Carl Schorr: Proud to Be a Printer (Pt. 2)

Adopted from “Wells Printing: About Us” (1986)

Wells Printing in downtown MadisonIt was 1946 and Carl’s first full-time position was in the composing room, killing type (disassembling it after a job to store again, recycle, or dump), washing down presses, and beginning to hand-set type. More importantly, he continued to observe all that was going on around him. The whole process of printing a job, from the time a customer comes in with sometimes just an idea to delivery of the finished product, was becoming very clear. He couldn’t operate all of the machines yet but he understood their functions and the basics of how they worked. That too would come, and soon.

Carl became an apprentice in three years. With a long apprenticeship facing him, a comment made years ago about his future seemed remote and irrelevant. It was Katherine (Rufus Wells’ wife) who, while watching young Carl’s frenzied approach to his work, jokingly (bust most sincerely) said “Carl, someday you’re going to own this place.” Actually, Carl never thought about the possibility. He enjoyed what he was doing and he knew that wherever life’s roads would take him, they would take him there as a printer.

On October 7, 1950, Carl took time off to marry his sweetheart, Janet Morhoff. Carl describes Janet as “the only woman that I’ll ever love,” and this was undoubtedly one of the most important moments of his life, but the two of them were not left with much time to celebrate.  Two days after the wedding, Rufus sent Carl to Indiana to learn the Linotype (no honeymoon here!). The Lintotype, once referred to as the eighth wonder of the world by Thomas Edison, was one of the most important machines to be found in printing and newspaper offices for many years. Carl was to learn how to use this machine in English, Indiana at Bennett Linotype School.

Eventually, Carl learned the other presses as well. Getting to know and run the presses proved to be a very enjoyable part of his job. “I think a lot of printers, especially from the old days, felt that way. It depended upon the person, of course, but there was a certain excitement to running a press. In fact, the bigger the press, the better. You could feel kind of cocky with people going by outside, or customers coming in, and here you are handling this big machine. All the parts in motion, the loud roar as the press heaves back and forth, and you’re making it do its work. It felt pretty good, especially when someone was watching.”

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