Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lillian Worley, Printer and Friend

One of the most delightful people I met through my dad’s involvement in letterpress was Lillian Worley. A letterpress printer with a passion for cuts, Lil had a contagious sense of fun. I first met her and her husband Parker, both printers, at the 1964 Munster Indiana Wayzgoose. It was Munster where she taught my sister and me how to spit watermelon seeds as we devoured melon from a nearby produce stand.

A year later at the 1965 Lansing Michigan Wayzgoose, Lillian had printed “Print Pox” signs. Designed to look like a quarantine sign, “Print Pox” was a tongue-in-cheek warning about contagious letterpress addiction. Lil enlisted my sister and me to help her hang signs on the doors of the strip motel where the convention was taking place. Giggling, the three of us sneaked around taping “Print Pox” signs on all rooms where the printers were staying.

Lillian loved cuts, especially large or unusual ones. I remember one Wayzgoose where she bought an enormous cut of the Statue of Liberty. The thing must have been 8x15 inches or larger. Everybody teased Lil that she’d never use it. But she sent a big folded piece through the APA bundle a few months later, decorated with that Statue of Liberty cut.

Lillian often wrote and printed humorous pieces. Below is an example, an honorary “degree” printed for me from the fictitious Deuceace University, and a reference to it in a Christmas card that same year. Notice that the “official seal” is from the Clearfield Wrecking Company!

After my husband and I joined the APA together, Lillian presented us with dress printers' aprons. Bob's looked like a tuxedo, and mine was white satin. The hand printed label on the box said, "A. Frank, Clothier" -- a reference to printing warehouse dealer Al Frank.

In the early 1990s my husband and I visited Lillian and Parker in their Haddonfield, New Jersey home. We had a great time seeing their elegant carpeted press room, and taking an excursion to nearby Cape May. On that trip we hauled home in the back of our yellow AMC Pacer a 7x11 Pearl press they found for us. Despite the care the four of us took loading it, the weight of the press threw the car’s steering off. A torrential rainstorm on the freeway through Philadelphia made driving even harder, but we did get that press home and were grateful to have it.

Lillian was one of the earlier female printers in the Amalgamated Printers Association. At a time when most wives went shopping while the printers talked type, Lil hung out with the printers. She didn’t hesitate to paw through dusty offerings at Al Frank’s warehouse, to bid hard on auction items, or to hunt for bargains at the swap meet. She was an inspiration to me in that way, making it acceptable for me to be a girl and interested in printing.

I can’t imagine where I’d be today without Lillian Worley. I was a serious child, and she taught me how to laugh. She was a role model for me as a printer, and an absolute joy to know. Anyone who ever met her would never forget her. How lucky I was to have known her for so many years!


  1. Lillian sounds like quite a gal and how special for you to have her as a role model!

  2. Yes, Lillian was almost like an aunt to me -- an aunt who was laughing and full of fun. She taught me how to take life lightly!