WELLSBURG Employees at Graphics Packaging International in Wellsburg celebrated a co-worker's 60th anniversary with the company this week.
Merle Cusick was a junior at Wellsburg High School in December 1951 when his mechanical drawing teacher approached him about a possible job at what was then Arkell and Smiths. Just 16 when he began working as a part-time engraver in the printing department at the plant, his first day on the job was Jan. 22, 1952. He made $1.04 per hour and his first paycheck for $25.35 was considered good money in those days.
After graduating from high school in May 1953, Cusick was hired on full-time through its various incarnations: After Arkell and Smiths, it was known as West Virginia Pulp and Paper, Westvaco, Stone Container, Smurfit-Stone, Altivity, Graphic Packaging International and Graphic Flexible Packaging.
As the main engraver at the facility, Merle has been a part of several engraving styles and processes over the years. The first type of engraving that he participated in was cutting (hand engraved rubber) plates, then rubber plates had to be made (on the vulcanizer) which were then glued on a backing and used on the printing press. A metal master was used to bake mold. The rubber plate was made from the mold then glued onto a heavy backing which would go to the press. Photopolymer plates were used next. These printing plates are made from negatives and each negative has its own color.
Due to the new style of creating the printing plates, he does not hand engrave any more but is still busy with ordering negatives, proofing, and check production orders.