Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chuckwagon Charlie and His Missus

A visit to the Duerrs' home on Myrtle Avenue in Elmhurst, June 1962: from left to right, my mother, my sister, me, my dad, and Emerson Duerr.

From left to right, my mother, my sister, Blanche Duerr, me, and my dad. This time Emerson took the picture.

Two wonderful people I remember from my childhood in the Amalgamated Printers Association were Emerson Duerr (APA 273), who often called himself “Chuckwagon Charlie” in print, and his spirited wife Blanche. I met the Duerrs about 1960, when my dad was making frequent trips to Chicago to visit rare book libraries and printer friends.

Emerson Duerr ‘s main press was a huge Golding Art Jobber with a balky fountain that gave him fits. His favorite cut was an electro of a Civil War era woman with a train in the background, which my dad dubbed, “The Lady and the Locomotive.” He used it on most of his printing.

Emerson Duerr had a dry sense of humor in person and in his writing. His dead-on W.C. Fields imitation would make my sister and I giggle every time. He was a lawyer, but his field could have been comedy writing. My entire family looked forward to his letters. He deliberately exaggerated and misspelled words, signing himself, “Yore ole frend”, and talking about himself and “his missus” as he called Blanche.

Here’s an example of his writing, from a cooperative piece printed during a 1968 visit to our home in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In it he talks tongue in cheek about APA bundle submissions:
“Some of our members would be better craftsmen if they were acquainted with the interior arrangement of Mr. Webster’s word garage and its most effective use. It was suggested we hire Mr. Webster on a per diem and mileage basis to visit our members and properly orient them. This was ruled out because Noah Webster died in 1843 and is no longer available for such employment.
Then it was suggested that our Mailer, who is a college instructor, be authorized to exclude from the bundle any contribution containing a misteak in spelling. This was loudly hooted down as an invasion of the freedom of speech.
But what shall we do about members who think erroneously that they are ‘hobbiests’? Professor Wulling, an authority on words, concedes that an amateur printer is a hobbyist, but it is possible that this ‘hobbiest’ business is an effort to distinguish between degrees of amateurism. Thus, ‘You are a hobby printer, but I am a hobbier printer, and he is the hobbiest printer of us all.’”

Emerson’s wife Blanche was a lively grandmotherly type, spunky and full of fun. Her stories and home cooking made it a treat to visit her and Emerson in Elmhurst. Blanche looked like a sedate older woman, but she was not to be outdone. I remember when my family was riding with her and a teenager pulled up next to her at a stop sign in Elmhurst. He revved his engine, and yelled, “Want to race, grandma?” The daughter of an auto dealer, Blanche knew cars. She warned us all to hang on. When the light turned green, she floor boarded her big Buick, leaving her challenger far behind.

Emerson Duerr was in his sixties when we met him, and already suffering from a heart condition. After his death in 1972, my father and his frequent printing collaborator Emerson Wulling produced a memorial booklet in his honor entitled “Yore Ole Frend, CWC”. I helped with the booklet, shown below.

One of the joys of printing is meeting other people who print. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to know “Chuckwagon Charlie and His Missus” – two outstanding human beings.

Cooperative piece printed during the Duerrs' visit to our home in La Crosse, Wisconsin, August 1968.

Memorial booklet for Emerson Duerr, produced by Gary Hantke and Emerson Wulling. "The Lady and the Locomotive" cut is featured.


  1. That couple sounds like a hoot! I would have loved to have been in the car with Blanche as she raced that young teenager. Ha. And the pictures of you all are so cool. Carole, you have the same sweet smile. The "Yore Ole Frend" is really awesome too!

  2. Thanks, Lynn! The Duerrs were truly fun to be with. And it was great being in the car with Blanche after she raced the teenager -- all of us laughed for miles, and the story became family legend.

  3. I love that story about Blanche and the teenager! Wish I could have seen that!

  4. Blanche was nobody's fool. I'll bet that teenager's jaw dropped a foot when grandma squealed out and left him in the dust.