Carnival Buttons

Collect a piece of Vernon's history

Gold Leaf Imprinters was started by Paul Novakowski, in the late 1950s, as a hobby and home based business on 41st street in Vernon. At that time Paul was experimenting with molding plastics. He was approached by George Melvin, the founding Chairman of the Vernon Winter Carnival, who asked if it would be possible to have a button produced for the event.

When Paul was asked to do the button in 1960, he found he could not use his current process but informed George that he would research it. While he was looking for information on how to produce the buttons, he came upon an advertisement from a popular science magazine and contacted a company in Chicago, Illinois that would train him in equipment use if he would purchase the equipment and materials from them.

For the first Winter Carnival Paul produced the ribbon and in 1961 the Carnival button saga began. A lofty amount of 3,000 buttons were produced. He charged the Carnival 13.5 cents per button, and each sold to the public for a quarter.

This was the start of Gold Leaf Imprinters as the button manufacturer; the businesses exploded and Gold Leaf was supplying buttons for special events throughout British Columbia, Alberta and Washington. They have produced every button for the Carnival since its beginning in 1961.

While Gold Leaf Imprinters was operating as a home based business, they were receiving criticism from some other print shops since home based businesses were held to be less than desirable (they were felt to take business away from downtown storefront operations). The City was somewhat loathe to give out a business licence for the company and Paul was told he would get the licence but could not have any signage. That started to change in the late 1980s as the home based business movement was growing and the stigma started to disappear. Gold Leaf has continued to operate as a home based business for over 50 years and feel that they are one of the oldest home based businesses in the area, if not the oldest.

Paul operated the business as a part time venture until 1974, when he quit his regular job and ran it full time. In 1980 Paul hired his future son-in-law Glen Taylor who had shown interest in the business when Paul began looking for a successor. Glen purchased the business in 1989 and a new era started. Until then all of the artwork had been produced manually. As this took up a lot of time in designing, Glen made his first computer purchase and taught himself to do computer layouts. After trials and errors with different software and computers, he perfected his talent. Currently the design process uses state of the art software but the production process is still very hands on. It uses printing presses from the 1960s and laminators, punch presses and other equipment that Paul either adapted from other processes or created himself. Glen currently does all the maintenance on the equipment.

When asked what their most memorable incident relating to the Vernon Winter Carnival, both men relate the 1988 button year when they had just finished printing 25,000 VWC buttons when Margaret, the company spell checker and Paul's wife came downstairs to see the finished button and noticed that "February" had been spelled incorrectly. Even the Vernon Winter Carnival Board missed the error as they had proof read the artwork and okayed it with the incorrect spelling. They had to reprint them all but Glen is quick to point out that the buttons are produced by a laminating process and they were able to use the incorrectly printed sheets as filler for the lamination. Apparently, if you could get the layers of the 1988 button apart, you would find the incorrectly spelled buttons inside. What ...another variety for collectors?

Collector Buttons




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