New Roof Reveals Old News

Robert and Mara Bathiany stand in front of their backyard workshop with one of the newspaper plates they discovered when putting a new roof on the shop. Photo by Dennis Evanosky

Newspaper plates discovered on workshop’s roof

When Mara and Robert Bathiany replaced the roof on their backyard workshop on Marina Drive, they discovered that a previous owner had used aluminum printing plates from a 1964 edition of the Alameda Times-Star to protect the roof. 

When Robert first saw the plates, his reaction was one of “total surprise and delight,” especially because, except for the nail holes, the plates were in almost pristine condition. He thinks that one of the previous owners built the workshop and used the plates to protect it from the elements. 

“It was a serendipitous discovery,” said Mara.  

Finding the plates brought to mind a visit to the Bathiany house some 10 years earlier. “An older couple came to our house with their 50-year-old daughter,” said Robert. “They asked to take a look around because they had lived here.” 

The Bathianys do not know the full story behind the plates or the names of the people who first brought them to the workshop. However, the memory of their encounter with their home’s former owner helped dispel some of the mystery surrounding the history of the roof of the workshop.

The man the Bathianys speculate lived in their house two owners before them, built the 10-by-20-foot workshop in the 1960s. He is likely the one who recycled the plates that might have otherwise have been thrown away. 
In a process called offset printing, workers etch images and words onto aluminum plates, either digitally or using a negative. Pressmen then wrap these flexible plates around the press’s plate cylinder. They apply ink. The plate cylinder rolls onto a blanket cylinder in the form of the negative image. This image then transfers as a positive image onto the paper. 

Unless the pressmen melts them down, they could only use plates like the ones that the Bathianys discovered protecting their workshop’s roof for only one issue. This means that newspapers using this method churn out a large amount of waste in the form of used plates. 

The plates from the 1964 newspaper contain the grocery prices of the time, startlingly low when compared to today’s prices. Robert expressed his surprise at the change in prices, since the rise seemed so gradual to him as it happened. 

Discovery of the plates conjured up memories for the Bathianys. Robert graduated high school in 1963 and Mara graduated in 1965, just about the time the Times was using the plates they had discovered. 

“I love the article on one of the plates about Johnson taking the presidency,” said Mara.  She remembers the time especially for the startup of the Peace Corps and the “polarization in the country.” 

Reach Isabel Sullivan at 263-1470 or at


This 1964 advertisement for the New Island market shows what inflation has done to grocery prices. Shoppers could pick up a dozen eggs for 49 cents; a quart of mayonnaise for 39 cents; and a 14-ounce bottle of catsup for just 10 cents. The state charged a 4 percent sales tax at the time, bringing the bill to just $1.02. Image by Dennis Evanosky