The editorial week at Time began, officially, on Tuesday and ended on Saturday. However, many of the employees on the 24th and 25th floors – the editorial floors – worked a four-day week (Wednesday to Saturday). Even so, we all managed to accumulate a lot of overtime. Even staff such as layout artists, who worked only three days (Thursday to Saturday), often worked many hours of overtime, and this was very generously paid. In fact, Time's generosity to its employees at that time was legendary.
Catering events on both of the 'late' nights (Friday and Saturday) were an institution. Friday nights featured a 'cocktail hour', with a bar set up in the large 25th-floor 'lounge' equipped for just such events. And on Saturday night, when most of the editorial staff were expected to work as long as it took to 'close' the magazine, the company laid on a three-course meal, complete with silver service and white-coated chefs. Staff lined up with meal trays, selected from two or three main courses, and then took the dome-covered meal down to their desk to be consumed as work permitted. Later they would return for second helpings, and then a range of desserts plus assorted cheeses. I think there were little bottles of wine too, but maybe I'm wrong. Leftover pieces of cutlery and china were among the detritus to be cleared away at the beginning of the following week, as anyone scheduled to work extra late would have stashed away plates of cheese and biscuits and other titbits to see them through the night. At that time, there were very few fast-food outlets near Rockefeller Center that were considered safe destinations after midnight. Apart from this company-supplied food, the only other options were a few nearby restaurants that would deliver orders of Chinese and Italian meals. I suppose some of us also brought in food from home, but I don't recall that many people did.
The company also provided taxi-fares to everyone who worked after a certain hour (I think it was 8 or 9pm). This could be claimed the next week as petty cash. And except for Saturday night, when dinner was provided, late-working staff were also entitled to claim set amounts for one or more meals, according to the amount of hours they had worked on any day. No receipts were required for any of these claims, just the record of hours worked. So each week's petty cash entitlements were usually sufficient to pay for the following week's commuting fees. Working even later – after midnight, I think – entitled you to a door-to-door limousine service to your home, even when 'home' was somewhere an hour or more distant. I remember often opting for the taxi money instead of the limousine, and then taking my usual subway home. You could do very well out of petty cash that way.
The final largesse was a very generous profit-sharing system – more or less equivalent to a superannuation scheme, except that employees contributed nothing and were entitled to withdraw the proceeds on resignation, no matter how old (or young) they were. A certain copyboy, a member of the fledgling magazine's original staff, was said to have retired on what, in today's terms, was the equivalent of millions of dollars. (Unfortunately, he died not long after retirement.) At our resignation, my husband's and my profit-sharing proceeds were sufficient to pay our fares to Australia and set us up a flat in Sydney – not a bad return for a couple in their late 20s.
No matter what the official closing time was supposed to be, it was rarely achieved. The final 'closing' for the week meant the last corrections to the last story were sent from the New York office to the printing plant in Chicago. Time rented direct telephone lines for the transmission of typeset stories as data. This was achieved by inserting rolls of perforated paper tape, whose perforations contained code for all text, punctuation and line-breaks, into machines in New York. This data was then transmitted electronically over those phone lines to the Chicago plant. Exactly how the lines of text were to be placed on each page was shown on full-size layout sheets on which graphic artists pasted up galley-proofs of text and 'bromides', or reproductions, of photos in actual final sizes to exactly fill each column of each page. These layouts, along with 150 or so possible photos that might be used that week, were dispatched to the Chicago printing plant in a series of packages sent via commercial flights on successive days of the editorial week.
Original photos were always copied before being dispatched – sometimes from negatives, if we had them, but in the case of photos that had come in from wire services such as AAP, our lab would make a copy from the original photo before dispatching the original in one of the packages to Chicago. These back-up copies made from photos and not negatives were of reduced quality, and no one liked having to use them. But when packages containing original photos were lost or couldn't get through, and the photo was considered important, we might have no choice. If it was late in the week and there wasn't time to dispatch a replacement package, we might even have to resort to wiring this copy to Chicago via what was then a crude form of faxing. In such cases, difficult questions would be asked at the next week's post-mortem meetings. But I'll describe that process in a later article.
In the next two articles in this series, I'll describe how proofreading was done at Time Magazine. I doubt any magazine today could afford to have as comprehensive (and expensive) a proofreading system as did the publications produced by Time-Life in those days.