After 23 years in Beresford, South Dakota, Lloyd “the Frogman” Menard, professor Emeritus of the University of South Dakota, is closing the doors to his press and gallery and moving to a lovely new Victorian in Council Bluffs, Iowa to enjoy his retirement. The Frogman tried to sell the building as an apartment/ studio to a gullible printmaker for a number of years to no avail–the prospect of a South Dakota winter scared most off. The second week of the workshop Matt Egan of East Carolina University, a USD alumnus, bought Lloyd’s immense electric press and paper-making equipment so that the building can be re-purposed when it is eventually sold. Matt asked a number of the workshop assistants to come up and help him load the equipment. I am afraid that the photos we have documenting the day will not do justice to the hellacious–though rewarding–ordeal it was. I will attempt to supplement with descriptions of our day and invite those of you who helped to add your photos by e-mailing them to Hannah or myself.
We began that Tuesday morning, the day after our assistantship with Frogman’s was up, by driving to Beresford to tear down our exhibition at the Nuance gallery. Hannah had finally come down a couple days earlier with the super virus I picked up from Katy Seals so the un-airconditioned gallery was not helping her condition. We managed to get the show pulled down and packed up in an hour so that we could meet the others across the street at Frogman’s to begin loading the press into the truck.
Matt Egan and Brandon Sanderson had been working on the press and other equipment since Sunday while the assistants finished breaking down the workshop and exhibitions. So we thought a good deal of the equipment would be packed and this would be a half-day engagement. Not so. Instead, we began taking parts of the press out to the curb as other assistants began to arrive. Next a crew pondered how to remove the pressure setting wheel so that the drums and yolk could be taken out, while the rest of us began pulling screens etc. from the basement to be loaded in the back from the building. It turned out Matt wanted to take ALL of Lloyd’s paper-making equipment, in part to get the most bang for his buck, and in part to do Lloyd a favor; the less stuff Matt left, the less stuff Lloyd and Jeremy would have to haul out later. After two days of hard work with Matt, Brandon left for home. We were down our other press authority.
There were a lot of these confused looks as we tried to dismantle this one of a kind press! It took over four hours to figure out how to get this pressure setting wheel off the top of drum harness. The Frogman was on hand to observe, but he couldn’t remember much about how the press went together so we were on our own. Egan tried his best to photo-document as parts were removed, but it will be a bear getting it all back together. Hannah and I have already volunteered when the time comes though.
Detail of the wires and press motor. The fella that designed this press for Lloyd said he lost money on it and swore to never make another! We know he did ultimately make more, but charged a lot more.
Egan, Matt Pressuti, and Nuno Nuñez alternated with a grinder to cut through stubborn, rusted bolts that held the beater captive. In the meantime, others of us removed the remaining light stuff. Then Brett and I tackled the pneumatic press. Heavy yes, but even worse it was slippery with oil. Once the beater was finally free it was loaded on a dolly and strapped in. Matt and I pulled the shockingly heavy machine up the stairs, one step at a time, while Nuno and Egan pushed from below. I don’t think I’ve ever groaned that much lifting anything in my life! Later in the afternoon Matt and I wheeled the beater around the block so it could be loaded into the truck while the press was still being dismantled.
I wish there were more pictures of all the work we did hauling screens and press parts, baths and beaters out of the dank of Frogman’s subterranean storage. This is the final push packing the beater into the truck. It was shockingly heavy. It was slow going, and the stairs were noticeably more rickety afterwards.
A word on the Frogman’s basement: the building was erected at the end of the 19th century, and the foundation is composed of rough cut pink granite, stacked loosely and irregularly. As a result, the basement has leaks that have given rise to mold and mildew. It’s a typical unfinished basement in many ways, which means it’s not such a healthy environment for a sick girl. But Hannah was a trooper. She and I went to work tearing apart the wooden pulp baths. Nuno and I had earlier attempted to get the baths up the stairs but found them too large. Taking them apart was no small task as they had been screwed, glued, shellacked, and caulked. I wound up standing in them and pushing with the top of my head by stretching on my tiptoes to separate the top plank from the base. Two baths nearly 6′ x 8’x 2′ were dismantled, another smaller (still 5’x7′) wooden bath and a shallow aluminum bath were hauled up as well. In short, this was one heck of a big paper facility when it was in full operation!
We convened upstairs to eat a much appreciated bucket of chicken and Powerade courtesy of Egan. Most everything from downstairs was sitting along the back of the building waiting to be loaded. We then went about tackling the press. The roller and brace you see below was constructed and added to the press after it was installed in the building. The man who built both press and brace had professional moving equipment and hydraulics to help with the move. We had no such thing. Instead we went to work bolting one of the press cross supports to the roller brace so that we could roll it along the sides of the press until it could be lifted to the ground. We estimated the roller to weigh between 4 and 600 lbs so it was a very delicate five-man operation. Lloyd and Hannah sat a comfortable distance from the scene and fretted over the crew’s safety. Instead it was a smooth, though nerve-wracking, operation. With the roller now on the floor we could finish taking off the supports.
Michelle was sent earlier to the local hardware store to get a gear-puller for the top wheel that ultimately failed to do the job. She wound up borrowing one from a local garage. Richard did the honors and in a few minutes the last encumbrance was overcome! It was time to load the big stuff (see photos below).
After hours of brainstorming and false starts this gear-puller, borrowed from a local auto garage, finally did the trick to remove the pressure wheel. Everyone is laughing because big bully Lloyd was picking on poor Richard (the feller in red).
Look how relieved Froggy looks that he doesn’t have to help with the heavy lifting! He’s staying out of the way in case the press falls through the floor.
A couple shots from the first floor of the building. The stairway leads to Lloyd’s apartment. The artwork flanking the stairs are mixed-media pieces from Lloyd’s paper-making heyday.
The truck. We wound up blocking half of Beresford’s main drag as we backed up to the front of the Frogman’s building. I’m pretty sure the entire town came out to drive around the block to figure out just what we were up to!
The Frogman ordering us about from a comfortable distance. He was understandably skeptical that we would be able to get the press dismantled and loaded safely. While turning and lifting the rubber roller in its brace he kept saying “If it wants to go through the floor, let it go, it’s only a building. It’s not worth dying for.” (It’s impossible to transcribe the good-natured crankiness and tell-tale croak of the Frogman in text alone) Luckily the floor held up and we came out unscathed.
The drums, yolk, and pressure mechanism, sans wheel, being loaded into the truck with the help of USD’s furniture jacks. Where am I?
There I am! I wanted Nuno to know that I was there in case everything tried to roll back downhill.
Success! I think we were all a little shocked that all of Egan’s heavy lifting schemes worked out.
The roller in its brace being loaded onto the jacks. Hannah didn’t take any pictures of us rolling the brace on the press legs and lifting it to the ground because she was certain somebody was going to die. Her fingers were poised above 911 rather than her shutter button!
We had to push the roller and yolk out of the shop by passing over this antique cast-iron grate (you can see the basement below). The roller stalled on it for a second as it was being removed and popped out a couple of the filigree. A small casualty given the danger of the operation!
I led this time. Bad move! I was surprised by how quickly the guys on the other end pushed the roller up the ramp. I stumbled, and the jack rolled over the bridge of my right foot.
There was no time to hurt though. I sprung up before I was completely trampled and guided the roller safely into the truck.
Me making sure my foot was alright. No bruises, no breaks. I got incredibly lucky! Time to finish loading the press onto the truck.
With the biggest pieces loaded, Matt P. and Matt E. went to work strapping things down and back-filling to avoid shifting. The rest of us were sent on the wild goose chase of finding the interior parts of some of the press support rollers. After a frustrating 30 minutes I went out back to pull the nails and hidden screws out of the bath pieces. By the way, the temperature was at least 100 degrees at this point and there was no shade to be found.
The others had taken a break a bit earlier and I finally joined them. The heat had taken its toll so it took a good bit of water to get me set for the final push. Egan drove the truck around to the back and we commenced with loading the hodge-podge of paper-making equipment. Patience was fraying as the sun beat down. It was actually cooler in the truck where the Matts continued to shift things about to make for the most efficient packing. In the meantime, a bath was scrubbed of mildewy paper pulp from a by-gone era, and some plywood and a paper dryer was hauled up from downstairs to finish liquidating the once mighty Frogman’s paper-making shop. With about an hour and a half to go, Jeremy returned from a day of errands to help with the last push. It was all we needed, as the last bit of screens, wood, paper starter, and nuts and bolts were secured. A commemorative picture was taken with the whole crew in the back of the truck. The work was over at last! Poor Egan had a two day drive home to North Carolina ahead.
Time for burgers and fried tidbits!
A very happy Nuno as the last couple things are loaded into the truck.
Matt Egan takes photos like a proud papa of his stuffed to the gills truck.
Jeremy arrived toward the end of work and helped with the final push. Much needed as the crew was pretty spent and we were hemorrhaging bodies all day.
Our prize for a grueling day of work? A bucket of chicken for lunch, and a supper of beer and fried goods at Bertz, Beresford’s finest bar and grill. Of course we got to be a part of history and have a tremendous story to tell. A day well spent!