Back in it's heyday, Prairie was a vertically integrated organization that understood economy of scale better than most. This was long before these terms were commonly used in the business fabric of today. One of those vertically integrated areas was the Graphics and Printing Department. A host of sub-departments such as the print shop, art, pre-press, photography and mailing were all under this umbrella. This structure handled all of the printing needs for the schools in addition to printing and distributing three or four magazines.
Printing had been a long tradition at Prairie, starting sometime in the 1930's with lead type machines and ending in the 1990's with high-tech Heidelberg colour presses straight from Germany. It is interesting to note that PBI acquired their first press from a disposal sale of seized property. The press in question had actually been used to print counterfeit money!
Employing twenty to thirty people at it's peak, there always seem to be a need for qualified workers in the printing department. Advertisements for these job openings were placed in various magazines, brochures and newsletters that the school would print and distribute. There were a number of American citizens on staff and the personnel department would assist these folk with their visas and immigration documents to allow them to move to and work in Canada. Many of the border officials in Washington, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota became familiar over the years with not only the name of the school, but some of the individual staff members and students as well. There was a constant flow of students and staff and usually the officers were quite cooperative and civil, making for an easier transition back and forth.
My friend Harold Leo graduated from the school in the '70's, moved back to the United States, married and settled down. Harold was made aware of a need in the pre-press department at the school and so applied for the job and was accepted. I count it a great privilege to have worked with Harold during the Harvest Music label era. You won't find a more conscientious and hard worker than Harold. With all their worldly belongings in tow, Harold and his wife Debbie headed off to Canada. At the border they were asked to produce their paperwork, including the letter of acceptance from the school, for the job in question. Normally this process could be quite lengthy, so they braced for the worst. Harold handed the officer the letter and waited for her response. Looking up, the officer said, "What the @#$% does a Bible school need a stripper for?" On the letter it said that Harold was being accepted at the school in the position of stripper! After reviewing the documents, the border guard finished her interview and with a wry smile, looked at Harold and said, "Well, if PBI wants a male stripper they can have you. Get out of here!" The whole process had taken no more than fifteen minutes.
For those unfamiliar with the terms used in the printing business, back in the dark ages and well into the '90's, pre-press specialists were commonly called ... strippers. The job of a stripper was to photograph galleys and piece together, or "strip", the film so press plates could be burned. They would work with negatives, film and plates to make sure the finished printing job was accurate and in proper register. The personnel department had simply used the term popular at that time for this position and had inserted it into the letter of acceptance. Harold quickly explained that it would not be him who would be doing the stripping. Well, actually it would be him stripping, but a different type than the officer was thinking of. He then explained a bit about the job. I'm sure the customs officers had a good chuckle over that for weeks to follow.
© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.