Wagner: It was what we didn’t know that counted! | Opinion

CHAPTER SEVEN- The Golden Shopper

Our Addressograph-Multigraph 2066LD printing press was an inexpensive offset press designed more for the printing of short-run corporate and institutional internal communications than commercial work.

Rather than producing the paper using metal castings made from various sizes and styles of metal type, like the Sibley Gazette-Tribune, Connie, Gary, and I would glue words and illustrations with rubber cement on a layout page, shoot a full size negative of the page on our Robinson process camera and use the negative to burn the image, with bright lights, on an aluminum plate. That thin plate would press its image on a huge rubber roller on the press and that inked image would print the words and illustrations on the sheet of paper.

We didn’t have extra capital to buy any professional mechanical typesetting equipment and wouldn’t have known how to run it if we did.

Instead, we bought a full-size used Smith-Corona electric typewriter with elite (small) type and used it to set our classified ads and for smaller body copy in our display ads. It was surprising how we were able to create justified copy for the classified ads by carefully selecting the words and using an extra space or two here and there.

I bought that typewriter from Bob Best, owner of Best Business Machines in Sioux Falls and a former employer my first two years in high school. I cleaned stripped down machines with liquid solvent, assembled office furniture and installed typewriter ribbons in typewriters in the offices of downtown clients.

Bob Best also had an ancient IBM electric typewriter with an oversize type face that he’d traded-in years before and was anxious to get rid of it. We were able to buy it cheap and used it for years to set some of the key subheads and larger body copy in our Golden Shopper display ads.

Bigger words were difficult. We were able to purchase four or five racks of phototype for setting headlines and matching prices in our one grocery store ad.

To create a word out of phototype, we had to select one letter, preprinted on a tiny piece of cardboard, at a time and line it up with other like letters in a hand-held metal composing stick.

The front of each letter, placed face down, was black. The back, which was visible to the person creating the word was light blue. Once the word or sentence was complete, the designer would lock the letters in place with a strip of Scotch tape, lift the type out of the form, trim the edges and glue it, black letters up, onto the layout,

Sibley had four major grocery stores in 1962 but only two advertised with us: Nick and Bob’s Red Owl ran their weekly banana ad, but Joe Boyd, Boyd’s Super Value, bought our back page. He didn’t run an ad in the Gazette-Tribune, and it was a real coup for us to have even one grocery store. But, looking back, I think one reason we got his ad was because we took part-payment in groceries.

Building Joe Boyd’s ad was difficult since we had no quick way to set the bigger words such as Campbell soup, sirloin steak and snowbird frozen peas. But we found an answer in the Worthington Daily Globe, a six-day-a-week paper owned by the Vance family and published 20 miles north of us, in Minnesota.

The Globe had recently converted to new multiunit Harris offset press that printed every word in dark black ink. More important, the Globe carried four full-page, broadsheet, grocery ads every Wednesday. We soon had a huge number of those grocery ads hanging on one office wall. When we needed a word, such as cheese, we’d rummage through those Globe ads until we found the word in the type size we needed.

It made for a strange looking ad with so many typefaces, but Joe never complained.

A few times we even attempted to hand letter an ad like the Sioux Falls Shopping News. But we didn’t have the talent of the Sioux Falls ad designers and the finished ad was less than impressive.

Sometime that first year we were invited to join the Shoppers Guides of Iowa organization. At our first meeting we met Rudy Van Drie, a former Ocheyedan ​​resident, and his wife, Gladys, who published a shopper in Ames. Rudy didn’t have a printing press or advertising production department. He simply sold ads to businesses in Ames, drew up a pencil sketch of what the ad should look like, and mailed the material each day to a printer in Des Moines. The printer would create the ads, print the shopper and have it all ready for Van Drie to pick up late Tuesday night for mail delivery the next morning.

One regular advertiser from almost our first Golden Shopper was Burt Wille who with his wife Vi, owned Wille’s Department Store in Sibley.

Burt grew up in Carroll where his uncle worked in the composition department of the daily Carroll Times-Herald. Because of that connection, I would often hear stories of the success of Jim Wilson, publisher of the Carroll paper, and how the Times-Herald would do ads.

One week Burt even put together his ad with words made on the small press he had in the basement for making point-of-purchase signs.

But that only happened one week. It took Burt much longer than he thought, and he had other, more important, things to do.

I’ve often wondered what Burt would say if he were still alive today and knew our White Wolf Web printing plant currently prints the Carroll Times-Herald for the Wilson family. I think he would be pleased for both the Wilsons and the Wagners.

Photos in an ad had to be shot into halftones separately on the Robertson process camera and stripped into a hole on the larger page negative.

Our first ad featuring an actual photo was run near the top of the front page by Keith Walton for Walton Furniture, soon after he moved to a larger location, on Highway 60.

Gary was responsible for shooting the pages and for making the halftone photo images. It was one of the things I never learned to do all the years before both the pages and photos were completely created on a computer.

I had taken a decent black and white Polaroid picture of Keith in his showroom earlier that day, and late that night Gary did his best to turn it into a printable halftone. But nothing worked. We both should have been more attentive when the Robertson salesman was at the office providing training.

It was late into our final printing night, and we had to be in the mail the next morning. Not wanting to bother Keith, by then well into a good night’s sleep, we went with what we had and what we had was a black spot in the middle of the ad.

Since Walton Furniture was my account, I had to show Keith, how things had turned out the next day. I am sure he was upset and embarrassed, but he was kind, said little, and kept advertising with us. We both agreed, however, that he shouldn’t have to pay for the ad.

Sibley was good to place to start a business.

Next: Moving away from doing our own printing.


Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder / publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and may be reached at [email protected]

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