photo essay at Abbott Printers, Boston (1995)

When I was tiny I would accompany my mother to her job at E.D. Abbott Printers, located on the 3rd floor at 179 Mass Ave in Boston, across from Berklee College of Music, sandwiched between Back Bay and the Fenway. She kept the books and answered phones for the family business, which printed menus, flyers, brochures, notepads, basically anything a business would want to stamp their name with (the Ritz-Carlton was one of Abbott’s accounts, mentioned here for scale).
My grandfather, Tom True, ran the show, as his father did before him (my great grandfather took over the business from E.D. Abbott, as far as I know). On the wall behind Grampa True’s desk, which sat empty in the years following his retirement, hung a framed portrait of his father. My mother’s desk was near his, and that was where I’d camp out in the days before kindergarten. Lots of drawing went on there, and lots of visiting the characters working the printing presses and the linotype and book-binding machines. As old photos displayed around the office showed, there had once been a bigger team of workers, men and women, filling the space. By the time I was around, the printing was managed by my uncle Paul (my godfather, and one of my mother’s seven brothers) and two or three printers (one named Rudy Valentino, I shit you not). My mother had someone to assist her in keeping the books, usually a little old lady. The one I remember was Mrs. Galvin, whom we visited in her nursing home long after she retired (I was still tiny) where she and my mother would share a bottle labeled ‘Cocktail For Two’ (margaritas). Although that may have only happened once, as my mother insists.
When I was an undergrad at UMass Boston, the Abbott office was a regular haunt. I’d swing by in between visits to Tower Records and Newbury Comics and CD Spins and Victor Hugo bookstore and Utrecht Art Supplies, and the place really didn’t seem much different then to what it was when I was five. In 2001 the business was dismantled and the office was cleared out. I remember being there that last day, witnessing my mother and uncle Paul saying goodbye to the old empty shell. I am glad to have documented Abbott Printers when I did, during my time at UMass, shooting with my Pentax K1000 on Kodak T-Max 400 film.