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2015-01-22

Museum's historic printing press was long time coming

Special to the Courier

When Executive Director Rebecca Norton first arrived at the Frontier Times Museum, she wondered why the museum did not have a particular printing press in the collection.
After all, the history of the museum is intertwined with the art of printing. Founder J. Marvin Hunter was a master printer, printing both the Bandera New Era newspaper and the Frontier Times magazine.
When Hunter opened the museum in 1933, he continued to print the magazine from a back room in the museum. The museum has two printing presses but they are from the wrong time period and they were not the printing press Mr. Hunter used - which, according to the family, was long gone.
Before Christmas, Norton received a phone call from Cara Sport enquiring if the museum would be interested in her father's Chandler and Price Printing Press. After researching that model, Norton realized that this press would have been the type and age of the one Hunter may have used. She enthusiastically said, "Yes!"
Like Hunter, Clinton Bownds was a master printer, operating his printing business from his backyard while working for the San Antonio Express-News as a typesetter. Bownds' father owned a print shop and his own printing career began while he was still in high school.
Clinton Bownds became a local celebrity after he and his twin brother enlisted in the United States Coast Guard to serve in World War II. Local press called them "Double Trouble: South Texas Twins a Dynamic Duo against the Enemy."
After leaving the Coast Guard, Bownds bought the Chandler & Price press in 1946. In his backyard shop, he printed everything from wedding invitations and school programs to concert tickets for Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Nat King Cole.
Bownds' daughters, Cara Sport and Dana Rose, recall helping their father but he refused to teach them how to use the printing press fearing they could get hurt.
After retiring from the Express-News in 1983, Bownds continued to use the press for his own business until he retired in 2001.
When Norton and Museum Collections Chairman Bill Pannebaker drove to Bownds' current home in Canyon Lake, they were excited not only to see the printing press but also a large paper cutter sitting next to it. They immediately asked Bownds if he would consider donating the paper cutter as well. He agreed immediately.
When the museum completes its building expansion, the printing press and paper cutter will be displayed along with Hunter's original typeface.
"The museum is so grateful that the Bownds' family generously donated this family treasure. It certainly fills a gap in the museum's collection," Norton said. "As we work towards expanding our exhibit space in the new building, we will be seeking more donations to help us tell the history of Bandera and Texas."