Extraordinary Stories

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The "One Letter Doesn't Make A Difference" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Mike and I are running three cases of #10 envelopes on the offset printing press at Manheim Township High School.  When I started teaching at the high school in 1967 I was asked to do some of the printing jobs needed at the high school.  Eventually, when the other schools in the district found out there was a printing press in the high school, they too asked if I could print items for them.  At the time we had a platen press which required setting type by hand and hand feeding every piece of paper or every envelope into the press to pull an impression.  And, it was very time consuming.  After a year of doing free printing for the school, I made a visit to my school principal to talk to him about it.  "I was wondering how long it would take you to figure out you should be paid for the extra jobs you do," he said to me.  From that time on I received compensation for all the printing I did for the district.  After another year it became overwhelming and I asked if I could have one of my students help me with the printing needs during the summer.  Affirmative.  Then after two more years of having to explain every summer what needed to be done and how to do it, I asked if they would hire another teacher to help me in the summer.  Affirmative.  Well, that someone was Mike.  My oldest two children had him when they were in elementary school and loved him and when I found he lived a block from my house, I approached him to ask if he wanted to help in the summer months with the school printing.  At the time he worked summer playground at the nearby elementary school, but didn't enjoy the summer heat.  He told me he knew nothing about printing or printing presses and I told him I could teach him the same as I taught the students in my class.  
Cleaning the press with Ancolite.
After that first summer he was a pro at helping me with the printing needs of the school district.  That was over 40 years ago now and we are both retired from our teaching positions, but still get together to do the printing chores of the district.  Some jobs, such as envelopes, work so much better, and more efficiently, with four hands rather than two hands.  Our time is spent not only running the press together, but talking about life together.  We spend the time catching up on each others family and the business of the school district.  If you have been reading my stories in the past, you more than likely have heard some of this information before, but the rest of this story is about something that Mike and I talked about today as we worked and I have never written about before.  While running the press we use a variety of cleaners during the operation of the press.  Some cleaners are used on the offset plates while others are used to clean the ink from the press.  One such press cleaner was called Hankolite.  Potent cleaner that we were required to obtain chemical information in order to continue to use it in the school.  It worked fantastic, but had a distinct smell that could be irritating to some students or other teachers.  It also could eat through the thin plastic gloves we used for clean-up.  Mike and I found it worked so well that we used it all the time, but often wondered what it was doing to our bodies.  
Big can of the stuff.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) had tested it and proven it safe for use, but you always wonder.  We talked about how long we could be able to continue to work in printing if we used Hankolite all the time.  Then one day, after retiring and returning to run the press, I asked the new teacher where he placed the can of Hankolite.  He said he didn't have any of that solvent, but did have Ankolite that worked well for cleaning.  I looked at the can and was amazed the name had changed.  Mike arrived and I showed him the can and he remarked, "The stuff was so strong it ate the "H" right off the can!"  We joked about that for a few years, but today when I grabbed the can to use it he remarked again, "You know, I think we have found something in that can that has extended our lives rather than shortening them."  Wow, never thought about it before.  Now, I'm sure that can't be true or it would have been discovered before we discovered it.  It did make for a few hours of good talk before we had to use it to clean the press one more time.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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