Herbert Buch thumbs through old catalogs and printing examples from his family's business, Buch Printing Company in Jennings. (Karen Wink / American Press)
Herbert Buch demonstrations the original press he used at his family's business, Buch Printing Company in Jennings. (Karen Wink / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, June 04, 2012 10:16 AM
JENNINGS — Joseph Frederick Buch and Dr. A.A. Petersen launched a printing business in downtown Jennings on April 22, 1901.
Fast-forward more than 110 years and you will find Joseph Buch’s son, Herbert, at work at the same business — Buch Printing Co.
At 92, Buch — a well-known and much-loved member of the Jennings community — is an inspiration to many residents. He continues to work at Buch Printing, which his two sons, Graylon and Tommy, now run from its storefront site along Main Street.
His oldest son, Clarke, is a pharmacist.
Buch’s work day usually begins around 7:30 a.m., and most nights he can still be found hanging around the print shop until 10 p.m.
“I’d rather do this than sit at home and look at the four walls,” Buch said.
While locals know Buch the printer, few know about his musical talents.
“I started music way back there,” he said. “I was 11 years old when I went with the band (Buch’s Boys Band) to Shreveport in 1930 to play Byrd High School for state champion. That was my first trip out of town with music.”
Buch learned a lot about music from his father, who taught music in local schools for over 50 years and traveled with the Buch’s Boys Band. Buch, who played the trumpet in his father’s band, said, “I was just fair. I wasn’t no real professional, but I liked to play.”
The band played for football games on Saturday afternoons because the stadiums didn’t have lights, he recalled. They also played for parades, at fairs and gave weekly concerts on Main Street.
He gave up the instrument, but continues to sing in the choir at the Jennings United Methodist Church.
“They put up with me, so I stay,” he said with a laugh.
Buch was destined to take over his father’s printing business at an early age.
He recalled his first job was as a young boy sweeping the floors and taking out the trash.
“I worked for Piggly Wiggly for a week or two, and my dad said he’d give me as much as they were paying me, so I went to work for him,” he said.
He later started running the printing press and learning to hand-set type.
“It was a hand-fed press,” he said. “You’d stand there, feed the paper into it, then you’d take it out.”
“You had to stand in one spot. You couldn’t do much moving. You had to stand right there to be able to take the sheet of paper, and (you) had to put it in the press so you couldn’t do anything else.”
For many years, the machine printed circulars, letterheads, envelopes, raffle tickets and forms.
“We used to do funeral notices, too,” he said. “I used to run up and down from one end of town to the other putting out notices.”
Like many of the Greatest Generation, Buch was drafted into service five years after graduating from high school in 1937.
He found himself in Okinawa at the age of 26 as part of an Army ordnance unit. He was surprised to find himself on one end of the tiny Pacific island with a battle raging on the other side.
“When we went on shore we didn’t have a bullet to our name,” he said. “They forgot to issue it to us. They were fighting on the south end, so we were safe.”
The unit had to move out so they could put an airfield in. That airfield would later permit fighter aircraft to escort the B-29s that bombed the Japanese into surrender.
Buch returned home and back to the printing business.
“I bought out Dr. Petersen after I came out of the service in 1946,” he said. “It was always a family business owned by my dad; mother, sisters and various ones in the family worked in it.”
The business was first located in the Petersen building on Market Street, where the Jennings Daily News office is now. A fire destroyed the Petersen building in 1965.
“We were upstairs there for over 50 years, then moved downstairs, and the fire started upstairs where the printing equipment used to be back on the southwest corner,” Buch said.
He has vivid memories of the morning of the fire.
“I was in there working one morning and Bill Watson came in and said, ‘Hey boy, get out of that building. The building’s on fire,’ ” he said. “I didn’t know it was on fire because they had blown the siren and I had smelled smoke, but there were other fires going that same night.
“I thought it was the other fires and the wind was probably blowing the fumes. But I was in there and he said, ‘You better get out. It’s on fire.’ Very little of the downstairs was destroyed in the fire.
“The only thing I think I lost was one table and a piece of equipment,” he said.
The business moved to the Krielow building, where it stayed for five years, then to the Woodmen of the World building, where it operated for 35 years. It later moved to its present location, 414 N. Main St., where it has been for nearly a decade.
Buch still has the same press (circa 1902) and uses it occasionally, though most of the printing jobs are now done by computer.
“I know nothing about computers,” he laughed. “They (sons) took care of it, so I left it alone so I wouldn’t mess anything up.”
Today, Buch does most of the “finishing” work, to include padding, bookmaking and numbering of forms on the new self-fed press. Technology makes the printing jobs much easier today, he said.
“It’s much quicker because it doesn’t take long to set the form up,” he said. “Before, you had to take small pieces and make a form. This way if you want to move a column, you just move it over. Before, if you wanted to move a column, you started over.
“It’s much simpler today. I like the new way.”
Along the way, Buch married Maurine Gray of Bastrop, a first-grade school teacher he met at church. The two were married for 50 years. Maurine died in 2005.
He still lives in the same house in which the two raised their family.
Former school board member Don Ladner of Fenton applauded Buch’s determination.
“He has been working there for 75 years now, and he is an inspiration to all of us,” Ladner said. “I always like to talk to him about my days working in a weekly newspaper office in my hometown when I was about 13 years old, but I cannot even begin to compare my work as a young boy to his work.”
Boxes of old photographs — they include a black-and-white photo taken in 1895 when the city had 12 inches of snow — invoices, school and church programs, wedding and graduation invitations and other printed memorabilia line the floors and shelves of the business.
“I’m not sure what I am going to do with this,” Buch said, shaking his head. “I just can’t throw anything away.”
Other prized possessions include an 1899 Everready flashlight that still works, a 1914 typewriter with double keyboard (one for caps and one for lower case), a 1902 hand-operated cutter, his father’s old derby hat and a 1902 electric bill for $3.40 from Jennings Electric Light and Power Co.
Posted By: Adam Benoit On: 6/5/2012
Title: Buch Printing
Thank you so much for putting together this incredible and touching piece of history! Documenting this wonderful story of dedication, hard work and loyalty is a treasure for our family. We are so proud of him and we appreciate you sharing Buch Printing's story with others!
Posted By: Patricia Buch On: 6/4/2012
Title: Buch Printing
A big thank you to Doris Maricle for this wonderful article and video. We,his family, cannot express how much it means to us. We always knew he was special. Now he can be shared by many. I have been texted by several family members and friends. This article is a success because it was well read and appreciated. My husband is his middle son,Graylon. He is 47 and he started working with his dad more than 30 years ago. I'm afraid Graylon and Tommy will be the last generation at Buch Printing. Again, thank you so much.
Posted By: Colleen Kennedy-Watson On: 6/4/2012
Title: Jennings' Buch still mans the press
This is such a moving article and video. Jennings is privileged to have a rich piece of history with Buch Printing and the Buch family. Congratulations on your 100th Anniversary!
Formally of Jennings
Posted By: S. Lanier On: 6/3/2012
Title: Buch Printing
Great to see history of printing being preserved in this story.
Nice job by the reporter.