I was born in 1951 in Shelby, Ohio. My parents still live on the 20-acre farm in Galion, Ohio that I grew up on with 9 younger brothers and sisters. My dad put in a five acre truck patch with four acres in sweet corn and the rest vegetables. We older kids spent our summers hoeing weeds and in the fall picking the vegetables. My mom spent a lot of time canning and freezing everything. The sweet corn needed to be picked on a regular basis. Every Saturday we picked our trailer full of corn and dad pulled the trailer behind the car while we older kids walked up and down the street selling corn until it was all gone. We also had a sign at the end of our lane advertising vegetables for sale. My parents used this ‘garden’ money to buy all of the kids clothes and school supplies for the upcoming school year.
Even though it seemed like it at the time, it wasn’t all work all of the time. We did have to mow the four acres of lawn surrounding the house, barn and garage and that spread out down to the street, but we also had some good times too. I can remember spending a lot of time down at the golf course, the archery range and the creek in the summer and having snow ball fights and ice skating on the local ponds in the winter. One summer a younger brother and I helped our neighbor collect insects for his science fair project the next year. It ended up being quite a collection. I believe it was all the experiences I’ve had in my life growing up that have prepared me and made me who I am. I’m not afraid of hard work and I work hard all the time.
Coming out of eighth grade from St. Joseph’s Catholic School, I spent my ninth year in a seminary in Toledo, Ohio to become a priest. After a year I decided that wasn’t the life for me and came back to Galion and attended Galion Senior High where I excelled in 2 mile cross country and the mile in track. I was pretty good at it and for three summers, I ran 30 miles a day in training. I was also a paperboy for three years during high school. What I didn’t spend a lot of time doing was saving money. I liked to spend it as fast as I got it. Too bad now…
In my freshman year I signed up for wood shop which I really enjoyed. The first quarter was drafting which we had to complete before we could even step into the shop. Drafting—up until then I had no idea that it even existed, but I truly found my calling. I signed up for drafting classes each following year in high school. In my senior year I had enough credits to participate in half day work. I was accepted by the North Electric Company and every afternoon I drew what engineers sketched and stayed with them for about a year after graduation. What I really wanted to do was mechanical drafting at Galion Manufacturing, but it was during the height of the Vietnam War and I was eligible for the draft and apparently didn’t want to lose me to the draft.
I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way and so I joined the Army. In order to stay safe and off the front line, I had to sign up for four years. I went to the 43rd Engineer Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia and was stationed with a construction battalion at Harmony Church. After a few years I put in for a transfer to the Pacific. I had to sign up for another couple of years to get the reassignment, but it was worth it and got orders for Okinawa. During my 30 days leave, my orders changed since the unit I was going to in Okinawa was relocating to Hawaii. I also met my first wife while I was on leave. We got married six months later and she joined me in Hawaii for the remainder of my tour. I was stationed with the Signal Corps at Schofield Barracks creating drawings of communications systems and equipment and then with a Topo (map drawing) unit with the Corp of Engineers on Ford Island. I learned how to create maps from aerial photography.
I finally left the Army after six years of service and went back to Galion. My daughter was 11 months old. I got a job at Peabody Manufacturing. I was still trying to get into Galion Manufacturing and I finally connected with them when they had an opening in the tech writing department. I had no idea what tech writing was, but they needed someone to illustrate their parts manuals. They also trained me to write their operator’s and service manuals. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
It was 1980 and the northeastern United States went through a really bad time—job-wise. It was the start of the rust belt and companies were either scaling way back or leaving the area altogether. Being the least senior person in our department, I was caught in the first round of layoffs. My drafting background saved me and instead of getting laid off, I went to the engineering department. I became very interested in the new CAD department with its mini-computers. Eventually I was able to move to CAD and taught myself how to do on a computer what I had been doing on the board. That also didn’t hold out. After a year I was on the chopping block again and luckily the tech writing department had an opening so I went back there. I lasted another year there before there was a third layoff and that one got me. I was called into the office and told the bad news, that I was being laid. I didn’t understand why until I asked my team leader and friend. He told me I was laid off because I was the most likely to find another job. I’ve never received a more back-handed compliment in my life.
I spent the next three months looking for another job. We dipped into our savings trying to keep on top of the bills. I knew I was in big trouble when the people at the unemployment office asked “What is a tech writer?” Working with head hunters for three months, I sent out over 500 resumes to the surrounding states of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and got no responses. At that point I realized that it was the first people laid off who were the best off–now all the jobs were gone. I had a couple of Army buddies living in San Jose and Ventura, California and they mailed me their local newspapers that were full of jobs that I qualified for, but how to interview for them 2,500 miles away. We didn’t have enough money to get me out to California and then to turn around and move out west. So, we packed up a 20 foot Ryder truck, my wife being three months pregnant with our second, and went west. No job. No place to stay. No anything but the little money we had left of savings.
Once in California, we stayed with an aunt and uncle for a week in Fresno in August. We packed all of our household goods in storage. I soon discovered that Fresno is ag country—no place for my talents. I phoned my Army friend in San Jose and we spent the weekend with him. Fog in San Francisco in August was not my idea of California. We went back to Fresno and I called my friend in Ventura. We packed and headed south. We stayed with him for a few days and saw that there were plenty of jobs available in the area. In less than two weeks I had a job with Haynes Publications, a consumer automotive repair manual company in Newbury Park.
I stayed with Haynes for a year, but I started hearing buzz about desktop computers. I found a company, Vector Graphics in Newbury Park, that had an opening in their tech writing department. I applied and the dept manager liked my writing style so well in my heavy equipment manuals, that he said he would teach me about computers. So I signed up. One month after I started work, the boss left for a better job. Within two weeks after he left, the senior hardware writer that was training me left because they wouldn’t promote him into the bosses job. Now I was left in a lurch. There was no more hardware writers in the department and neither of the software writers were interested in stepping up. Liaison between the writing department, engineering and manufacturing was dwindling. I finally stepped up and tried my best to field the calls and get answers to questions. I definitely learned about computers the hard way. Within nine months the company pretty much failed and I was laid off yet again. I started looking in the paper and discovered Alpharel, a start-up company designing and manufacturing large document scanning equipment. Since they were not quite ready for a publications department , which is why they hired me, I helped their drafting department by creating drawings for their equipment. Six months later I started their publications department.
During my time at Alpharel, they went after large military and commercial company contracts and had to fulfill Requests for Proposals. They needed drawings, charts and graphs for these proposals and I seemed to be the only one available. This was all totally new to me and luckily everything I did was well liked by everyone involved. From then on for the next year, I was the go to person for anything the company needed for proposals, but also any marketing materials they needed. This lasted for another two years until the company started struggling. I was feeling pretty competent in producing graphics and marketing materials that I started thinking very seriously about starting my own company. This was when PC desktop computers were just coming out and desktop publishing with publishing software was becoming popular. Higher ups in the company caught wind that I was creating a business plan for my own company and during the upcoming layoffs, I again got laid off. Needless to say I wasn’t ready yet for prime time.
Nevertheless, I started Ventura Pagemaking Center on a shoestring and a prayer and I was off and running. I worked out of my garage for six months and went through a divorce that eventually led to bankruptcy. During the latter part of this time, I met Norma Curtis who was a high school English teacher who also taught creative writing, yearbook and the school magazine at Ventura High School in Ventura. She also started the first computer-assisted learning lab in the State of California and was a fellow of the National and then State Writing Projects. She had a bad accidental fall at the high school and was unable to go back to teaching and through state rehab was looking around for someone to teach her desktop publishing. Her rehab counselor located me and the rest is history.
Norma and I formed SketchPad Publications and proceeded to grow our graphic design business. We were very successful in helping small to medium size businesses as well as many organizations with their marketing needs in the Ventura County area. Three years after we started the company, we moved to Fillmore, California where we have been for the last 21+ years. Two years after we moved to Fillmore, the Internet was just barely popping it’s head up. We immediately saw the potential for our business in offering website design to new and old clients as well as the possibility to offer our print design services to new clients.
Norma and I were married in 1995. I have three children and a stepdaughter as well as eight grandchildren. We also have two ragdoll cats, siblings, that run the place. My hobby is nature photography and I like distance hiking in the mountains of Southern California at least once a month. A few years back Norma and I joined a local rock club and during that time I went on a number of field trips with the club collecting all kinds of rocks. During the past six months I learned how to cut, shape and polish stones and then to weave them into wire. Since then I have created a number of hand crafted stone pendants and bolo ties. I also spend a lot of time maintaining our 1-acre property, home and gardens.
I always try to do the best job I possible can no matter what it is and use the knowledge I have gained over the years to help others.