PHS alum returns to head project
Peabody Historical Society members are excited that 1957 Peabody High School graduate George “Wes” Bentz thinks one of the great things about his retirement is being able to return to Peabody with some regularity and take charge of the Peabody Print Museum.
The museum began as a retirement project of former Peabody Gazette-Bulletin editor Bill Krause, in the mid-1990s. During those years, many small town newspapers were merging or being sold to neighboring publishers and much of the aging equipment that languished in the back rooms of those newspaper offices was headed for the scrap pile.
However, Krause and a friend, Bill Jackson of Wichita, wanted to preserve it, get it up and running, and have a place to show people how newspapers were printed long ago.
Word of Krause’s museum project got out and newspaper owners across the state offered him their printing relics. Some were still capable of doing the work they were meant to do, others would only be good for parts, but Krause took all that he could get.
Krause had a “band of guys” who took trucks and trailers to small town newspaper offices to retrieve the equipment. A time or two, the museum doors had to be removed from their hinges and a ramp fashioned to get the machinery over the threshold.
An extensive collection was assembled.
Eventually, Krause’s health failed and he was no longer able to work on the project. For a brief time twin brothers Josh and Jacob Marshall both knowledgeable about old printing techniques, moved to Peabody and hoped to get the museum going. However, after a couple of years, they also gave up and moved on.
“Wes’s experience and interest in the printing business is just what we need,” said Carmen South, historical society board member and PHS classmate of Bentz. “We also were recently contacted by Derek Hamm, assistant professor of graphic design at Tabor College. He has an interest in the older printing methods and wants to have his students come in and work with the equipment.”
Bentz and his wife, Shirley, are renting the former LeRoy Mosiman home south of town and they return to Peabody from St. Louis, Mo., as their schedules allow.
Bentz worked in the Peabody Gazette office from sixth grade to his freshman year in high school. He worked first for Dwight Hinshaw and then for Bill Krause after Krause bought the Peabody Gazette in 1954.
“It was something I really loved doing,” he said. “Of course, I knew nothing about the newspaper or printing business and I have no idea why Duane Hinshaw ever hired me, but it was something I never forgot.”
“I had asthma pretty bad and I couldn’t work in the fields or barn with my dad,” he said. “While the other guys my age were driving tractors and combines, I was running presses, casters, and metal saws. Hinshaw paid me $4 a week and it was the best job I ever had.”
Bentz has been spending his time organizing the equipment and re-grouping it into a working museum for visitors.
“We will be getting rid of some of the ‘extra’ machines that are duplicates, not in working condition, or are a different make or size and would not be good for spare parts,” he added. “There are five or six machines that no one knows how to operate. We will be researching these as we go along to find out just what we have.”
Bentz said they have enough spare linotype parts to last quite a long time.
“The presses are another matter,” he said. “At some point we will need to find other machines or parts.”
Bentz said the ultimate goal, besides preserving the equipment and getting it running, is to make the museum a hands-on experience.
“We’d like for people to be able to enjoy a working museum,” he said. “It would be great for visitors to actually see the steps needed for printing a page or a simple sign.”
Hamm shares Bentz’s goals and enthusiasm. He would like his students to be considered a resource for the museum.
“I have many students with an interest in the older printing items. We can arrange for them to get credit for work they do at the museum and at the same time they will get a good background in the history of their craft,” he said.
Bentz and Hamm have developed a list of things volunteers could do to help progress at the museum move forward.
“We could use some carpenter, electrical, and painting help,” Bentz said. “And we need some volunteers to learn a bit about printing so they can repair or run presses, melters, saws, Linotypes, the addressographs, and other equipment. Others can learn to sort and put away type, slugs, matrixes, etc. or learn to set type.”
He would like to train local individuals so that someone always is on hand for demonstrations.
“Peabody has a wonderful collection of equipment,” he said. “It would be a shame for it to be hidden away and never used. I’d like to see to it that doesn’t happen.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact Bentz at (314) 704-7901 or GeorgeBentz@sbcglobal.net.