Editor's Note: The past twelve months have seen the passing of a number of men who have been lauded as leaders in the printing industry. They have reigned over large businesses, been leaders in technology, and in many cases been advocates for change as our industry has evolved.
And so, to wrap up this week, we have something a little different. You've already heard from Barb Pellow, Rosemarie Monaco, Pat Taylor, and Pete Rivard, with insights into our changing industry, marketing, education, and new ways of thinking about how to lessen the technological demands on your business.
But we also have an unusual--and very personal column--by my friend and colleague Mike Chiricuzio. Mike's dad died recently and the column is a eulogy for his dad, a lifelong pressman with ink in his DNA and a passion for printing that he passed along to Mike.
When Mike sent the column to me, he said it was not what he had planned, but it was the column that came out. Having written and edited more than a few columns myself, I know what he means. Mike's words this month, "Shift Over," have nothing to do with digital printing, but still have a lot to do with how our business was, is, and the grit it can take to get by. Noel Ward, Executive Editor
Shift Over by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. (Dr. Printing)
Frank William Chiricuzio 1933 - 2005 My father died last night. He wasn’t famous or wealthy. He was a printer. He was gritty and tough, living long after the doctors assured me that his time was up. He never did take anyone else’s advice. Hell, he didn’t even take his own. Frank William Chiricuzio was an extraordinary pressman. In the course of his long career, he ran everything from duplicators to large sheetfeds. He preferred to work without a helper, because no one could ever live up to his expectations.
“Might as well do it myself and do it right!” His life, however, was ordinary. He didn’t write any novels, create any works of art, or rule any empires. He was a simple, hard-working man, who did the best he could. Born in the small town of Corry, Pennsylvania in 1933, the son of immigrant Italians, he was a good looking kid, hard-working and a local football star at Corry High School, where he graduated in 1951. Of course, he married the pretty blond majorette of the marching band, Wilma Jean King.
Before long, the newlyweds were parents. Next thing you knew, there were four of us. He was working at the Corry Journal, the local newspaper, but longed for something different. So, when I was six years old, the auctioneer came and sold what little we had, and the family boarded the train to Phoenix, Arizona.
And so, in 1960, my father made a transition, from employee to owner, from pressman to entrepreneur. Corry Press was born, with a few dollars, an AB Dick 350 press and a pot full of dreams. What also began was my education about the printing business. Not just how to run a press, or burn a plate, or operate a cutter. The real education was seeing just how tough our industry can be. You see, my father was a great pressman, and could always make the customer happy. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do around a press -- except make money. For seven years he worked day and night, alternating between chasing down work and getting it done.
I’d work with him, summers, weekends, whenever, and sometimes we’d stand in the doorway of the little shop on Grand Avenue in Phoenix, just hoping some work would come in, like his grandparents in their Italian grocery. He’d go out and make calls, leaving me to answer the phone and ‘keep an eye on the shop’. The proudest day of my 8-year-young life was when a job came in while he was out, and I stripped it, plated it, printed it, and had it completed before he returned. ‘You did good’ he told me, rare praise from a stern man, ‘but you should have waited. What if you had gotten hurt, or run the wrong stock?” A disappointing end to an otherwise exhilarating day.
Of course, business was not always slow. His biggest customer was Lou Grubb of Rudolph Chevrolet. Just imagine the countless hours of joy, printing the Rudolph logo: A reindeer shape printed in Reflex Blue, and a small dot of Warm Red for the nose.
Imagine trying to get the nose to register to Rudolph--on a one color duplicator. But we were diligent, and dedicated, and Lou Grubb came to the rescue of the business on more than one occasion. As time would reveal, hard work and dedication does not, by itself, make a business flourish. Eventually, the fight to survive was over, and the rescues were to be no more. My parents had divorced, my father had remarried, and now all he had to do was swallow his pride and his dreams and move on. So he did.
The new family, complete with an assortment of new brothers and sisters, moved to Southern California, where my new stepmother became, of course, a press operator, and my father returned to the role of pressman and provider. He worked for Costello Brothers for the rest of his career, until his tired old body gave way to sickness and surrender. Although I did not realize it at the time, I learned much from my father. I learned to work hard. I learned to go above and beyond to please people. I learned to print, and somehow ended up in the same silly business. And I learned that owning a business is not for everyone. That being a good pressman (or printer) has little to do with being a good businessman.
That overwork leads to being overtired. And that at the end of the day, when the last shift is over, the good outweighs the bad. You see, I was this fat, sad and silly little kid, who always wanted what he couldn’t have. Sound familiar? I wanted many things, but most of all I wanted his love and approval. And he wanted to make a man out of me. Nothing was ever good enough for him, but nothing could stop me from trying. His punishments were available freely, and his love was as stifled as his sense of helplessness - not available for me or anyone else. This was how he was raised. His father was even tougher than he, and pushed him to excel in sports.
It was his father's dream that he go to college on a scholarship and be a football star. The fact that he did well in football in high school is amazing in that he was just a little guy, but it was the desire to please his father that drove him to overachieve in sports. If his team lost a game, which was rare, he would cry and sob as if he alone had been the one responsible for the loss. A feeling that I could certainly identify with.
Following in my father’s footsteps, I always refused to give up, working longer and harder than anyone else.
No challenge was too great for me to tackle. No job too difficult. Work, work, and more work. Bring it on! More than 30 years later, I realized that my hopes of pleasing my father were ill advised and simply not to be. Of course I had known this all along, and now had to realize and admit that I could not work my way into his heart. And I could not erase the years of trying and feeling like a failure, or pretend that the disapproval of my father was not intended for me.
So, I forgave him. And I forgave myself. Simple as that. And I began to like myself, just a bit. And soon, I began to like him again, just a bit. And, eventually, I liked him more than a little, and he liked me. And when I realized he had pride in my accomplishments, I knew that I didn’t need his approval anymore. It was mine as a gift, not as something conditional to my own sense of self worth. And, just as suddenly, I realized how proud I was of him for what he was, and what he did. A simple man who worked hard, and made difficult choices, and did the best he could, knowing full well how far short he was of his dreams. He never quit, and he did not complain. He had a quick wit and a good sense of humor, at least when he was younger, something I inherited from him, as he did from his father. I learned the lessons of hard work, and caring for detail, and doing your best, and humility, and forgiveness--from my father.
And still, now in my fifties, I realize every day how little I really know. So, we’ll take him out on the ocean one more time, and spread his ashes to the waters, and say goodbye to an unremarkable man who left a remarkable legacy to his son.
Last wash-up, Pop.