PRINTING INDUSTRY VETERANS — LASTING IMPRESSIONS
Look at a copy of this magazine from 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Some of the printing company names ring a bell, albeit vaguely. This one merged a few years back, that one is now part of Consolidated Graphics, another one filed for bankruptcy and was liquidated.
Other companies change their names. Many more just fade away.
Printing establishments come and go, but the industry is laden with career lifers. Remember the journeyman printer? The craftsman? Remember a time before iMacs or desktop publishing? How about lead type? Linotype? Red opaque? Any of this stuff ring a bell? Were you at the shop when Kennedy was assassinated? Or when Nixon resigned? If so, you’ve collected more than a few gray hairs...if you’re fortunate enough to have eluded scalp erosion.
This has been, and always will be, a people business. And we’ve assembled a cast of 20 men and women who have logged at least 35 years on the job to tell their funny, sad, interesting and enlightening stories. Printing has been a vital part of their lives for many years, just as it has impacted your own experiences. The images and memories are enduring. And the following people have been kind enough to take a trip back in time and relate the experiences that have stayed with them for many years. Read on:
Maudie Briggs, 61
President and CEO
“The way I look at it, my employees and I are here at least a third of our lives, so it’s important to have fun every day,” Maudie Briggs stresses. “If not, we’d be pulling our hair out.”
The printing and publishing industries have served as the background music for Briggs’ life. When she was in kindergarten, her father, Dick Morrison, would bring home perforated tags for her to string. Briggs even confesses to learning about the birds and the bees while a teenager working with other women in the bindery.
Though she primarily worked for School Calendar Co., a publishing offshoot of her father’s Morrison Communications sheetfed printing business, her two brothers asked Briggs to lead the printing operation through a turnaround in 1993. Though she successfully navigated the firm out of choppy waters, the experience was downright frightening.
“It was the scariest time of my whole career. When you think you might end up living out of a piano box, and that the people you’ve known all your life might lose their jobs…I’d never want to go through that again.”
Fortunately for Briggs, who bought out her brothers’ stake in 2000, there has been more levity than gravity over roughly 40 years in the business. While attending a coaching clinic in Terrytown, NY, promoting the School Calendar end of the business, she asked one prospective client which school he represented.
“Oh, I own a college,” was the reply.
“Really, you own a college?” recounts a then-impressed Briggs. “Which one?”
Lad Cmajdalka, 70
The Graphics Group
For 51 years, Lad Cmajdalka has earned his living at 2800 Taylor Street in Dallas. Sure, names on the payroll checks have ranged from John A. Scott Typographers to The Graphics Group and now Consolidated Graphics. It is a testament to Cmajdalka’s durability that his job has changed jobs more than he has, so to speak. His son, Steven, is another longtime industry veteran of nearly 30 years.
“I’m not a person who likes to jump around,” Cmajdalka admits. “The one thing I’ve learned over the years: if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you.”
When Scott Typographers began buying up printing companies, Cmajdalka knew the times were changing, and the desktop publishing revolution made it more apparent that typesetting was not going to last. Since Cmajdalka was known as the annual report man, he knew major adjustments were needed to stay on top of the annuals game.
Cmajdalka has never been afraid to embrace a new technology, and believes variable data digital printing is going to drive the industry. He finds direct mail personalization to be the most exciting part of his job.
Not that he has completely forgotten his typography background. In November of 1963, a former employee of Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall—the main competitor of Scott Typographers—was arrested and charged with murder in a Dallas shooting.
“The FBI was all over the place. I was working nights, and that was quite an exciting evening,” Cmajdalka says.
The murder suspect, apparently, had also interviewed for a typesetting position at Padgett Printing, but was turned down when that company checked his Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall reference, which wasn’t complimentary.
The suspect was Lee Harvey Oswald.
Sheldon Darlow, 70
Cardinal Services of New York
If there was a David Letterman-esque top 10 list called “Signs that you may be a printer for life,” Sheldon Darlow would make the list with this beauty: “As a bar mitzvah present, I was able to run a hand press.” It was clear then that printing was Darlow’s destiny, and there’s no end in sight now as he embarks on his own printing brokerage business.
At the age of 17, Darlow started out with his father, who opened Cardinal Press in 1952 as a Ludlow metal typesetting operation. The company, which evolved into Cardinal Typesetting Service and Cardinal Communications Group, lasted until the mid-’90s, when it was purchased by Unit Digital.
Darlow, who was CEO of Cardinal at the time of its sale, kept plugging away. He provided estimating, sales and consulting work for a number of Big Apple printers, including Elements, Digital Ink and Allmedia Graphics. Working out of his home in sunny Sarasota, FL, Darlow recently parted ways with Allmedia and is ramping up a new business with an old and familiar surname: Cardinal Services of New York.
Life as a printer in New York City back in the 1950s was difficult, as it was for any young business struggling to survive in the city. A union tried to infiltrate his family’s small shop, and attempted to strong-arm the Darlows with several months of bitter negotiations. When his father threw up his hands in frustration over the impasse, an angry Sheldon went to the shop floor and fired everyone on the spot.
“I threw everyone out in the street. Our lawyer said we couldn’t do that, so I sent them a telegram, asking them to come back on Monday,” Darlow recalls. “They went on strike that Monday. My father, mother, brother and myself did it all for six months.”
Though the company obviously made a lot of money without the employee overhead, it took a toll on the Darlows.
“We worked like animals,” he says. “Those are the times you find out who your real friends are. Dealing with the union, I learned a lot about people and how they could be manipulated.”
Dennis Gorder, 58
“I enjoy solving problems,” says the man known around the plant as Denny. “The scheduling department is unique; I get involved in a lot of communications, talking to customers. I love that customer interaction.”
Dennis Gorder also likes his employer, as evidenced by his 42 years with Perry Printing, which merged and became Perry Judd’s about 10 years ago. Gorder worked out of the Waterloo, WI, division, then transferred when the Baraboo, WI, plant opened in 1982. Over the years, his duties have ranged from shipping/receiving, customer service, prep supervisor and quality assurance.
Gorder once escorted a young Perry’s salesperson to the airport to pick up one of the company’s newer clients. The buyer wanted to tour the plant and get to know its print provider. During the airport greeting, the customer suggested having a few drinks to get better acquainted. After a round, the client excused himself and left the table for a minute.
“The salesperson asked me if I had any cash with me; I said I only had a few bucks,” Gorder recalls. “He also only had a couple of dollars. Between us, we only had enough money to pay for parking.”
Unfortunately, the airport bar did not accept credit cards. It was the dark days—before debit cards and 24-hour money access. When the client returned, Gorder and his co-worker had to sheepishly inform him that he would have to pay for the drinks. The client took the whole saga in stride.
“He looked at us, laughed and said, ‘Well, now I know your company doesn’t waste money on entertainment. I like that,’ ” Gorder relates. “We held onto that customer for many years.”
Bob Gray, 61
Director of Operations
New Washington, OH
“The artistic aspect of this business is very rewarding,” notes Bob Gray, who’s been in the industry for more than 35 years. “Helping your clients communicate a message to their customers is very worthwhile.”
Gray has made a career out of helping people, dating back to his time in the Peace Corps, where he provided management and engineering expertise for helping small businesses in India. “The working conditions were rather primitive,” he says. “It was quite a challenge to take limited resources and come up with products.”
In 1970 he joined his family’s business, Gray Printing, which opened in 1888. For nearly 20 years, Bob and cousin Scott Gray co-managed the company, which specialized in short-run magazines and publications, as well as business-to-business catalogs.
Unfortunately, a labor dispute that led to a strike and spiraling healthcare benefit costs aided in the demise of Gray Printing, which closed its doors in the fall of 2003.
Gray always prided his company on having solid relationships with its customers and vendors, which he considered his close friends. He was also instrumental in the tri-regional merger that created PIANKO, the Printing Industries Association for Northern Kentucky and Ohio.
In recent years, Gray and his wife have motorcycled around the United States and Canada, taking in the scenery.
Bill Kaiser, 79
Environmental Safety Director
Wetzel Brothers Printing
Some people are a product of their geography. Others have the chance to create products based on their geography. For example, when you think Atlanta, Coca-Cola certainly comes to mind. And Seattle is inextricably linked to Microsoft (which is forever beholden to Bill Gates).
Bill Kaiser cut his printing teeth in Michigan, which boasts both the car industry (Detroit) and food giants (Battle Creek). He spent his first 21 years with Muller Color Plate, and became manager of its Battle Creek facility. After brief stints with Kalacraft (then a Schawk division) and Mueller Krus, Kaiser landed in Cudahy, WI, with Wetzel Brothers.
In 22 years with the now-Consolidated Graphics plant, he has served as technical manager and, for the past 14 years, its environmental safety director. In the latter capacity, Kaiser works with the state department of natural resources to help formulate emissions rules for Wisconsin printers.
Some very well-known package printing designs incorporate Kaiser’s influence. He did the original color separations, platemaking and engraving for the original Kellogg’s Pop Tarts carton. For Kraft, he created the Sealtest ice cream packaging design, the old-fashioned ice cream parlor look, in the early 1970s. He was also responsible for the packaging design of the Breyer’s line.
“It was fun working with the Kraft people in Philadelphia. They would send me tubs of their new ice cream flavors,” Kaiser recalls.
It wasn’t all cookies and cream during Kaiser’s 53-year career. In 1976, an ad agency botched its client’s auto book that was touting a new line of cars, but the gaffe was caught post-production. As a result, 2 million car books were scrapped. Fortunately for the manufacturer, the car enjoyed a long, successful run.
Richard Larrabee, 65
Trade Marketing Manager
Dick Larrabee’s life has been punctuated by serenity, violence, tragedy and bliss—all before punching in at work. He has spent 45 years in the printing industry, working everything from sales, litho stripping, prep supervisor, prepress and plant manager for seven different companies in the Los Angeles basin. Outside of his current employer, only one other shop on his resumé is still in operation.
Larrabee, himself, is quite lucky to still be in operation.
His career as a journeyman was put on hold in the early 1960s, when he served a two-year stint in the Army. That tour of duty saw Larrabee’s unit help rescue foreigners out of Cambodian prison camps, and he survived being shot. Upon returning to the states, Larrabee made stops at companies including Artisan Press, Continental Graphics, Medallion Graphics, George Rice & Sons and Southland Graphics.
The soft-spoken Larrabee has spent the past 21 years living in the High Desert, where packs of coyotes are a common sight. But peacefulness can be elusive: In the early 1990s, Larrabee slipped and fell at work, breaking several discs in his back. A few years later, while riding his Polaris Victory motorcycle on the freeway, a pickup truck pinballed Larrabee into a car. The accident resulted in a pinched nerve and a paralyzed right arm, which took him six months of rehab to regain its use. And, just this past March, he underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery.
Still, the man remains upbeat about the opportunities that commercial printing have provided him through the years. “It’s provided me a good living—good money, steady employment,” Larrabee says. “I’ve really enjoyed working with so many people.”
Dan Lay, 55
CJK: Print Possibilities
Dan Lay has been everywhere and done everything in 37 years with the former C.J. Krehbiel Co., from jogger and roll tender to pressman, equipment rebuilder and technical supervisor. He’s traveled to France, Switzerland, Germany and Japan, evaluating prospective web press acquisitions for the company. And he’s put out a few fires, both figurative and literal, over the years.
But there was nothing in the employee handbook that addressed a most bizarre incident that occurred roughly 25 years ago.
The first shift had been working on a high-end brochure that wasn’t quite working out color-wise. Lay and the second shift were dying to get a crack at the job and prove their mettle. But Lay’s shift was comprised of what can charitably be described as a motley crew, and deemed unworthy of such an important job. However, when the customer grew impatient at the ‘A Team’ and its failure to nail the color, Lay and Co. were given their chance to make the job a success.
Within two hours, the color was accurate, and the second shift had finally shaken off its negative perception. The customer was thrilled as he signed off on the job while standing in the pressroom.
Lay was rejoicing, as well, but the elation was short lived as he spotted a 35˝ roll of paper, weighing 1,800 pounds, break away from the roll tender. It was gradually making its way, at a robust 5 miles per hour, toward Lay and the customer. The latter remained completely unaware, gushing at the print quality as he applied his signature to the proof. Lay began to sweat, wondering at what point he would need to ask the customer to kindly step out of the way of the oncoming boulder.
Miraculously, the paper wheel ran over an object in the aisle and made a right turn into the ink room, sending cans flying. The customer had his back to the action and didn’t see, or hear, anything.
Even in its moment of glory, the second shift still took it on the chin.
“Our supervisor was really happy about the job...until he saw the ink room,” Lay remarks.
George Loughborough, 68
Huntford Printing & Graphics
Despite being in the printing business for more than 50 years, one of George Loughborough’s favorite memories dates back to his high school newspaper, when a gag issue went completely awry. A student photographer snapped a fortuitous picture of a cheerleader who lost her skirt in mid-hooray. So Loughborough thought it would be funny to make up three mock papers with the caption, “Laverne loses skirt, more pics inside.” Unfortunately, Laverne’s 6’4˝ father laid hands on one of the three copies and presented it to young George’s father.
“We were in deep trouble,” Loughborough laughs.
After a number of brief stints at printers throughout the 1960s, Loughborough and his brother, William, opened Huntford Printing & Graphics in October of 1969. Huntford Printing is neither fish nor fowl—more than a copy shop, less than a hardcore four-color outfit. But it boasts the integrity of any sized printing firm.
In the early 1980s, a rush job came in from a company that needed 250,000 of both letters and postcards. For a 25-employee shop that needed to give total effort until completion, this was a big deal. Only there were no quotes asked and none given…the client just said “print it and bill me.”
Loughborough probably fretted and sweated over the invoicing more than he did the job itself, wanting to be properly compensated for the ‘drop everything’ gig, yet not wanting to gouge a customer who had placed much blind faith in Huntford. Finally, he arrived at a charge of $24,000, which he tentatively uttered into the phone to the customer. A long silence ensued.
“The client responded, ‘Is that all? I expected a lot more,’ ” Loughborough relates. “The customer showed up an hour later with the check and a case of French champagne.”
Michael Medved, 67
Executive VP/Sales Manager
The EGT Group
Madison Heights, MI
When Michael Medved first broke into the printing business nearly 50 years ago, his boss provided a tip: The business is constantly changing and there’s a constant influx of young people coming into its ranks. Those changes and the young people, Medved was told, would keep him on his toes. “I think that’s every bit as true today as it was 40-some years ago,” he states.
While relationships aren’t what they once were, Medved believes printing is still a relationship business. Medved would know; he’s been involved in just about every aspect, from buying and selling print, to its production. He spent his first 10 years with printer General Motors Photographic in Detroit as a senior cost estimator. He moved onto Visual Services for 17 years, followed by 10 with Young & Rubicam, where he was involved in the purchasing and production of print. His last two stops have been with sheetfed printing operations in Madison Heights: Graphic Enterprises and The EGT Group.
Medved has worn many hats while being on both sides of the print purchasing/selling table, and one fascinating encounter with a well-known commercial printer involved head wear. In one of his vocations, he qualified printers to produce work for Ford Motor Co. One such duty entailed traveling to Sandy Alexander in Clifton, NJ. Medved and Ford’s purchasing manager were given a tour by Sandy Alexander executives Roy Grossman and Mike Graff. Medved could tell something was amiss.
“They were giving each other funny looks,” he says. “Then we found out why. Every employee in the prep department wore a shirt that read, ‘Welcome to Sandy Alexander,’ and had a Ford logo hat. Their employees heard we were coming in to review them and, knowing how important it was to be a Ford supplier, they got together on their own and bought shirts and hats.
“To me, that was the sign of a company with a pretty good spirit. It also helped them get on Ford’s bid list.”
Relationships, Medved points out, still count for a lot in printing.
Jim Mikalson, 61
Senior Account Executive
Sun Prairie, WI
“Printing, when you think about it, is a stupid business,” notes Jim Mikalson. “It’s extremely competitive and capital-intensive. Yet, there are thousands and thousands of us. It gets into your blood.”
Mikalson has seen his share of the inane and absurd, like the newbie who walked out during the 9:30 a.m. break on his first day and was never seen or heard from again. Mikalson himself has lasted considerably longer, starting at his family’s shop, Artcraft Press, in 1961. He became general manager in the late 1960s, and stayed on following the company’s acquisition by Royle in 1986. Mikalson moved over to the Sun Prairie headquarters, performing customer service and estimating before settling into inside sales, which he has done for the past 10 years.
His most dubious memory involves the decommissioning of Artcraft’s first offset press, which saw service during World War II as an Army map press. The machine, which would routinely set registration at one of two places on the sheet—nearly a half-inch apart—was somewhat less than graceful.
“This press was just a great big piece of dung,” Mikalson recalls. “Before we took it down, every person who ever worked on it got to take a shot at it with a sledgehammer.”
Who knows? A couple of whacks might have fixed the registration issue.
Debbie Moore, 52
Blue Moon Printing
“Once in a blue moon, you get to be where you want in your life,” states Debbie Moore. And once she was in the position to be the boss of her own printing company, Moore had found her blue hue.
Moore has truly found her niche in an industry dominated by male presidents and CEOs. Most impressively, she has worked her way from the shop floor to the driver’s seat. Moore was a curiosity working as a press operator in 1975 with Kwik Copy, where she toiled for 10 years. After a short stint with Modern Press in Decatur, GA, she became a partner for nearly 20 years with Performance Printing.
But when Moore saw the writing on the wall and sensed a shift in the market that the company had been serving, she opted to sell her share in the company.
Eight employees followed Moore to Blue Moon. Eight months later, Performance Printing went out of business.
There’s a lot to be said for instinct, and she has followed that instinct despite contrary advice from people as close to Moore as her own mother. Moore cherishes the relationships she has forged with customers and waves away the thought of keeping everything in a business perspective.
“A long time ago, my mom told me, ‘Don’t be friends with your customers,’ ” Moore recalls. “I said, ‘Momma, sorry, but I have to go against you on this.’ ”
There’s no mistaking what color the moon is in Moore’s world.
Bill Munz, 65
Bill Munz has always been somewhat of a free spirit, for which fate seems to have rewarded him. In the 1960s, while in the Army reserve, he received his orders for Vietnam. Three weeks later, the order was rescinded. Munz finished his reserve commitment, graduated from RIT with a degree in print management and embarked on a 45-year career in the industry.
His travels started with Monaghan Printing in Newark, NJ, where he did some stripping and coated plates, among other things. The next stop was Rea Printing for work on two-color, 77˝ presses. After he obtained the degree, Munz moved over to sales for Western Publishing in New York City. It was there that he was named national Salesman of the Year in 1974. But when he reached a million in sales, the company halved his commission. Not long after, Munz packed his suitcase and headed for Dayton, OH, where he became a national sales manager for United Color. Big mistake.
“Going into management after having sales success was the worst decision I ever made,” Munz admits.
With a wife and two small kids, Munz decided to travel and live out of a trailer for nearly nine months as he looked for his next destination. It took him north to Nova Scotia, south to Jacksonville, FL, and west to Phoenix, with plenty of stops in between.
“Living in close quarters was chaotic,” he explains. “But I was fishing with the Novies, crabbing, doing water activities. I also spent a month in Grand Junction, CO. I loved it.”
While introducing Gardner/Fulmer Litho of Fullerton, CA, to the San Diego market, Munz went to school at night and earned an MBA from National University. Since 1986, he has been with Rush Press.
Dennis Redman, 67
Menomonee Falls, WI
A “techie” and “color geek” at heart, Dennis Redman has ridden the cutting edge of the industry’s technology revolution, having been an early adopter of direct-to-plate and virtual proofing. He wanted to be a pro athlete as a child, but he traded MLB, NFL and NBA acronyms for SWOP, GRACoL, IPA and GCA. If it’s any consolation, Redman has become one of the league leaders he’d always hoped to be in sports, playing considerable roles in numerous printing industry organizations.
Redman spent his first 28 years as part of the Cuneo organization, and it was there that he developed his reputation as a color expert. After burning out at Cuneo, he joined prepress house MAS Graphics in 1990, then embarked on his own franchise of Plus Companies, beginning with CT Plus in 2000, Plus Consultants in 2001 and Plus Digital Print in 2004.
During those Cuneo years, he followed through on the “have fun, make money, leave footprints” adage via a consultant job that took him to London, where he worked for Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse magazine. Redman spent three months in London, helping Guccione get up to speed on the U.S. standards for printing and advertising. In all, he spent two years as a consultant for Guccione.
Coincidentally, Redman also spent two years as a technical advisor for quality and color reproduction for Larry Flynt, the controversial publisher of Hustler magazine. He gave press approvals at a time before Flynt had a production staff. Flynt even offered Redman a full-time gig with his company. Redman politely refused, saying he did not believe in Flynt’s product.
“I knew Larry before and after he was shot,” Redman notes. “He was a changed man, but not an unkind man.”
Consulting has been good to Redman, who has traveled to Italy and Switzerland to provide his expertise. But, clearly, this man knows his fleshtones.
Arnie Savin, 62
Vice President of Operations
L.P. Thebault Co.
“The industry, and printing as a whole, is phenomenal in terms of what it does. I’m fortunate to see a product born every five days,” Arnie Savin remarks. “It’s instant gratification; I don’t have to wait a month.”
Bowing in 1963 with Sanders Printing on Hudson Street in New York City, Savin spent 24 years there and was a partner in the business until it was sold in late 1986. With the exception of a six-year stint with EarthColor, Savin has spent most of his time with L.P. Thebault and has garnered notoriety as an adjunct professor at New York Technical College. He spreads the gospel of print production, having taught it to hundreds of people across the country.
One of Savin’s most important print products was the “Black Book” for designers and photographers, of which he was involved in its design. The 600-page tome was a success, and the publisher brought in a 36-foot sub sandwich as a token of gratitude.
Savin clearly loves interacting with print production people, sharing his knowledge and helping them achieve their goals. But there are some people you just can’t help. On one occasion, a customer came in for a press check and declared that the proof was “kind of red.”
This issue was easily explained away. “The guy came in with red tinted glasses,” Savin explains.
Al Sherlock, 61
New York City
“There are always the people who torture you on press checks and make your life insane,” Al Sherlock laments. “But there are also a lot of good and honest people in this business.”
Sherlock started working full-time for Hallmark Litho while still a sophomore in high school, until the state caught on. He was pulling down a buck an hour but, though he was forced to cut back his hours, the blow was cushioned when minimum wage was bumped up to $1.25 an hour.
Upon graduating from high school, Sherlock obtained a degree in graphics management from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. After a stint with Herbick and Held, he took a tour of the New York printing scene, with stops at shops including book publisher Holt, Reinhart Winston, book printer Multi-Print, sheetfed and web printer Clarendon Press, and Potomac.
Sherlock was a part of publishing history at Hallmark Litho in 1961, when the company printed Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Capricorn” for publisher Grove Press. The book, first published in France but banned in the states for nearly 30 years, was a lightning rod for controversy as it begged the freedom of speech question. As for Sherlock, he was utterly floored by the unexpurgated use of four-letter words.
One major change Sherlock has witnessed involves the volatility of today’s print buyers; no longer is it a destination occupation. “In the old days, you dealt with someone who had a long career, and you could follow that person from corporation to corporation.”
Edward Treis, 84
Menomonee Falls, WI
A week after purchasing the company where he’d worked for five years, Edward Treis must have thought he had made the mistake of a lifetime. R&L (later redubbed Arandell, a phonetic match) was in danger of losing its top client, which would pretty much put Treis out of business. A competitor, E.F. Schmidt Co., had essentially snaked away the big fish from Arandell. Treis was virtually caught flat-footed and needed to act quickly.
“I went to the president (of the customer),” Treis remembers. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you what, go back and redo your numbers, and we’ll see what we can do.’ And the purchasing agent told me to make sure my quote didn’t come in below (Schmidt’s).”
Treis drove around town, trying to decide whether to come in low or high. He chose the price in between. He got his customer back, and the company was saved from a premature demise.
Arandell has since grown over the years to a $258 million printer that specializes in catalogs. Ironically, many years later Arandell acquired E.F. Schmidt Co. In 1995, Treis was inducted into the PRINTING IMPRESSIONS/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame, and was later awarded the Harry V. Quadracci VISION Award by the Web Offset Association (WOA).
The latter award was only appropriate, since Treis had the vision and foresight to save his company.
Don Vendl, 68
Don Vendl’s career in the printing business nearly ended before it had a chance to grow some legs. But 50 years later, he is proof that mistakes can happen and should be forgiven.
It was the late 1950s and Vendl—the ink still wet in his high school yearbook—went to work for Photopress in Broadview, IL. He was imposing a 750-page book and had a field of negatives lined up on the light table.
“I was just starting the job when I spilled a cup of coffee all over it,” Vendl confesses. “So we had to take all the negatives, which were already cut into single pages, and throw them back into the bath in the camera department. They had to be cleaned off, dried and retouched. That took a couple of days, and I thought it would end my career.”
Instead, it was only the beginning for Vendl, who shook off the gaffe and climbed the ladder at Photopress. He moved from production to the front office, doing customer service and then estimating. Thirty-one years later, he departed the company (at that point called Gunthrop Warren) as executive vice president.
Now working on his 20th year at E&D Web in suburban Chicago, Vendl is that company’s president and owns the distinction of never missing a day of work in his life. Perhaps he loves the perks; his job afforded him the opportunity to attend the 1973 inauguration for President Nixon. Vendl and five other production personnel from Photopress were invited after helping to produce the inaugural book for Nixon. The same month they attended the inaugural, seven people with ties to Nixon’s re-election campaign were tried and convicted of breaking into and wiretapping the Democratic Party headquarters. Before the year was over, Nixon would prove that not all on-the-job transgressions could be forgiven.
Vendl still owns a Nixon-signed copy of the commemorative book.
Milton Walsey, 94
New York City
“As long as I’m able to walk,” says the senior statesman of our group, “I’m still able to work.”
The retirement option has clearly been bypassed by Milton Walsey, who works three days a week. It’s amazing when you consider he began his working life in the Big Apple as an errand boy, earning $12 a week for Burland Printing in 1933.
He’s enjoyed a whirlwind career that includes a partial stake in Parish Press, which catered to most of the bigwigs in the pharmaceutical sector. Walsey claims the distinction of being the first printer in New York City to install web presses.
When his Parish co-owner/partner passed away and his son took control, Walsey (who held a smaller share of the company) could see the writing on the wall. He sold his share and joined Benchmark—owned by his son, Steven—in 1974. Two years later, Parish went bankrupt.
Walsey has witnessed every change imaginable in the printing industry and laughs at the fact that it cost $1,500 (the equivalent of $16,000 today) for an 81⁄2x11˝ color separation in the 1940s, which can now be had for about a C note (or $9 and change in 1945). He remembers when lithography was done on a stone.
Unfortunately, as Yogi Berra might say, not all progress has been progressive.
“To me, the workers were more dedicated years ago. They had more interest in their job and were more conscientious,” he says. “They do a lot more moving around today. That’s probably an old-fashioned point of view.”
Ed Webb, 56
Vice President/Sales Manager
The Kelly Companies
Ed Webb earned printing technology and management degrees from Montgomery College and West Virginia Tech. But his education has come from a variety of resources.
Webb has spent 39 years working in and around the Baltimore-Washington, DC, area, beginning with a stint at Jarboe Printing in the District, where he worked the camera and helped with stripping and platemaking. Upon finishing school, he served a seven-year stint at Merkle Press, another DC shop, before venturing to Peake Printers (now Peake DeLancey) in nearby Cheverly, MD. It was there that Webb was exposed to the world of mergers and acquisitions.
“They wanted to explore opportunities…I got to know people like Harris DeWese and Ronnie Bray, who exposed me to what was going on in the industry,” Webb notes. “They showed me more about the printing business in five years than I had learned in the first 25.”
Webb had the opportunity to move on to French-Bray in Baltimore, where he spent four years as president, before taking on his latest challenge as vice president of sales for The Kelly Companies in Cheverly. It’s been an interesting (and educational) run for Webb, who has learned about what not to do as much as what should be done.
“It was a good idea not managed well,” Webb says of the M&A revolution. “It was the right idea, but it was done too fast and created too much debt.”
He can’t complain, however, having had the chance to work in lithography, negotiate labor contracts and sit in on arbitration hearings. And it wasn’t without a little courage that Webb addressed a room full of union members at their meeting and told them that cuts were being made to staff.
“I’ve had the opportunity to do it all,” Webb remarks.