Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Salute to the Mailer!

As members of the Amalgamated Printers Association, one of the things my husband and I look forward to most is the bundle. This collection of letterpress pieces by members is mailed out to everyone in the organization monthly. To me, getting the bundle is better than opening a box of chocolates! You get to see what everybody’s been printing. You could say the bundle is the lifeblood of APA — it’s what keeping everything circulating from one printer to another.

Instrumental in getting the bundle out is the mailer. Whoever has the job receives all the printed pieces from members, then sorts and distributes them through the monthly mailings. It’s a big job! I know because I’ve worked with it twice. My father Gary Hantke was mailer a couple of times (for part of 1960, and again in 1973 and 1974). And my husband Bob and I were mailers in 2001 and 2002.

My sister and I learned the meaning of the word “collate” early, when Dad was mailer.Printed pieces were lined up on the kitchen table. Round and round we’d go, picking up one of each and adding it to the bundle envelope. Sometimes my sister and I would race, but Dad discouraged that because of the dreaded “double pick”— if you got careless and picked up more than one, that item could run out before you finished all the bundles. Then you had to search to see where you’d made the mistake. Helping Dad with the bundle was fun for me, though. I liked looking at all the printed pieces. Sometimes there were extra copies, and I got to have my own little bundle made up of the leftovers.

With positive childhood experiences compiling the bundle, no wonder I was agreeable when my husband and I were asked about taking on the mailer’s job. We tried to plan ahead as much as possible. We bought a big covered plastic bin to shelter incoming packages from the weather. We set up a hanging file folder system to gather pieces two or three times during the month before stuffing bundle envelopes. We thought we were set to go. But our tenure as APA mailers started out with a challenge and a half.

The January 2001 bundle, our first as mailers, was HUGE! The combination of holiday pieces intended for the December bundle and a Benjamin Franklin theme (in honor of Ben’s January 17th birthday) swelled the bundle to immense proportions. We gathered pieces, and gathered and gathered some more. The question was how to fit it everything into the specially printed envelope with Ben on the front. Finally with careful layering, we got it all in. There wasn’t room for a scrap more! I’m sure very few people put their bundle pieces back into that January 2001 envelope after looking at them — once removed they sprang out and refused to go back in. It was quite the introduction to being mailers. Thankfully, no other bundle while we were mailers was as big as that first one!

According to APA’s website, over the club’s history 860+ people have been members, but only 23 people have been mailers. And without the mailer, APA wouldn’t be where it is today. So here’s a big salute to our 2009-2010 mailer Don Tucker, all of our former mailers, and to incoming mailers Ky and Sara Wrzesinski for taking on the job. You’ve truly made a difference — thank you!