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As published in the North Adams Transcript Friday, August 31, 1979

Randy retires after 44 years

By Maynard Leahey

He was a tall, gangling kid, only a few months past his graduation from St. Joseph's High School, when he walked into The Transcript's old plant on Bank Street that day in January, 1935, and began work as a news photographer.

Neither he nor anyone else knew or suspected it at the time, but that was the beginning of an era for him, The Transcript, North Adams, and, in fact, the whole North Berkshire area. Because the 44 years that began On that winter's day in 1935 and ended with his official retirement today can be described, with little exaggeration, as the Randy Trabold years for this newspaper, the city, and the area.

Peter Randolph Trabold. That is his given name, but except for a few childhood friends who still call him Pete, he has been and always will be known simply as Randy.

It is indicative of the impact he has had upon his times that anyone who is stopped on Main Street and asked, 'Have you seen Randy?', will need no further explanation. Randy is and has been known far and wide by his first name alone.

Not many know now that Randy was a topnotch basketball player in his high school days. So good, in fact, that he contrived to play an extra year, a bit of flim-flam that he recalls with wry amusement today.

'I was a subsidized athlete,' he grins. It was not by accident that Randy became a news photographer. His father, the late Peter Trabold, was a commercial photographer who operated a studio on River Street more than 50 years, and after finishing high school, Randy went to work there .

But the job offered no outlet for Randy's Imagination and budding talents, so he applied for work with The Transcript, and was hired by the late Patrick Ryan, city editor. And so began the Randy Trabold years.

Prior to that time, the paper had no staff photographer as such. James A. Hardman Jr., now editor, doubled then as a reporter and photographer, so Randy became the first whose duties were confined solely to photography - except for such minor chores as collecting the mail and picking up the out-of-town newspapers.

By comparison with today, the paper was understaffed. Beside the city editor and Mr. Hardman, it consisted of Philip A. Lee, who subsequently succeeded Mr. Ryan, Edward Joyce, Thomas McShane, Stella Malgeri, and the sports editor, the late Stuart Schouler. James A. Hardman Sr. was editor and publisher.

So it wasn't long before another of Randy's talents emerged. He possessed (and still does) an instinctive understanding of what constitutes news. Add to that the fact that his acquaintances amounted to virtually a census of the population, and he had two of the most desirable qualities of a newsman.

The number of news stories, in progress, about to break, or capable of being developed, to which The Transcript has been alerted by Randy during the past 44 years is beyond counting or even guessing. Others put the words on paper, but the genesis of the stories began with Randy.

News photography at the Transcript when Randy joined the staff was primitive in comparison with modern methods. After he had taken a photo with the old Speed Graphic cameras, the developed film had to be sent to a photoengraver so a cut could be made. That meant it was rarely possible for a news photo to appear in the paper the same day the event occurred.

World War II stalled any improvements in technology, but after the war The Transcript acquired up-to-date, sophisticated equipment, including its own photoengraving process, so same-day publication of news photos became the rule rather than the exception.

Randy's skills kept pace with technology. Even in his early days, his work was winning awards, and later he won national recognition. He himself isn't sure now how many honors he has received altogether for his work.

One brief gap occurred in his Transcript career: A year or so after he began on Bank Street, he became restless. As he tells it, he thought he wasn't getting ahead fast enough, job and he left to take a job with The Day in New London, CT. He was back in a month and, like the prodigal son, was welcomed back into the fold.

'I got homesick', he acknowledges now.

Randy's camera took him everywhere. He photographed everything from installation of lodge officers to murder scenes. He was out in fire and floods, often risking his life, and at the height of every major blizzard, Randy was there, in fur coat and hat, focusing his camera on the shots he wanted.

And when he went on vacations, his camera went with him, taking pictures across Europe into Soviet Russia, in Florida, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Yankee Stadium-in short, Just about everywhere.

A remark often heard during those 44 years was 'Too Bad Randy couldn't get a picture of this.' As often as not, Randy already had been there and had taken the picture.

Over the years, Randy has been a sort of godfather to every new reporter joining The Transcript staff, including the writer of these lines. He took newcomers immediately under his wing, led them around town, introduced them to news sources, and was a constant source of background on people and places.

Randy has always had an ear for anyone's troubles and a willing and helping hand for anyone in need. He himself has known the meaning of trouble.

When asked what he considered the high point of his career, Randy declared, without a trace of embarrassment, 'I am proudest of the fact that I overcame alcoholism.'

He was referring to a time early in his career when he became an alcoholic, not only his career, but his life were endangered. But he stopped, and almost by strength of will alone, overcame the disease and has not had a drink in more than 30 years.

He always has been quick to advise and help anyone similarly afflicted, and said he wanted that chapter in his career to be made known because his own example might serve as and encouragement to others.

And that calls to mind one of the best of the many Randy anecdotes.

Back in 1951, word got around that the Hollywood star, Jean Arthur, was enrolled in special courses at Bennington College and spending the summer at a farm in Pownal. So Randy and a reporter headed for Pownal in hopes of an interview with and photograph of the celebrated actress.

There was no trouble with the interview but when Randy asked Miss Arthur to pose for a picture, she refused. She had, she explained, and ironclad rule against being photographed and would not relent. Despite all Randy's blandishments and flattery, she continued to refuse, even when he pointed out that The Transcript was a relatively small newspaper and the picture would not be seen elsewhere. He knew better, of course.

'No, I'm sorry.' she said. 'You see, I have my integrity.'

The subject was dropped then, and after some friendly chat, Miss Arthur asked if her guests would like a glass of beer. Both declined, pointing out that they were on assignment and had to return to work.

'Oh, go ahead,' she said. 'Nobody will know the difference.'

'No, thanks,' said Randy. 'You see, I have my integrity.'

He didn't know it, but he was summing up the character of his career as a news photographer then, for in his attitude toward his work and his paper, integrity has been the watchword.

Randy and his wife, Ida, plan to spend their winters in Florida and summers in North Adams. He says he has retired, and no longer will have to bound from bed at the sound of sirens or fire alarms or telephone calls. He says he will continue photography, but no longer as in the past 44 years, the Randy Trabold years. He really believes it.

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Images from the Randy Trabold Photograph Collection donated to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts by Ida Trabold. Original photos are held in the collection of the Eugene Freel Library, MCLA. All rights including publishing rights, reserved by MCLA.