I said goodbye to my German printing press today. My wife has been after me about it for years. “You only run it once or twice a year. You don’t want our kids to have to move it after we’re gone…we better do it while we still can.” I knew she was right but I still hated to see it go. We had gotten that press in 1989, because we wanted to run larger printing jobs. It was slow, but oh, so accurate. We ran yearbooks for 20 years, full color brochures, greeting cards, books, posters, postcards. This was before digital photography. I always liked taking photos. Back then you used transparency film, waited a week to have it processed, then assessed the results to see if they would work for a brochure or a postcard. I sold over 80,000 postcards. That was back when I worked 16 hour days. Owning a mom and pop print shop meant you work all your own hours…(all of them). My wife was the front part of the shop. Since we didn’t work in town, she went out to talk with clients, did all the artwork, home schooled the kids, cooked the meals (usually from our garden), cleaned the house and delivered the print jobs. In the evening she would read to the kids. I’d take a nap after dinner, then I could work until 2 am.
When I was running yearbooks, I’d work all day, all night, take a 3 hour nap and do the same thing again. My stay awake drug of choice was a half pound chocolate bar. I’d have 4 squares at 10 pm and be good until 2 am. Then a few more and I’d be watching the sun come up through my east window. But there came a time when eating chocolate bars gave me intense headaches the following day. I had to quit the all nighters.
Both kids learned how to run the ‘baby press.’ This was a 1250 Multi. My son started at five years old. Through the years he became a good pressman and I could let him work by himself, but when he went to college, I thought I might have to hire a pressman. My daughter says, “Dad, I can learn the press.” “Really? Do you want to learn the press? That would be great.” She did that very thing. She ran the press until she too went off to college. Now she’s an editor so you could say she’s still in ‘the trade.’ That 1250 Multi and an 1850 Multi are the presses I still run today. They are faster and easier that the big German press, but they can’t do the fine quality work for sure.
Shaun Earle is the new owner of the press. He is my friendly competitor in the bigger city to the north. Sometimes I ask him to do things that I can’t do in my shop. I was impressed with the work he did. When he moved into a bigger shop, we joked that he might have enough room in it for the Heidelberg press. The last time I ran that press, I got into trouble with it and scrunched some parts. I called him up. “Shaun, you’re not going to want this press, I think I just killed it.” He says, “Pat, maybe it’s not as bad as you think. I’ll come down on Saturday and let’s see if we can sort it out.” On Saturday, we work on it 4 or 5 hours and get it working again. I finish my print job and that’s the last time I run it. My thinking is I have gotten my money out of it. This press, being 40+ years old has some issues, but there’s a lot of life left in it and it looks like Shaun is the person who can deal with it. I tell him, if he can move it, he can have it.
This press ran some really nice print jobs. While I was cleaning up around the press, I came across some samples.
The press room has more space in it now, the kids have moved out long ago, and the Mom and Pop print shop has slowed down a bit. We don’t work 16 hour days anymore and ARE GLAD OF IT!!!