Why I Publish
My résumé looked good–at least I thought it looked good.
So why did the response letter start, after the salutation, with these words: “We regret to inform you that, while we were impressed by your credentials, we are unable to offer you the position…”
I had thought the publishing position tailor-made for me. It did not involve relocation. It required literary and management skills, all of which I had been building up in the years of teaching I had undertaken in a school operated by the KwaZulu government in recent years. Perhaps, unknown to me, the principle of Proverbs 16:33 was at work:
The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD.
Be that as it may, a few months later security conditions in the school deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe for me, as a white South African, to commute the seven or so miles to the school where the students were all black South Africans. A large rock hurled by someone in the bushes on the roadside–intended for my face–narrowly missed going through the windshield (creating a massive dent, instead, on the corner of the roof of my Volkswagen Beetle) and it was considered prudent that I seek employment elsewhere.
To Johannesburg we go!
So, with our vehicle bulging at the seams, we found ourselves en route to Johannesburg after so many happy years in the Natal midlands. I served as bookstore manager for a while before engaging in a temporary excursion back into the teaching world and before biting the bullet and starting an import and mail-order discount bookstore. It grew auspiciously and soon required full-time attention.
It wasn’t quite publishing, but, well, it was a way of serving publishers and people who needed the books.
James Dearmore and the A B Dick
Jim Dearmore was a Texan in Africa. His story was remarkable for its adventure and spiritual verve. He and his wife, Georgia, had been missionaries in the Congo and then moved to what was then Rhodesia before ending up in the northern regions of South Africa, where they continued their missionary endeavors. His outspokenness against Marxist doctrine made him the kind of person who probably would not be welcome to stay in the country once an ANC government was established. He was one of my favorite customers, a godly man, a no-nonsense American in whom there was no guile. I loved the way his gas-guzzling 1970s automobile drove into the parking lot, so much like a great ship, taking as it seemed several minutes to come to a halt as it berthed. From deep within its recesses (it may have been a Cadillac; it was huge) he would emerge, his short white beard outlined against the greenery in the background. His eyes were kindly, always twinkling. His voice deep and his drawl slow and pronounced, he always spoke wisely and well, often punctuating his speech with apt quotations from the Bible, always in the King James version.
“Brother Jim,” he informed me (he always called me Brother Jim or Brother Holmes), “Brother Jim, I am a kicker of sacred cows; if I see a cow in the distance, I will go up to see if it is sacred, and I will kick it if it is. We should only believe and practice things that are in the Bible.”
I loved his straightforwardness, his directness, his call-a-spade-a-spade mentality. He was no stranger to hardship and to hard work. One day he told me about his A B Dick, a printing press he housed in his garage. With relocation back to the USA in mind, he needed to sell it, and he considered that I should buy it. At the time, I was running the book business I had started, and it involved quite a lot of printing that I usually got done in a copy center in Johannesburg. I was also editing a magazine at the time, Reformation Africa South, so that put me in connection with a commercial printer, Leonard Venter. Len was another character. Everything he described was “fantastic.” I mentioned Dr. Dearmore’s offer to sell his A B Dick press to me. In his Germiston accent he enthusiastically said to me, “Fantastic! Jim, my boet, let’s go check out the doctor’s printing press.” A few days later, riding along in his Toyota Camry at around 100mph, we made the long journey north of Pretoria to Dr. Dearmore’s location in a very short space of time.
“Ag, Jim, I think you should buy it,” Len told me. “It’s quite an old machine, but these are fantastic for jobbing.” Jobbing, he explained, was for doing the run-of-the-mill printing that involves a printing press that just keeps on going in a stable way–ideal for catalogs, newsletters, flyers, etc.
The deal agreed some weeks later, we knew we would need space to house it, so a few months later, we commenced building a double garage on our Strubens Valley property. Getting the press from where Dr. Dearmore had housed it to our location was challenging; it weighed more than a ton. And it arrived with a bewildering number of rollers and peripheral items, all with special names and functions that would need to be learned!
Then Julian showed up. Julian Glover was one of those young chaps who will try his hand at anything. “Yeah, I think I can make this machine work,” he said confidently. I must say that I wondered… Long into the night hours he tinkered with it, multiple colors of ink adorning his fingernails, hands, arms, face, and hair. And, sure enough, the steady duff-duff-duff of the press eventually yielded some remarkable output, including printing in full color.
Why I Publish
So, why do I publish? I’ll have to explain this a little more in my next post! I read Theology, Biblical Studies, English, Greek, and Hebrew (and some other stuff) in my Bachelors degree; I trained in postgraduate studies and practiced as a teacher; I started a book business; and I purchased a printing press knowing a little more than nothing about how I would make it work, but in the care, purpose, and providence of God, it worked–and it worked well. I think that might hint a little as to why I have ended up as a publisher…
So I will take up more of the story in a future post [HERE].
Illustrations of James and Georgia Dearmore, from CWS Funeral Home. The A B Dick printing press is one rather like the one I purchased. Image credit here.