Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The "It's In His Blood" Story

Slugs from a linotype machine
It was an ordinary day. Sitting in my old Army pup tent in the back yard, using a water-based stamp pad to ink the linotype slugs that I had confiscated off the floor of the printing business next to our house on North Queen Street. The year was in the mid 1950s and I had just had my first taste of working in the printing business. I loved the little tent my Aunt Doris had given me for a gift and the little printing kit that moon and dad  had given me as a gift and even though the pages I produced made no sense at all, I was still a printer. While playing baseball for the Grandview Midgets in 1959, my coach would invite me to visit with him in his small shop on nearby Ross Street. Coach Bob was a linotype setter and ran a composition shop for other printers. I was fascinated watching him type away on his linotype machine, producing lines of type out of the molten lead ingots hanging above his machine. Then in college, I decided that I enjoyed my Graphic Arts classes the best and I wanted to be a high school Graphic Arts shop teacher. That all came about in 1968 when I was given the chance to start and teach a class in Graphic Arts at Manheim Township High School in Neffsville, PA. I eventually had the chance to get a donated linotype machine from Lancaster Newspapers for the shop, but the school nixed the idea, since molten lead around high school students didn't seem to be such a good idea. I taught the course for over 30 years and had all three of my children as students in the  Graphic Arts class.
Caden is cleaning the blanket cylinder on the press
Today my oldest son is a pressman for Donnelley Printing Company while my youngest son is a pressman for Lancaster Newspapers in Lancaster. As you can see, the ink tends to flow in our blood. For the past few years I have been taking my three grandkids into the school, where I still work part-time doing the in-house printing, to help with menial jobs such as putting glue on padded tablets and helping develop metal offset plates. I never allowed them to touch any equipment … until my grandson Caden made a visit with me to school a few days this week to help me with sorting out reams of paper for different jobs. While there I had the need to run a few jobs on the small offset press that has been in the school for years. Caden was fascinated with the press and before long wanted to do some of the procedures I was doing.
Caden adding adhesive to a stack of padded carbonized paper forms.
The press has safety guards on all moving parts, for the safety of the school children who run the presses, so I knew he would be safe helping me. Before long he wanted to burn a metal plate and develop it, place ink on the press, even wanted to help clean the press when I was finished. That was yesterday and today I once again invited him to visit with me while I worked on school jobs for this coming school year. By the end of the morning he had done just about everything on the press except for fastening a plate in place and making horizontal and vertical movement changes on the jobs. I did snap a few photos of him as he worked to show them to his mom and dad so they could see what he is learning while working with me. He actually was doing things on the press that my high school students couldn't do while taking my class. After cleaning the press we headed home for lunch. While at home my wife discussed with him that printing may not be a good career choice, since computers have taken away much of the printed material that used to be done on printing presses. But, for now, I'm going to let the printing ink continue to flow in his blood. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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