By Angie Wieck
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
FARGO, N.D. – Don Haberlach retired this week after just shy of 42 years behind the presses at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.
When he started, The Forum’s pressmen were members of a union. Haberlach said he doubts he would have ever gotten a foot in the door had he not already been a member at Knight Printing.
He worked nights printing the daily paper for nearly 20 years before getting the chance to move dayside. The day shift prints advance sections such as the Farmer’s Forum and Sunday Travel sections and performs all of the press maintenance.
He was grateful for the opportunity, acknowledging that working nights was hard on his wife, Shari, and their three kids. And again, he felt lucky to get the position.
“The older guys were on the day shift. Back then, an opening didn’t come up unless someone died or retired,” Haberlach said.
His transition to days coincided with The Forum’s switch from letterpress to offset printing in 1993.
What is the difference?
A letter press works like a rubber stamp. Haberlach explained that ink is applied to the plate’s raised type. The paper prints to that plate similar to how a rubber stamp works.
An offset plate is flat. The images are burned to the plate. The plate prints to the blanket, and the blanket prints to the paper.
“Areas that you want to print will pick up ink. The other places will not, and the water will wash the ink off,” he said.
Haberlach explained that pressmen had to manually move handles to register color or to tighten or loosen the paper. Today, they do both by computer.
“Instead of standing right beside the press, we’re here in a room next to it. A lot of guys wound up with hearing loss from sitting next to the press,” Haberlach said.
The letterpress also used plates made from lead. Each page of the paper was printed from a plate weighing about 40 pounds. Today plates are made from aluminum. Haberlach said a person could probably hold the whole paper in one hand.
Another big difference between the two was color.
“With letterpress, we didn’t have as many colors either,” Haberlach said. “If we wanted colors, we had to mix the ink ourselves downstairs. We had a book and it showed us how to mix the inks. So much of this color and so much of white.”
There are four primary colors for the offset printer. Mixing different colors and shades is all done by computer.
Any parting thoughts?
“My plan was to retire this summer and play golf,” Haberlach said. He also plans to travel, including a trip to South Korea once his son and daughter-in-law are stationed there.
First, he has to have hip surgery. If he feels well enough after that, he may return to The Forum part-time to cover employee vacations.
Regardless, Haberlach said he will continue to follow what is going on in the community through The Forum.
“The trouble is, right now the section I like to read the most is obituaries,” he said. “That’s where you see people that you know or their parents.”
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is owned by Forum Communications Co., a multimedia information company based in Fargo, N.D., which owns dozens of newspapers, websites, television and radio stations, and commercial printing plants in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.