A Pressing Occasion

"Gosh, it's another miracle!  Can you believe it?  The Gazette is done again!"  It's been the same story for 25 years now, like a broken record that gets stuck in the crack.  It makes some sense, though, if you consider that every month it's a different crack, a different miracle.

It takes about 45 minutes to get to Hutchinson, but Crow River Press is the second stop.  The first stop is Burger King for a Breakfast Croissantwich, potato cakes, and coffee.  It's across the street.

Terry Theis uses the Process Camera to create negatives of the hardcopy Gazette pages (that the editor has worked so hard on) and the photographs (that the editor has taken with her digital camera).  See that hardcopy page of mine about to get negated?

Sid Alsleben, working at the Light Table, strips each of the photo negatives into each of the designated spaces on the large page negatives.  That can of spray glue comes in handy for this task.  If you check closely, you can see that I've got two Gazette pages laid out next to each other.

Light shining through the Light Table makes it possible for Sid to clearly view the large negatives and also see stray marks and smudges that I accidentally make on the pages at my own layout table at home.  Sid is the Production Supervisor at Crow River Press.

Mark Theis is the Overall Production Manager at the press.  Here he works at the Plate Burner, a piece of equipment that exposes the page negatives (that now include the photo negatives) to metal.

The machine shines a light through the clear areas of the negative onto an aluminum plate that is coated with a light sensitive polymer. 

Mark slides the aluminum plates into a Plate Process that washes away all of the background polymer except for what was exposed in the Plate Burner, which is exactly everything that prints in the Gazette!  Todd Theis (with the fancy mustache) picks up the washed aluminum plates that now contain images of the new Gazette, and puts a bend on each end with a Plate Bender."

The bends help hold the aluminum plates onto the plate cylinders on the printing press in the next room, aptly called the Press Room.

It's called a Web Press because it prints using these giant rolls of paper.  A "web" is a large continuous roll of clean paper that is fed into the mechanical press where it weaves itself into a newspaper.  Each new roll weighs 1,100 pounds and contains seven miles of paper.

Purpose of the Press Units is to place ink onto the paper as it weaves through them from the giant rolls and heads to the Folder.  It takes five Press Units to make a 40-page edition of the Gazette. 

Sometimes the press has to be stopped while Todd changes the two cutting rubbers because they are not cutting the Gazette pages adequately or efficiently.  This doesn't take too long. 

Purpose of the Folder is self explanatory.  It includes a Slitter Wheel that cuts pages 1 and 40 from pages 20 and 21 of the Gazette, for example, which is how they are grouped on one of the metal plates.  The Folder also includes the Former Board that forms the paper into a wedge for precise folding of the newspaper. 

When the press is running at high speed, you know it -- and hear it as the noise reverberates throughout the building.  I love to watch the rolls of paper get woven into the Victoria Gazette.

Todd and Donny Voigt are prepared to grab the Gazettes, as the conveyor belt moves them in their direction.

The printing press requires a very large room because it is a very tall and long apparatus.  It takes five Press Units (each using its own large roll of paper) to print a 40-page Gazette. 

The Press at Crow River includes a total of 12 Press Units and the Folder.

At least four or five people work to ensure that all facets of the large printing press are functioning properly before Sid begins to run it at high speed.  Ink levels have to be constantly monitored and adjusted in each of the Press Units as the 4,500 Victoria Gazettes are being printed and folded.

Sometimes daughter Jenny and granddaughter Addie join Editor Sue at the press!

Finally, when it's all running fast and smoothly, Del Guthmiller and Donny Voigt get into the action.  They collect the printed Gazettes and jog them into high piles that put on carts (like the one Addie was standing in) to be rolled to the next room for labeling, sorting, and bagging.

The huge Mail Room is located right next to the Press Room.  In addition to newspapers, Crow River Press prints brochures, advertisers, flyers, books, and almost everything that needs prints.

All the mailbags are hanging up and ready to be filled with labeled and presorted Gazettes.  That's my job, to hang up 40 mailbags on mailing racks.  It's what I do as soon as I arrive at Crow River Press each month.  Then I attach yellow "Do Not Delay" tags to each of the bags, and I put destination tags on each of the bags."  When they are full, they are about the size of hay bales, and they weight about as much.

Cindy Christensen, the Mail Room Supervisor, feeds Gazettes -- just hot off the press -- through the Labeler, a machine that cuts the individual mailing labels and glues them to the upper right hand corner of each newspaper, where I've left a space for them on the masthead.

The labeled Gazettes immediately drop onto a conveyor belt that brings them to Judy Ninneman, who picks up the papers, shuffles them neatly together in piles, and stacks them according to the many zip codes in the Gazette readership.

Dan Krumrie works the Strapper, which is a machine that plastic wraps the bundles of Gazettes, and then he puts the bundles into my mailbags with the matching cities and zip codes.

Keith McLain continues to transport freshly printed Gazettes from Press Room to Mail Room.

Soon 2,400 issues have been labeled, stacked, and bagged for locations outside of Victoria.  Approximately 1,700 bundles of non-labeled Gazettes are not bagged, but mailed directly to Victoria residents through boxes and routes, and I bring about 400 to local drop off locations.
Dan rolls two heavy hampers of labeled Gazettes into the back of my old red pickup trick.

And then he helps me lift the non-labeled papers (those destined for Victoria post office boxes and mail routes) into the back of my truck.

My pickup truck is very heavy when I leave Hutchinson and drive back to Victoria.  From start to finish, I'm normally at Crow River Press less than two hours.

David Theis, Manager of Commercial Printing at Crow River Press, generates sales and spends most of his time in the front office as the Victoria Gazette is getting printed.  All the guys in the story with the last name of Theis are related to each other.  Dave was the first employee at Crow River Press in October of 1966, and was made part of it two years later.  In 1999 the plant was remodeled with the addition of 9,000 square feet to become the 21,000 square foot facility that it is today.  There are 30 employees and two shifts that operate five days a week.  Altogether, the plant uses about 250 rolls of paper each month, which equates to almost 2,000 miles of paper!
          Thank you, Crow River Press, for your fine work, your kindness and hospitality as I recognize and celebrate 25 years of the Victoria Gazette.

The End

Love, Sue

Email:  Sue@PrintsPublishing.com

HomePage:  www.PrintsPublishing.com