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Lifelong Lowellian Scott Kooistra has been the Ledger's printing press operator for the last 24 years

Lifelong Lowellian Scott Kooistra has been the Ledger's printing press operator for the last 24 years.

The Lowell Ledger is part of J-Ad Graphics, a Hastings-based printing and media company owned by the Jacobs family. Here in Lowell, press operator Kooistra is responsible for the vast majority of the binding, folding, die-cutting and other printing work done on site, and is responsible for distributing the Ledger to local retailers every week.

“We print a little bit of everything here, any print job,” Kooistra said. “We do tickets, letterhead, business forms, a lot of instruction manuals, tags, numbered forms, quite a few envelopes. I do some business cards, but most of the smaller-run stuff like that is done up front in the office on the digital machine. Some things I can't do on the offset and some things they can't do on the digital. I wouldn't recommend one over the other, the print quality is going to be great on either one. The digital machine can't do more than a couple folds, but I've got an 11x17 sheet that I'll fold so small you can put it in your wallet! We do a lot of die-cutting, any shape you can dream of.”

Last Thursday, May 16, Kooistra was busy printing, perforating, numbering and cutting 10,000 “Duck Raffle” tickets for the Riverwalk Festival in July, a complicated process involving multiple machines.

“Each ticket has to be individually numbered and it has to have a perforated stub,” Kooistra said. “We have a mechanical numbering machine that works like a clicker when you get on a bus, every time one goes through it puts a different number on it.”

Kooistra spends a great deal of time maintaining the huge, complicated machines that do the printing, folding, binding and cutting. Some of these machines are decades old but remain in good working order thanks to his efforts.

“We have two offset machines and an old letter press,” Kooistra said. “The paper cutter will take your arm clean off. I don't really have a set maintenance schedule, usually maintenance is a daily thing. You just oil before you start and clean after you're done, that kind of stuff. Sometimes they need new parts, but they're very durable and they'll go forever. In the summer things get a little slow so I can do a little more in depth maintenance then.”

Kooistra is a 1983 graduate of Lowell High School. After high school he joined the army and was stationed in Germany. He also visited Italy and Austria during his stint in the military.

“I was in the army from 1984 to 1987,” Kooistra said. “I was an E-4, an enlisted man. That's above a private, below a sergeant. I was a truck driver all around Germany back in the Cold War days. For the most part what we did was move things from here to there. Moving ammo, moving missiles, things like that, just preparing for the Cold War. Always training, always training. We were told when we were there that we were just there to try and slow the Russians down when they came across the border, and they didn't expect us to survive. We were just there to be a deterrent against an attack, and most of the younger Germans resented us for being there. Only the older Germans understood why we were there, so there was a lot of animosity. Somebody tried to fire-bomb our barracks one time. We had barbed wire fences, but they drove by with a Molotov cocktail and threw it, and it hit the wall right by my bedroom. A big ball of fire, but it didn't do any damage. It was a Cold War, so it was just a lot of training, or as we called it, a lot of painting and cleaning. Germany was nice though, I did like Germany. I was there for a year and a half, but it seemed like a long time. It was nice to come back [to America].”

He says his favorite way to relax is with a good book.

“I read a lot,” Kooistra said. “I find history fascinating, especially American history. Right now I'm studying the political history of the Revolutionary era. I've always been interested in it. I don't have the time to read that I would like to, but I can find a little time to read. That's one of my favorite things to do, if I can catch the time. Grab a cup of coffee, sit outside in the summer and read.”

He also likes to spend time hunting and fishing.

“I hunt, for the most part just deer,” Kooistra said. “I go up to the Irons area, up in the Manistee National Forest with some friends. A friend of mine owns a nice place up there so we go up there an hang out for a few days, usually a long weekend, and then go hunting in the public land. That's about all any of us I think can stand anymore, the older we get. Staying up too late, getting up too early, when you're young you can do that, but year after year I find that we spend less time up there. During the summer I like to fish. The same guys I hunt with, we also fish on Wednesday nights, weather permitting, then once in a while we have a big fish fry.”

Kooistra said his favorite thing about his career as press operator is the variety of tasks involved and the trust the company has in his expertise.

“The best thing about my job is it's something different all the time,” Kooistra said. “It's not like working in a factory where, for eight hours a day, you're doing the same thing over and over. If you don't find an innovative way to do something, you get frustrated.”

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