Robert Glahn, Eastwood Litho
On this episode of Working: Syracuse, we speak to printing press operator Robert Glahn, who works for
Eastwood Litho, which is based in Lyncourt on the
city's Northside. Founded in 1946 by Justin F. Mohr, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II,
Eastwood Litho has served the Syracuse area for more than 70 years and is now owned by grandsons of the
founder — brothers Andrew, Mark, and Patrick. For the last three years, Glahn has been in charge of running
the company's two Heidelberg printing presses. He works as a frontender and is responsible for all of the
technical tweaks and artistic judgments that inform the end product. The color balance, saturation, and
sharpness of the ink on the paper all fall on him. Now 53, Glahn's been doing this job since high school. He
serves as the mechanic who enjoys tinkering with the machines when they break and the artist who controls
every aspect of the graphic output.
Robert Glahn's hands remain the most important thing on the floor. The machine that prints still needs to be maintained, fixed, adjusted and cleaned.
Glahn passes the time with music. He's upgraded from this Quasar relic to an iPod, but still listens to past country artists such as Waylon Jennings and Arlo Guthrie.
Glahn checks the color balance of the current job using a densitometer, a device that measures the density of a material.
Glahn gets in close to see the layering of colors on this pug-themed job. The magnifier helps him to identify layers that have separated.
Glahn slices up a happy-birthday flyer. This cutting helps avoid waste and delivers a preview to Glahn of the finished product.
Glahn attempts to explain his densitometer. "See? The density's a little better here. A little bit darker. Take a little blue away," he says. "I'm just supposed to make it look as good as I can."
Microscopic attention to detail earned Glahn the ability to work alone on the night shift. Colleague Dave Webert jokes about Glahn "beatimg him around the ear hole" due to his "perfectionist" nature.
INTRO MUSIC: [Plodding bluesy guitar with organ accompaniment begins to play]
BRONTE SCHMIT, HOST: Hello and welcome to Working: Syracuse, the podcast inspired by
journalist Studs Terkel featuring Salt City residents talking about what they do to earn a paycheck and
how they find meaning in those jobs. I'm your host Bronte Schmit.
This episode reporter Peter Benson was out at Syracuse's Eastwood Litho to speak to Robert Glahn, a
printing press operator.
Eastwood Litho's work is dotted around Syracuse; from helping Syracuse University students produce their
campus publications to creating materials for the local hospitals and sports teams. Glahn is at the center
of this production, working the night shift in order to get those publications ready for Eastwood Litho's
INTRO MUSIC: [Plodding bluesy guitar with organ accompaniment fades out]
SOUND: [Machine starts up]
PETER BENSON: The warehouse is never quiet. Thirty feet of dull green metal dominates the
bare concrete floor as Robert Glahn, the night shift printing press operator, plays his his own
SOUND: [Buttons clicking]
ROBERT GLAHN: I just, just like a piano key. All these correspond with a little ink key
up top that opens and closes; gets more and less ink on it. Everything's pretty close on that one. Bit
heavy on that end.
SOUND: [Paper running through printing press]
PETER BENSON: Glahn is hunched over a keyboard, confidently pushing buttons, adjusting
the colors of the massive press. The train of paper hums through the machine - zipping through its modules
like lost notes in a series of library stacks. Glahn's fingers make the changes needed for the perfect
ROBERT GLAHN: My name's Robert Glahn and I run a ten color Heidelberg printing press for
PETER BENSON: He sees himself as a producer of art rather than an artist. His care for
the craft suggests otherwise.
ROBERT GLAHN: Gold's not the easiest color to run. It's a metallic. Metallics have a
tendency to absorb a lot of water so it makes printing them a little bit more difficult.
Now you can see that there's a problem here. That means it's out of register and if you look at these
crosshairs here, you can see that the red's out, back, and to the right. So I will do a change on this.
PETER BENSON: Robert has been doing this since high school. And he looks right at home in
the shop...ink-stained blue jeans, a long-sleeve T rolled up to his elbows, and a camo Chevrolet cap. He
moves purposely between the machine and his instrument. But it wasn't the artistry that got him interested
in what he was doing.
ROBERT GLAHN: I like being mechanical. I like working and fixing things. When something
goes down here, it's handy to be able to get it up and running because if it's broke down, the company's
not making any money. So whether it's paperclips and rubber bands. I'm putting it together with so I can
get it up and going again, that's what I do.
SOUND: [machine purring; metal clinking against metal]
ROBERT GLAHN: Onto the next one.
PETER BENSON: From 2pm to midnight, it is just Robert and his partner Dave Webert. The
sound of the presses overpower their need to speak to each other. Dave typically listens to the
radio through his headphones. Robert also tunes up his own music. he hears far more from Waylon Jennings
than he does from Dave. But they have a working rapport.
ROBERT GLAHN: Dave's pretty easy to work with. I'm probably the more difficult one to
DAVE WEBERT [faintly]: Front enders tend to be like that. They're perfectionists. They're driven [Robert
laughs] I get beaten severely around the earhole [Robert laughs].
PETER BENSON: It's fitting that they work in the relative anonymity of the night. Robert
realizes most people are ignorant to his efforts.
ROBERT GLAHN: Most people don't care. [Laughs] Unless you're printing the newspaper where
everybody knows, it doesn't really matter.
PETER BENSON: Even if nobody cares who is behind the printing, it nonetheless requires
skill. If Robert was purely a mechanic, he may have lost his job years ago. Others in the process have
been phased out over the years. But his expertise means that he is still necessary today.
ROBERT GLAHN: A lot of what I do has come from a lot of years experience...there's a lot
of different aspects even that I didn't go over with you guys...ink and water mix, chemistry and stuff
like that that we use in the water to keep the plates dry or the plates clean…
SOUND: [metallic sheet wobbling]
ROBERT GLAHN: I just worked my way up. That's all. Comes with the territory. The guy
before me, his job got phased out from technology.
PETER BENSON: But the technology isn't drastically changing any time soon. Digital
presses are very expensive to run the scale of the jobs that Glahn routinely runs. He isn't worried about
being replaced either in the near future.
ROBERT GLAHN: Nah. Cause I could just do this. I'll move along with technology. I don't
think it'll ever get cheap enough to replace the old fashioned printing.
PETER BENSON: Robert has a fondness for old-fashioned technology outside of the workplace
also. He has a sailboat that he loves to take out onto Oneida Lake and beyond.
ROBERT GLAHN: When I was helping out a museum when I was living in California, and the
guy was a geologist. And he told me straight up he goes "you know what by the time you retire gas is going
to be so outrageously expensive you're not going to be able to afford it." So I decided to do the sailing
thing because I can move around without a ton of petro.
PETER BENSON: Glahn is now 53 and is set for transportation upon his retirement. And he isn't
too worried about the future of printing...
ROBERT GLAHN: I think by the time my job phased out I'll be ready to get kick back
on the beach.
SOUND: [Machine slowly grinds to a halt]
BRONTE SCHMIT, HOST: Thanks Peter. Glahn's not all work though. He admitted that, when
he's off, he likes to play a round of what he refers to as hillbilly night golf. When he gets the time, he
and his friends light up the links by shooting a few holes.
OUTRO MUSIC: [Plodding bluesy guitar with organ accompaniment fades in]
BRONTE SCHMIT, HOST: That's all for this episode of Working: Syracuse. Check out our website www.workingsyracuse.com for more
interviews as well as some extra content on Glahn. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter
Thanks again to Peter for speaking with Glahn. This episode was written and produced by Peter Benson and
Jared Bomba. Extra reporting came from Katie Cohen, Nicole Engelman and Julianna Whiteway. Our theme music
was by Logan Piercey.
I've been Bronte Schmit and it's time for us to clock out.
OUTRO MUSIC: [Plodding bluesy guitar with organ accompaniment ends]