Running a USAF Newspaper in Germany, 1958-1960 — Part 2

Click on “The ’60s, above, to see preceding posts on the ’60s.

Old-School Typesetting

We went into town (Kauserslautern) twice a month to deliver typed-up text and photos to the printer. Printing was by the “linotype” process, where the words were produced on lead “slugs.” The typesetters were guys with green eyeshade visors, working on mechanical-looking keyboards.

They input the text, and slugs were created from a hot pot of lead. The whole process seemed medieval. (This was the stage of newspaper/magazine printing before the IBM Composer and later the Macintosh.) The slugs were then lined up in “galley” trays (hence the term “galley” used in later methods of printing), which were used to stamp the words onto paper.

The secret service on the base had a spare 35mm fixed-lens Leica that they let me use. I started developing and printing in the photo lab, learning from the sergeants and airmen who ran the lab, It was the beginning of my lifelong passion for photography.


After I’d been on the job for about a year, I went to Wiesbaden for a week to work on the news desk of The Stars and Stripes, the big military newspaper for troops throughout Europe. This was an exercise that was available to information services officers. I loved the newsroom — my heart was (is still) in journalism — but I just couldn’t write copy fast enough. There went any career in journalism.

However, to my surprise, we were given an award for the best newspaper in the USAF in 1959. I sent the notice of the award to our base commander, who had been on my case for running an “alternative” newspaper — with a note saying, “It’s interesting that we got this award at the time we were being criticized by some base personnel for the quality of the newspaper.”

Germany was still in a semi bombed-out state in 1958. There were neighborhoods in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt that were still rubble. Living was cheap for Americans with the almighty dollar.The base had its own supermarket (commissary), chain store (BX), bowling alley, gym, officers’ and enlisted personnel clubs, and housing. If you stayed on the base, it was like being in a small American town, not in the middle of Western Europe. A lot of Air Force personnel never left the base.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

2 Responses to Running a USAF Newspaper in Germany, 1958-1960 — Part 2

  1. I lived in England in the late 60″s, early 70″s, my parent being stationed on an AFB. Even then, I knew of people that never left the base, the whole time they were stationed there!

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