Today, hearing the word Boeke makes people think of hockey. They think of the Ben Boeke Skating Arena. Who was Ben Boeke ? For one, he was a long time customer of Color Art Printing before he had an ice arena named after him. He was the Anchorage City Clerk from 1947 to 1967. In this capacity, he was in charge of the City elections with one responsibility being the overseeing of the printed ballots. He was very professional, very thorough and had a great sense of humor. He would come to the shop numerous times during the process of typesetting and proofing the ballots. He always came with another city employee as a second pair of eyes and a back up person to check every detail. After the ballots were printed, he would come to the shop and take any extras with him to keep under lock and key. The printed ballots were special in one way that was unique to the time period. The candidates names were rotated throughout the pressrun. This was possible because the letterpress type was moveable. X number of ballots were printed with candidate A first on the list. The press would be stopped, the type moved into a new layout with candidate B now first on the list. This was done until every candidate’s name appeared in first place on a percentage of the ballots. The ballots were then collated to mix up the various layouts. Ben Boeke was the man to make sure this was all done properly, securely and on time.
It is often a joke among printers that we can print our own money. In 1962, this was not a joke. This was the early days of offset printing and our newest pressman, Donald Brown, was a little too eager to try out the limits of his very small and simple press. Over a weekend, he came into the shop and used the lithographic camera to shoot a copy of a $20.00 Traveler’s Check made out in his own name. He made an offset plate, cut the paper and ran of the checks, lots and lots of checks.
The Haflings were in their car listening to the local news on the radio when they heard a bulletin to be on the alert for counterfeit checks. Then they heard the name on the checks. Oh no! Their shop could not be involved in something like this. They changed their plans for their drive and headed down to the shop. They found trash cans full of checks that weren’t quite right, a messy work area and a press that still had the plates and ink in it. They called APD. Once the police and the FBI arrived. The newest press was now a crime scene. Jane Hafling, with her artistic eye, made sketches of the tattoos (rare in the 60s) that the pressman had on both arms. Donald Brown went up and down the West Coast living off of his $20.00 checks. He would buy something for a small amount and then live off of the change. He was finally caught in Seattle at the airport just before he was boarding a plane to come back to Alaska.
Fun typo found on a menu (before it was printed) “Orders to god, 50 cents extra” Fun typo on “camera ready” copy from a dog breeder. “Large saggy dogs for sale”
Color Art started operating in March of 1958. Statehood was voted on June 30, 1958 and the State of Alaska was officially born on January 3, 1959. Color Art Printing was in the middle of the excitement. We printed a few items for the Constitutional Convention which was held in Fairbanks. We did campaign printing for the first elected US Senators and US Representative. Jane Hafling with her sense of fun and cartoonist background drew up several funny postcards that were sold to commemorate the arrival of Statehood. Using gold cover stock and dark blue ink, the cards represented the official colors of the new state. (Deanna, I hope to find a couple of these cards. I know they are “somewhere” at Mom’s house in boxes yet to be sorted or maybe in the archives in the old cabinet upstairs).
In the early days of the shop it was stayed open until 6 P.M. The shop was just closing up for the weekend on March 27, 1964 when the Great Alaska Earthquake hit. Most of the stored paper slid off the shelves in the paper warehouse, type cabinets jolted open and emptied their individual letters in random heaps on the pressroom floor. Stacks of papers that were ready to be collated into books found themselves on the floor, self collating in no particular order on the way down. Luckily, no one was hurt, no equipment was damaged; but, at first glance the shop looked like it would be impossible to put back together. The crew all scattered to check on their own homes and families. Power and telephone service was off for several days. Communication was over the radio or by people driving across town to leave each other notes or make personal contact to tell us other how they were doing. One by one the crew checked in with the Haflings and reported no substantial damage at any of their homes. Once the power in town was restored, the crew was back at work putting the shop back into operation. A neighbor one block east of the shop was Steve McCutcheon, a professional photographer. He approached Steve Hafling and asked if he would consider being a partner on a book of photos of the Earthquake. The Steves made an agreement and the book was in production in record time. It was quickly assembled, printed and sold. People lined up for days to buy copies. The book was reprinted several times and is a wonderful pictorial memory of the most powerful earthquake to occur on North America.
WEDDING Invitations 1:
A majority of brides and grooms plan their weddings for months. One of our wedding invitation couples was much more spontaneous. They came to place their order on Wednesday and hoped to pick up their invitations that Friday. This was an unusual request and and “impossible” time for production in the early days. When they gave us the copy, it was evident why they had their deadline. Their wedding was on that Friday! It was summer, they were new to Alaska and on a whim, they decided to have a casual wedding on the Park Strip. Their plan was to hand out invitations to people on the street and ask them join them for the very casual wedding. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and people were eager to make new friends and share in the excitement of the moment.
WEDDING Invitations 2:
One of the ladies in town came to order wedding invitations for her twin daughters. Both daughters were engaged and both were attending college out of state. Their mother asked us to print the invitations for both daughters. We special ordered two types of formal paper with embossed borders and the double envelopes used for Emily Post approved wedding stationery. The mother of the brides chose two different type fonts and altered the wording slightly on each invitation. The invitation printing flowed through the shop without any problems and the mother was really pleased with the finished product. She walked out the door being very happy with the order. A couple of days later, she returned and asked us to reprint the entire job. She was laughing at herself as she explained that she had mixed up the daughters and the fiances!!! She also assured us that this printing order would be a part of their family lore forever.
We printed for many bush pilots and small interAlaska airlines. One of the most interesting and fun people who visited us often was Don Sheldon. He was always full of energy, enthusiastic ideas and joy for life itself. None of us ever tired of his endless stories of his flying adventures in his small planes. He spent quite a bit of time one day telling us about his idea for a small hut to be built on Mt. McKinley. He picked up a scrap piece of paper and sketched out his vision for us. Then he explained the seemingly impossible way the materials would be flown up to the site one piece at a time and assembled on the windy slope. We all wished him well while thinking he was a little crazy. Of course, that is the now the famous Sheldon house on the slope of Denali (Mt. McKinley then) that has hosted thousands of visitors over the years.
There was a time before UPS, FedEX, regular air freight service to our airport. Everything came by ship, road or rail. The biggest challenge was the timing of receiving incoming goods. We had to plan in advance and anticipate our paper needs. Christmas envelopes of red and green and stock for Christmas cards was ordered during the summer. When we ran out of something, we were out. There was more than one order leaving the shop that was printed on several weights of paper or even different colors of paper. Paper was precious and we took great care not to waste any scraps that could be used.
With Jane Hafling’s artistic talents, she was asked to design or refine many logos for local businesses and organizations. Some are in use today- such as the Lucky Wishbone. She also designed for Northwestern Construction, Alaska Greenhouses, The Dog Obedience Club and the German fraulein seen “everywhere” now. The fraulein was originally drawn for the German Club’s Octoberfest many years ago. Her drawings graced many invitations for special events and the her drawings appeared on almost every menu in town.
So many changes in the neighborhood. Color Art Printing was originally a basement on the back of the lot at 436 7th Avenue. In the early 60s an office and paper storage area and a darkroom were added above the basement. In the mid 60s, the building you see today was built in front of the printing company and connected to the working shop. The neighborhood at the time was all small houses built in the 1930s and 1940s. There was no JC Penney, no Nordstrom, no Anchorage Museum, no Atwood Building, no Performing Arts Center. Our closest neighbors were the First Baptist Church, the Roller Rink, and Mulcahy Field which was moved to its current location. The field was replaced by the Public Safety building which housed both the police and fire stations, and the property eventually became the home of the current Anchorage Museum.
USES FOR PRINTING SUPPLIES:
Lead: With the letterpress method of printing, we had lead on hand. It came in 40 lb “pigs” which were bars of lead melted in our linotype to make “slugs” of type used in the presses. The slugs were melted down once the job was completed and the lead used over and over again. Several people would buy lead from us to use in making bullets and one of the oil companies used it as weights on the platforms out in cook inlet. Aluminum Plates: Once we added offset printing, we began using aluminum printing plates.
Before there was any recycling in Anchorage, these were stored for reuse or tossed out. One of our pressman was working on building a cabin in the valley and decided that the plates could be used for roofing material. He took many and used them very successfully. Word spread and for several years, many people in the Valley would come to us for old plates for their cabin roofs. Scrap paper: Before computers, voice mail, smartphones, there was pencil and paper. The end cuts from our larger sheets of printing papers were cut down and used by the Anchorage Answering Service. Their telephone operators used paper to note every incoming call. These notes were placed in slots for all of their clients. They would use various colors of scrap to denote the importance of the incoming calls.
It was a super energetic and exciting time to be part of the transition from territory to a state. The first elected Representative and Senators won the statewide election in 1959. We had a privilege of printing for Ralph Rivers, Bob Bartlett, and Ernest Gruening. They were true gentlemen and statesmen. We were very proud that they were running for national office and chose to use an Alaskan printers. We printed for Gruening over many years and also for his grandson Clark.
We maintain political neutrality and print for “both sides of the aisle”. It has worked for us except for one occasion. We were dealing with one candidate at the counter when his opponent came in to pick up his order. It became clear very quickly that they truly disliked each other. The opponent started with verbal barbs and accusations to the candidate at the counter. They started an intense shouting match and ended up almost duking it out in our office. Last we saw them, they were in a heated discussion on the front step of the building. The end of the story is that the first candidate in was the one who won the election. Being a hot head did not service candidate #2 well!
THE CANDY JAR
If you have ever been in our front office, you have seen our candy jar. The original jar found its way to the front counter of our original office in the early 60s. Our office manager, June, lived in the house in front of the shop on 7th Avenue. She was given a candy jar full of lemon drops for Christmas one year. June was diabetic and didn’t eat sweets so she decided to share them with our crew and customers. The jar was such a hit with everyone that it became a decades long tradition to keep it full. Treats vary by the season and holidays. Come on in and enjoy the latest sweets!
BULK and WEIGHT
It is hard for some customers to visualize the bulk and weight of their printing once the job is completed. One brochure is easy to tuck into an envelope or pocket. 10,000 brochures on the other hand will take several large and heavy cartons. When Alyeska Ski Resort first opened, we did a lot of printing for the International Ski Races which were held on their slopes. Airline crews and skiers from around the world would meet for some great competition. This was the time when we were truly the air crossroads of the world. Teams represented Air France, BOAC, SAS, KLM and Lufthansa.
We had just completed a very large order of printing for the races. Forms for the competitors, menus for their banquets, brochures for the upcoming events at the resort. The winter weather had deteriorated and one of the resorts employees volunteered to drive in from Girdwood to pick up the order. He called late in the afternoon and said he was on his way and to wait for him as he anticipated a longer than usual trip on the old highway and the need to drive on less than ideal road conditions. He finally arrived and came into the shop. He burst into laughter when he saw what he was going to pick up. Many cartons, probably 12-15. The problem: his vehicle of choice was a VW Beetle. There was no way the printing would fit in the car. He asked to use our phone. He called a friend in town who had a truck. He promised him a ski pass and some meals if he’d drive the printing to the hotel. He did. The weather cleared up and we guess that he had a wonderful weekend on the slopes.
STRANGE CUSTOMER REQUESTS:
All industries have their own language and shorthand. Once in a while these create moments of trying to interpret what a customer is really asking us for. One lady called in her order on the phone. The order was for something she had ordered many times. This time she asked if we could please cushion the job. We had no idea what that meant. She tried to explain it and we tried to figure it out. We finally “broke the code” and figured out that she wanted her job padded like a tablet with sheets to be torn off. Cushioned, padded, all the same!
It is always fun to custom mix an ink color for a customer. Beautiful images and graphics can be printed using a single special color. A women’s group in town ordered invitations to one of their black tie fundraisers. We custom mixed a deep coral ink and printed the invitations and program covers which looked very elegant. A few days later, several of the ladies returned with a small bag from the office supply store. They handed us the bag which was full of fountain pens.
They explained that they wanted enough coral ink to fill the pens and to be able to refill the pens as they hand addressed the invitation envelopes. We would be happy to accommodate them if we could. The problem is that ink for offset and letterpresses is very thick and is the consistency of solid Crisco. They had a good laugh at their assumption and headed off to figure out another way to dress up their envelopes.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS:
There is a lot of mathematics involved with printing. Commercial printing papers are purchased in large sheets and cut down to fit the press used to print individual jobs. The dimensions are almost always standarized – the smaller dimension is listed first. One customer wanted blank sheets to use as report covers in her office. She requested the paper by weight and brand and asked that it be cut to 11 x 8 1/2. We were easily able to provide the paper, cut it to her size and deliver it. All was well until she received the invoice. The invoices were all hand typed at this time and the invoice read “8 1/2 x 11”. She was very upset that she was getting billed for paper she felt she did not get. She insisted that she asked for 11 x 8 1/2 and we’d given her 8 1/2 x 11 and she knew they weren’t the same. No amount of explanation got through to her. She really felt that she was being billed for another product. In the end, we picked up the paper and we asked her to destroy the invoice she had. We issued a new invoice and typed in 11 x 8 1/2. We rewrapped the paper and delivered it.
She was now happy and remained our customer for many years.