Wally served in the Air Force in WWII, stationed in St. Petersburg, FL during his basic training and later at McCord AFB. He was with the combat aviation engineers who built airfields for fighter planes.
Back home, one of Wally’s first jobs was driving a laundry truck route that covered Pierce, Weippe, and Grangeville. He dropped clothes off at the Orofino Laundry, across Orofino Creek. Wally spent some time working for the Sports Shop and later was hired at the Clearwater Tribune where he apprenticed and worked his way up from a printer’s devil to a career as a pressman and compositor. Wally said it took six years to become a Journeyman Printer. He got on-the-job training, subsidized through the GI Bill.
Wally learned many things in his newspaper years, such as running the hand press, a platen press – used for smaller print jobs like envelopes, campaign cards, letterhead, statements, and prescription pads. In those days, the paper did all the printing jobs for local businesses and the courthouse. Printing was not easy in those days working with hot metal, melted at 560 degrees, in an electric pot. Wally melted the metal for the metal pigs that were fed into the linotype machine. The news was set, one line at a time, and a page of set type slugs weighed 50 pounds. Wally said they almost ran a dog through the press one time when it jumped up on the paper.
During the flood of 1948, which put some of the equipment and paper supplies under water at the Tribune, Wally and Harley Casteel shoveled about two feet of snow off of the roof. Twenty-two inches of water ran through the building that day, and still the paper was published.
Wally met his sweetheart, Louise Conard in 1946. She was a local girl of 19, working as a waitress at the Riverside Café. He was an older man of 23 when he swept her off her feet. Louise became Mrs. Rugg in August of 1946, and the couple raised three children together. Their son John and daughters Marilyn and Patty all live in Lewiston today.
In his career as a printer, Wally worked for 27 years until health issues forced him to give it up. He served his community as the Post Commander of VFW Post 3296, and has served in all offices in the Odd Fellows Lodge. He is a Life Member of both organizations. Wally stayed in Orofino until 1993, but since his kids lived and worked in Lewiston, he relocated there. He lives in a seniors’ apartment building where he says he enjoys playing cribbage, the monthly dances, and he still goes out once in awhile to the casino. “Nothing can take your money quicker than the nickel slots,” he said. So Wally wisely sticks to playing the penny machines. Life is good for this retired printer, especially a day out fishing with his son.