Life's Work Doesn't Stop in Retirement

By Judee Fong

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Before his retirement four years ago, Milan (Mike) Misic experienced many changes, spanning his almost 50 years as a professional printer.

"I went to trade school in Croatia when I was 15. On the first day, the instructor told all of us, ‘I have one rule: You have to work hard if you want to pass, and you have to pass to get a job.’”

In Europe, 15-year olds chose either a trade or, if they had the money to continue their education, move on to university.

“I worked six hours in school and four hours in the shop learning as a technician, not an apprentice,” recalls Mike.

At that time, Mike performed type-setting manually as a technician in school.

“All the letters were made of wood, which you don’t see anymore. The letters were all sizes depending upon the printing job.”

Completing his schooling as a technician, Mike spent five more years as an apprentice, learning all the aspects of the printing business: composing, book binding, type-setting, different printing presses, and more, before working as a full-time tradesperson. Most of his time was spent in the composing room.

“My first job was at the second largest printing plant in Belgrade,” he says. “We printed chemistry and mathematical text books, other school books, some magazines and four or five newspapers in different languages.”

Technological changes were most evident in the composing room and in the printing presses. Mike remembers the early days when he printed using a stone press. Today, stone lithography is popular with artists who can create limited editions of their art by directly painting or drawing onto a prepared flat stone to create their image for printing.

In 1964, when Mike began working in a small print shop in Canada, the press was metal. Today, printers use off-set presses where digital cameras and computers do the work once manually done by a human printer.

Eventually settling in Victoria, Mike worked at the *Times Colonist* for many years. At that time, the *Daily Colonist* was the morning paper and the *Victoria Times* was the afternoon one. Mike recalls, “If there was a news-breaking story, we would need 12 hours to get it printed and out on the streets. If it missed the morning deadline, there was an afternoon paper to print the news. Now, with only a morning paper, if it doesn’t make it to the printing room on time, then it will be another day before it’s printed. The news is already old news by the time it’s read in the papers.”

After 1978, Mike’s job in the composing room changed to computer tech. A “master” or primary computer controls one or more secondary systems by gathering information while the “slave” or secondary computer did all the work of type-setting, formatting, etc.

“Everything comes in digital files,” he says. “The stories come from editorial and we do a paste-up with the ads on it, then we set it up ready to print. Everything is done electronically.”

Mike recalls an interesting conversation he had with one of the staff in 2010. “I talked to a lady at the paper and told her we use to have more news on the front page than we have now. And she said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘When a reporter went to court, there would be a two-column coverage of the actual cases but today, the story reads like a Hollywood movie, not real news.’ And she said to me, ‘Well that’s what the young people want to read.’ So, I call over our 20-year-old janitor and I say to him, ‘Do you buy the paper?’ And he said, ‘I don’t buy the paper. The only people who buy the paper are old people!’”

Retired for almost four years, Mike has kept himself busy with numerous projects. He looks forward to his annual Hawaiian vacation.

“I like to visit Hawaii as I have friends there. As soon as the door closes on the plane, everything flies out of my head. I don’t think of anything else for a whole month.”

Family also keeps Mike moving between a daughter in Edmonton and a son in Vancouver. Thinking of the changes in each generation, Mike says, “I remember my mother waking me up to go with her to buy fresh bread and milk for our family. It was during a time of rationing. I stood in one line for the bread and my mother stood in another for our milk. Looking at my grandkids, it’s a very different life for them.” Mike laughs, “Each generation may have different lifestyles but, basically, young people are the same. When I was 20, I told my parents, ‘You’re old-fashioned and don’t understand.’ When my son was 19, he said to me, ‘You don’t understand. You’re too old-fashioned.’ One day my grandkids said to me, ‘Grampa, my parents are so old. They don’t understand!’”

With pride in his craftsmanship and an eye for innovative details, Mike built a 9,000 square-foot house in the Mount Newton area. He renovated his existing house by enlarging the original rooms; constructing a large garage and creating an additional wing, whereby doubling the size of his original house.

“Most of the construction was done while I was still working,” he says. “I would come home from my job, sleep for a few hours and then work on my house before returning to my printing job. Building was hard work and the printing job was a rest!”
Since retiring, Mike continues work on his house. He plans a downstairs suite and a workshop. Mike maintains his European roots by baking his own bread, making his own cheeses and sausages. His ongoing projects are the restoration of three cars and his garden. Despite living close to a golf course, Mike has not yet taken up the sport.

“I don’t have the time. Maybe one day I’ll learn but, right now, I’m too busy with all my other activities.”




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