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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

A few constants in a screen-printer’s changing life

Scarlet Stone
Posted 7/14/21

My recent trip to visit my older brother, his wife, and family in northwestern Missouri and Kansas City was one of those times to wring out the laughter, hugs and joy from each moment. I was the one …

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A few constants in a screen-printer’s changing life

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My recent trip to visit my older brother, his wife, and family in northwestern Missouri and Kansas City was one of those times to wring out the laughter, hugs and joy from each moment. I was the one who introduced my sis-in-law, Carolyn, to my brother back in 1979 and she has been one of the few constant people in my ever-changing life. I have made her laugh and she has given me strength to keep-on-truckin...through four marriages, the birth of a son, the death of my two parents and my younger brother. She is on the other side of the phone for all of the moments I need to talk. She is the older sister I never received at birth.
The fun-packed family visit ended with Delta Airlines zooming me back north on a calm morning, gliding through blue skies and puffy white solo clouds to get home to another constant in my life, my screen-printing business. I needed to prepare for the Tower July 3 event in which I sell T-shirts and toys out of my big white tent. It’s my own private circus, and this business has been a part of me since 1990 when my friend from Ely loaned me her four-color manual screen-printer to play with after she upgraded. She also sold me a Daytona-2-bulb ink curing heater and what a work horse the drab, green, metal unit has been. In the beginning, I was living in Chisholm with my second husband and we built most of the other equipment, such as the wood screen frames-stretched with fabric, light exposure box, screen-storage box and the dryer set-up featuring the Daytona heater mounted on a heavy metal frame and pole that I could swing over a metal laundry table to cure my printed garments.  We gave the business the name Evergreen Designs and in the roomy basement shop, we did lots of printing for bars, schools, Ironworld, National Steel Mining Co, Fena Advertising and so many other individuals and businesses. I did all the artwork, rendering the designs entirely by hand, including color separations, until I bought my first Mac computer and learned to use Adobe software. After about four years, I came a mostly peaceful dissolution of that marital situation and the unfortunate loss of a trained set of good squeegee-pulling arms. I now needed to move my circus.
I told him...“Keep the house. I just want my equipment, my dog, and a new bed!” I was able to procure a small rental room in the old Martin Hughes High School in Buhl for fifty dollars a month. A management team rented rooms to businesses there for a stretch of time prior to it being a correctional facility for delinquent, unruly fellows. I changed the business to O’Hara Screenprinting to keep up with my name changes resulting from a growing string of divorces. I started as Lynn Johnson, then was Lynn Wihanto, then Lynn Hanson and arrived at the name Lynn O’Hara largely because my girlfriends said I needed “fresh”...and I liked the surname O’Hara. After all, it matched my red hair and so the nickname Miss Scarlet began.
I fondly recall my rambling friend Charlie (known as Prince Charles) and me hauling a truckload of tall metal shelves and equipment to the Buhl rental one summer evening. We stopped first at Sabin’s Bar on Chisholm’s Main Street, to fuel ourselves for the episode. Upon arriving at the back door of the school to unload equipment, there were flashing lights and a police car right there at Charlie’s rusty tail gate. In order to avoid breathing in the officer’s face and certain arrest, Charlie got busy unloading.  The officer addressed me with his riveting black eyes, “Ma’am did you know you had a metal shelf dragging behind the truck as you came through town?” “No I didn’t officer, but I apologize....we are trying to hurry and get this equipment inside before nightfall....and thank you, we will tie the load better next time.” He left us and we laughed all the way through the dark spooky vacant halls of the old school as we hauled in the equipment, grateful that the brush-with-the-law was mild....but the shelf was badly bent having been lifted by the wind and left to drag pavement down the main street of Buhl. My space at the old school was a small room on a landing between the first and second floors. I remember having to go upstairs in the dark, shadowy stillness with my long heavy extension cord to plug in the Daytona curing heater as there were no grounded outlets in the room. I was also working for the Hibbing Tribune at that time, so I usually only had time at night to print. After a season or two....not being a gal to sit on the bench and let life pass her by...I began dating an older man who taught me to polka real well and to play smear. He was to become the father of my only son. I trained him to help print and we completed many jobs in the old school while our son was sitting in his baby carrier. I used a grocery cart to push the baby and supplies down the long hall. My screen-washing room was a janitor’s closet in the hallway far from my printing room. It was such an inconvenient production....but I kept it going.  After the school stopped renting rooms, I put the equipment, into the walk-in basement in the small house in Chisholm I lived in with my son’s father.
A couple years later, the relationship corroded and I moved my son, the equipment and my life into a Housing Project in Chisholm where I gingerly used the equipment, as I had a baby to care for. From those single mom, struggling days I accepted a job in Hayward, Wis. working as the Director of Underwriting for the Lac Courte Orielles Tribe’s public radio station, WOJB. I shared a house near a lake with a man friend who was a carpenter and I did lots of fun screen-printing for the area resorts. That shop was full of carpenter’s tools, dust, and huge black spiders that no doubt colonized the new world. In 2001, my younger brother died of HIV, the carpenter left to pound nails in Alaska for a spell, and I loaded all my equipment (my circus) into and onto my Blazer and eagerly returned to Ely to be near my mom. I rented a house, but the cement basement floor was lumpy with concrete heaves, then flooded, so two months later on Halloween I moved to another rental house in Ely. I purchased the house several years later from the owner and roosted there for 16 years, raising my son, printing, marrying/divorcing again, until I met Bill Stone, a visitor from Illinois who was up north for a family reunion. We shacked-up, printed some more, married and I changed the name of the business to Rollin’ Stone Screenprinting. Shortly after, we moved to Soudan where my equipment has rested for the past four years. Despite an unfortunate divorce from Bill during the pandemic...we are now printing together again, after what was referred to by some as a “shite show”, with me nodding in agreement and adding...”yes and during a toilet paper shortage.”  Well, like I often say, a gal is gonna have that from time to time.  
The entire wild thing has become my traveling ringmaster tale with the red-haired artist, hauling her equipment from place to place to make extra money to support herself. Thirty years later, my hair is no longer red, my hands hurt if I print too long, but I am still using most of the pieces of equipment. I returned the borrowed printer, replacing it with a new one and invested in a small conveyor belt dryer....releasing from bondage the metal laundry table and heater. I still keep the old Daytona infrared up on the top shelf in the basement storage room. I am unable to get rid of it because of all I went through with it, how it took care of me, a tool that only required one bulb replacement in all those years of work, outlasting five men. So, together with my sis, it has been a constant and reliable piece of my colorful life.

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Dave Rose

You never have to worry about your stories being the same old thing. That's good.

Sunday, July 25