On Friday, a low alert from a cell phone app sounded in The Manhattan Mercury’s office. It marked the end of a 40-year career and the beginning of retirement for Kris Collier.
“The only person who’s been at The Manhattan Mercury longer than Kris is my dad,” publisher Ned Seaton said, referring to his father, Edward Seaton, who has been at the paper since 1969. “Kris has been there longer than I’ve been there. I remember Kris when I was a kid in high school writing sports part time in the summer.”
Collier started working at the paper on Jan. 6, 1981, as a typesetter — a position that has evolved with technology.
“I was doing blind typing on an old Compugraphic machine — you couldn’t see what you were typing,” she said. “You had a keyboard, and you had your paper that you were typing from, but there was no screen.”
In that process, the typesetters would output on a 1-inch paper tape that had dots, which represented letters, on it, she recalled.
“You ran it through another Compugraphic machine that had a screen — we had one, there were four typesetters on one machine that you could read it on,” she said. “We would roll up those tapes, put a paper clip on them. And when it was our turn to use the machine with the screen, we would go over there, that screen read that tape, and you would get a visual image of it. That’s when you did your editing.”
Several steps later, workers would develop the copy on film, and print, cut and paste it onto sheets, which workers would then photograph with a large camera and create tin plates before the final product would hit the printing press.
“It was a long process,” she said. “You had to be efficient.”
As her four decades in the newspaper world came to an end, Collier reflected on the many changes in the industry, from the old machines to the desktop computer.
Had she not listened to her father when she was in high school, the past 40 years might have taken a different direction.
“I never wanted to take typing — never,” she said. “My dad said, ‘You need to learn how to type.’ And I said, ‘I do not want to be a secretary.’”
Her father won that debate, and she used her skills to get the job as a typesetter. In six months, she was promoted to doing advertising layout, which is where she found her passion.
“I really loved it,” she said. “It’s a challenge — like a puzzle.”
That transformed into graphic design, all of which she learned through on-the-job training.
“I put art and descriptions together for advertising,” she said. “I do digital ads for the internet — that’s basically what my job has morphed into over time.”
While she has enjoyed the job itself, Collier said the most rewarding part has been the people she worked with over the years. But new technology has resulted in changes to the office dynamics.
“Back in my early days, you worked with the newsroom, you worked with classified, you were always having to relay information or change something here and run back to the press,” she said. “Today it just doesn’t seem like as much camaraderie. But I’ve worked with some fantastic people. And I’ve learned a lot from them … and made some great friendships over the years.”
Those friendships and the positive work environment, including the “awesome potlucks back in the day” are what Collier said has kept her loyal to The Mercury. People often move from job to job to earn more. She said she’s been asked several times why she didn’t look for something different, even something closer to home in the Alta Vista area
“I’m like ‘Why?’” she said. “I like what I do. That’s probably the one thing that I would tell anybody. I don’t care how much money you make, you’ve got to like what you do.”
As she headed into retirement, the only part of the job she said she will not miss is the drive to work and back home every day from the Alta Vista area.
The long daily drive hasn’t soured her on future travel though. She still hopes to do plenty of in the next phase of her life. High on her list is a trip to Scotland and England, and plenty of camping trips around the state and into Colorado.
When she isn’t traveling, spending time with the grandchildren who are all under the age of 3, or helping her husband on the farm, Collier hopes to delve into her hobby of glass fusing. It’s a hobby she started years ago, and includes her selling at art shows and during the Manhattan Art Center’s annual Wrap It Up fundraiser and sale in the winter.
In retirement, Collier said she also might have time to get back to updating her website, creeksideglassart.com, which features her work.
As Collier settles into retirement, Mercury employees will have to adjust to her absence. Seaton said it has been employees like Collier who make the newspaper “feel like a family.”
“She’s a smiling face that, to me, personifies the spirit of The Mercury for those of us who work there,” Seaton said. “I don’t know what it will be like to come to the office and not see Kris there.”