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50th: Unforgettable Moments — The Odd and Memorable

June 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor

September 1995 featured Ron Krivoshiew, president of Speed Graphics, leaning against a Rolls Royce, smoking a stogie and holding up traffic in Times Square, New York, at night. The headline reads, “Bright Lights, Big Business.” One look and you can’t help but smile. The energy and enthusiasm it exudes is infectious.

TRAGEDY STRIKES KY: Unfortunately, of the most memorable events to happen in the last 50 years, most of the ones that come to mind are tragic. Heading the list is Standard Gravure of Louisville, KY.

On September 14, 1989, Joseph Wesbecker—on disability leave since earlier in the summer due to mental illness—walked into the Standard plant armed with an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle and other small arms, and went on a shooting spree that lasted half an hour. Wesbecker killed eight and wounded 12 others before taking his own life. The printer prevailed afterwards, but has since been closed for years.

PREVIDI PERISHES IN CRASH: In November 1987, Cecil Previdi, the 44-year-old president of Danbury Printing and a Hall of Fame inductee, was among the eight people killed when their light airplane crashed in southern Wisconsin. Five other Danbury employees were among the dead—Anthony Vitti, Howard Applegate, Mark Philipp, Edward Toste and Arnold Hashtani. Two other victims were also from the printing industry: James McDonald of Thermo Electron and David McGregor of Webtech.

The industry has lost a number of printers to plane accidents over the years.

In the December 1959 issue, we noted the deaths of Sinclair Muir and Joseph Mazzaferri, who perished December 1 when their plane went down near Williamsport, PA. Ten months earlier, another plane crash claimed the lives of three rock and roll stars: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper.

AMMON MURDERED: The murder of multimillionaire Ted Ammon, the non-executive chairman of the former Moore Corp., drew tabloid headlines worldwide. Daniel Pelosi, who married Ammon’s ex-wife, Generosa, three months after Ammon’s murder, was found guilty of the crime and sent to prison for life.

Ammon had a hand in the development of some of the industry’s biggest names. He founded Big Flower/Vertis Holdings in 1992, which grew to a $1.98 billion company, and later founded and chaired Chancery Lane Capital, which purchased a 20 percent share in Toronto-based Moore Corp. with GSC Investors. The company eventually merged with Wallace Computer Services of Lisle, IL, and, in 2004, joined RR Donnelley in the industry’s largest-ever merger. Mark Angelson, a former business partner and close friend of Ammon, became the CEO of Donnelley.

SUMMER OF SADNESS: A July 2002 fire started by a collapsed racking system took the life of an outside contractor at Quad/Graphics’ Lomira, WI, plant.

A few weeks later, Harry V. “Larry” Quadracci was found dead in shallow water behind his home. It was Quadracci, perhaps more than any other single graphic arts executive in the history of U.S. printing, who personified the rags-to-riches mantra—going from taking a second mortgage out on his home to building a billion dollar empire. He is also considered by many as being our industry’s greatest visionary.

RIGHT PLACE, WRONG TIME: Europe was not the place to be in late April of 1986, but some Americans ventured to Drupa despite threats of terrorism that persisted then. So, you can imagine how they all felt when news of the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl reached Düsseldorf, Germany. As if the Cold War wasn’t enough. . .

And of course, on September 11, 2001, printers attending PRINT 01 in Chicago watched TV in horror as airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, bringing down both towers, while another plane cut a swath into the Pentagon. Since air travel was shut down indefinitely, stranded printers and vendors had to find alternative modes of transportation.

PREDICTION A BIT EARLY: In our 30th anniversary issue, we looked at how some predictions made in the 1960s had panned out by June 1988. The interesting forecast was made by Chicago banker Robert Wilmouth, who said “The housewife of 1975 may well replace the check-writing process with her kitchen telephone.”

Back then, it was envisioned that the little woman would make her purchase, and an automatic bank transfer would take place, with the change in the account balance reflected immediately. She wouldn’t have to worry her pretty little head about licking stamps and mailing letters.

Well, in 1988 we confidently pointed out that 97 percent of Americans own checking accounts and, quoting John H. Harland Co. statistics, noted that Americans write more than 45 billion checks each year, or 1,400 checks per second.

Now, in 2008, we confidently point out that, according to a study by the Federal Reserve, more than two-thirds of non-cash payments were made electronically in 2006, and the number of checks written annually had shrunk to 33 billion.

We won’t say checks are dying, but like Neanderthal attitudes toward women, we won’t be surprised if they completely go away.

SPEAKING OF WOMEN: In October of 1968, we ran a poll conducted by the Administrative Management Society, which found that 52 percent of its members approve of mini-skirts in the workplace. Pondered one exec, the mini can “add new interest to the daily grind.” However, 75 percent said “nay” to boots and excessive makeup, but two-thirds were completely on board with colored, textured or fishnet pantyhose.

Try running that up HRs’ flagpole today to see if you can send out a memo asking women to break out the fishnets and high heels.

PART DEAUX: To emphasize the international theme of SPECTRA ’59, women from seven countries vied for the “Miss SPECTRA ’59” beauty contest. These same “girls” were available at the expo to help customers and vendors with language translations. We’re surprised they didn’t bake pies or bring pipes and slippers to the men. No word on which gal won the pageant.

SEX VS. PRINTING: Printed communication has long been the biggest promotional tool for sexually-charged content, be it smut, pornography, erotica, girly magazines, adult entertainment or whatever is the moniker du jour for objectionable material. The love (no pun intended) is definitely unrequited, as printers have long railed against those who have had the audacity to break rank and sully their printing rollers with such filth.

In 1963, we reported that controversial editor and publisher Ralph Ginzburg had been found guilty of 28 counts of mailing obscene literature. The case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Ginzburg lost and ended up doing eight months in a minimum security facility.

Think attitudes have changed dramatically since the 1960s? Perhaps not. In a letter to the editor from 1993, one writer—citing Madonna’s “Sex” pictorial tour de force—chastised RR Donnelley’s decision to print the tomes. “To have an industry leader—with the reputation of producing high-quality work—have any part in a project like this gives our industry a black eye.”

At least we no longer have to reconcile the inconsistencies between attitudes toward so-called porn and the fact that advertisements from the first 30-odd years of the magazine used sex to sell equipment and consumables.

MAY HE RULE THE DAY: Sheer coincidence, but the astrological moons and Robert Burton must find themselves in the same house in May. How else can we explain his appearance on the cover of Printing Impressions in May 1993 (“A New World Emerges”) for World Color and then in May 2006 (“Burton’s Latest Score”) with Cenveo?

Perhaps he will reappear on our cover regarding another “mayday,” when he steps in to stop another “world” from crumbling.

WE’RE BIG BOYS NOW: In Volume 5, Number 1 (June 1962), it was noted that particular issue represented the largest in the history of PI, which was beginning its fifth year. The folio checked in at 40 pages; by comparison, the July 1987 and ’88 Master Specifier issues weighed in at 550 pages apiece, while September 1997 registered 160 tabloid-size pages, just to name a few large editions.

In his June 1962 editorial, Irv Borowsky pointed out that “The staff of Printing Impressions is grateful to our readers and advertisers for their confidence and support of our efforts to be informative and interesting—the readers through the hundreds of encouraging letters received each week...”

Whoa. . .hundreds?

We’re not doubting Mr. B’s math. Through e-mails, e-newsletters, our Website ( and other means, the electronic age has certainly shrank the printing community. Every blue moon, we’ll receive an encouraging handwritten or typed note, a symbolic gesture in an age where “thank you” notes have all but disappeared.

Just ask the USPS how dramatically the volume of mail has declined.

DUMB CRIMINALS: Just a small sampler of crooked doings in our largely upright, law-abiding industry over the past 50 years.

1995: Three employees of Thomson Lithograph in Fremont, CA, were nailed by federal agents for counterfeiting. They had churned out $26 million worth of $20, $50 and $100 bills when the bust went down. 1963: Ralph Brunet of Frankfurt, IN, gets hauled away after authorities seize $1.5 million in bogus bucks. Also in 1963: Three desperadoes tried to make off with the $6,000 payroll of Fast Typesetters, but employees pelted them with lead type and tools before resorting to fisticuffs.

BEFORE YOU GO: And now, we leave you with some bowling scores. A team from Colorcraft Lithoplate captured the 1959-60 Graphic Arts Cup, winning the tournament over Yoder & Armstrong. The tourney was described as “probably the most dramatic in the 12-year history of the Graphic Arts Bowling League.”

Howard Smith of Braceland Brothers copped the individual high average (177). Len Cianfrani from N.W. Ayers & Co. posted the individual high three-game at 607, and Gil Spruhde of Pearl Pressmen Liberty hauled down the individual high single with a lusty 255.

Check back in another 50 years, when we provide the second round of top industry bowlers. PI


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