Following His Own Track
Life has a way of changing our plans. And when you have as many interests and talents as John D.L. Johnson, the possibilities are endless.
As a teenager, Johnson—now manager of Palm Beach County's Graphics Division—studied architectural drafting at Northern Montgomery County Vocational-Technical School, in Lansdale, Pa. He went on to study American history at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., graduating in 1976. But then a hobby put him on a different track.
Johnson and a friend decided to publish a magazine about trains and model railroading for fellow enthusiasts. Working with local print shops planted the seed for a career in printing. So Johnson obtained a printing technology certificate at the Philadelphia Offset Printing School and started his own business in the basement of his parents' Ambler, Pa., home. A year later, his parents moved to California (where Johnson's family is from originally), so he relocated into a storefront in Oreland, Pa. For 10 years he ran Crusader Printing for hobby-related publications, mostly about trains. But, ultimately, Crusader went bankrupt in 1988.
When business started taking a downturn, Johnson accepted a position as assistant manager for the graphic arts department at the Philadelphia Gear Corp., making his way into the in-plant world. He then managed a commercial print shop in Allentown, Pa., for a brief time.
When his parents informed him of an in-plant manager opening at California State University, Johnson applied for the position. After a series of interviews, he was hired. In 1989, he and his wife Carol took off for Chico, Calif.
"My biggest accomplishments there were designing the remodel of an old building into a modern new print shop, moving the print shop from one building to another, moving from prepress to digital, and establishing the bulk mail operation," Johnson reflects.