished. Over. Done.
Holding the cartoon, the boy understood why his parents were crying.
And he was more frightened than when the press went silent.