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It Was In A Book I Read...
Here's a true tale that some may find interesting, it involves the established media and how they perceive those
who aren't in their 'little clique' or those deemed deplorable by their manners or social-standing.

In 1983 -with assistance from my father who worked there for two decades, I got a job at a local newspaper.
The UK's recession was still bearing down on the North-East of England and employment was scarce for
both skilled and unskilled persons. So when my Pa mentioned that there was an opening at his place of work,
I willingly jumped at the chance.
However, he also mentioned it was 'drudge-work' and not elaborating, I ignored the comment and asked if he
could wrangle an interview.

Actually, there were two vacancies. Both positions required the person to start work at
One was a cleaner's role, tidying-up an aging building and chasing the eternal grime that sought every surface.
Namely paper-dust and ink. Deliveries were to be carried in and the vast amount of rubbish to be taken out.

The other involved recycling the lead used in creating text for typesetting. You've seen the little metal blocks of
letters that are arranged to for a sentence...? Well, the material is reused, lead bars are put into a melting pot
of something called a Linotype machine (below) and cast into the words that will become the news that people
enjoy every morning. Then after use, the metal text is collected and melted down again into bars.

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9355]
A Linotype machine and the lead text. (The object with the 'V' at the top are keys that impress the letters
into the molten lead.)

For this type of employment there was a perk, a bonus -if you will. A free daily bottle of milk for the person melting
the wheelbarrow-loads of lead text back into bars. Apparently milk somehow stopped the fumes of the bubbling lead
bothering the human body!

Just as a side-note, I never saw a face-mask offered in the whole time that that particular job was open.

As it turned out -due to another person wishing for a position in the newspaper company and that had a relation
who was in the management, I got the cleaner's job. But considering the quiet hours of the day and having free
range of the building, the tasks kept me busy and I must admit, I enjoyed that time.

Years went by and the work became more varied. Occasionally, I'd assist on the Press and this brought large
amounts of overtime, a rare commodity these days with the introduction of 'flexibility'! With the evolution of
printing from Linotype to Phototypesetting systems, the need to have me available to help became more and
more vital. And oh how the money rolled-in!

From six o'clock in the morning, I'd work until the night arrived and sometimes it seemed it'd be easier if I should
just sleep on the premises. I knew everyone by their first names and when a person would ask if I could 'acquire'
something for them -folk who ranged from a common Press-hand to the Managing Director... well, the requested
article always seemed to end-up in their locker or on their desk.

But the one thing I found fascinating was the attitude from the Journalists during my years there.
Before the introduction of computers and with the initial early hours of my work, I would rarely meet anyone from
that profession. But as my tasks increased, one would possibly find me scouring-out a lavatory at on a
winter's Wednesday night or dragging out piles of forgotten newspapers from beneath a Journalist's desk as
he-or-she looked on with their fellow-scribblers and discussed the merits of imaginary paper mites.

However, it always seemed I was unworthy of their parlance or being perceived away from my position with the firm.
I was a toilet-cleaner, ergo my intellect would struggle to comprehend their subtle bon mot and high prate.
Individually, a Journalist seemed equitable and even though I saw the veneer of their even-handedness was thin,
I always offered my genuine opinion and hoped that my guttural presentation didn't hinder my personal outlook.
But as a group, I was only tolerated by them.

Back to the meat of my yarn.

When the decision was made to print the newspaper at a remote site, it seemed like it was all hands to the pumps.
Days and nights merged with me and a younger co-worker assisting in making the changeover as smooth as possible.
Workers who'd already been presented with redundancy, were feebly asked if they didn't mind being on called if the
new project went tits-up and with a demand of a non-negotiable hourly payment from those asked, the workers agreed.

From time-to time, the brand-new Press -fifty-miles away, would break down and the ancient Hoe Printing Press back
home would rumble and shudder in it's dried-out foundations due to a Mall being built close by and its deeply-sunk piles
redirecting an underground waterway.

As the klaxon reverberated through the building, my friend and I would hurry with our current tasks and then dash to
where the grime and ink would fill our nostrils. We were printing.

Avoiding slicing our hands open, we'd carry magnetic plates from the foundry and appreciate that these flexible sheets
weighed far-less than the cast-lead half-moon plates. Then massive foot-crushing paper-reels were needed to be arranged
for a quick changeover, deadlines were never diluted -even if one's employment had been.

Running along the walkways of the roaring monster, we'd race towards helping the Despatch Room and prepare for another
night of not being home. The papers would arrive through an opening the wall on a conveyer-like appliance called 'The Fly'.
The constant row of newspapers would be separated by a single edition sticking out at the twentieth position, this was known
as 'the kick'.

Digging our fingers behind the kick, we would grab each choir (twenty) of papers and pile them up into a quantity of sixty
These piles were then taken away to be sorted into the correct amounts for Newsagents and then wrapped and sent out
to waiting delivery vans.

It seemed the hours that also piled up during that monotonous job would never end and even when a paper-reel changeover
was required and the fly was halted, this just meant that we had to hurry downstairs to help in getting the Press to roll again.

It was only when the welcomed shout that we were finished during one of these emergency printings, that I saw the reason
for my writing of this piece. The Despatch Room guys were wandering off to get their coats and call it a morning and I was
contemplating whether to empty all the trashcans before returning to the ground-floor in order to undress the Press from last
night's toil.

That was when I noticed six people standing near the Dispatch Room door.
There were three Journalists, another was a newly-trained IT guy and the other two were a Composing-Room Manager and
a photographer.

I nodded at them as I adjusted my overalls and wondered what these people could possibly be doing down here amongst the
unwashed and so late in the morning.
They never spoke as I passed by and only offered sheepish grins. Me...? I ran off to join my co-worker, if we were quick and
everything went by-the-book, we could get back to our daily tasks and look forward to getting home sometime in the early

Remember, we started at 6 o'clock every morning and were supposed to finish at two in the afternoon.
That luxury hadn't occurred in years and if one day spilled over to the next... then the overtime just piled-up like newspapers
coming off the Fly.

There's a book written by one of the Journalists that acknowledges me in helping of its creation. I'd progressed from smelling
of bleach and looking like I hadn't slept in months, to the adjustment and manipulation of physical photographs and electronic
images via a computer.

During this time, a chap from the Editorial Desk had decided to write a history of the very newspaper I worked at. A tome that
explained the socio-politics of creating an editorial at a time of local wealthy and powerful families and the realities of getting
such an undertaking off the ground. For my work in preparing the images for his endeavour, I and a fellow-worker were given
the book along with a thank you. A rare instance of humanity from a Journalist!

Only now, eleven years after being given the book, have I began to read it. I was just about to put it down after reading about
a past Editor who tragically died on the Titanic, when I thought I'd browse the images in the book that I'd been involved with.

There... towards the back-end of the book, in a chapter that explained the trials and tribulations of moving a modern-day
newspaper to a remote site, was a photograph. Holding a bound-parcel of newspapers and situated in the Dispatch Room,
three Journalists and the IT guy stood beaming into the camera. The Composing Room Manager stood next to the binding
-machine and looked like he'd just eaten a lemon.

Beneath the image was a caption that explained how this unflinching quintet had saved the day and 'mucked-in' to put the
paper to bed. I read the couple of sentences and suddenly, the faint whiff of Swarfega hand-cleaner passed my nostrils.
Now I believe it was to block out the bullshit if I'd given those words utterance.

Journalists... they move in mysterious ways.

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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
What an awesome experience, to see your name and face in print!  And to discover it after having the book for so long.  tinybiggrin

Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing.   minusculethumbsup
(05-10-2021, 01:03 PM)BIAD Wrote: Journalists... they move in mysterious ways.

They certainly do, don't they? I reckon all professions have their share of individuals willing to swoop in and claim credit for someone else's labors. but journalists have the wherewithal to make it stick - after all, they have photographers and editors at their beck and call to create and provide the "proof" of their claims!

I used to have a block of that linotype. A single line from a single column of a forgotten edition of the "Akron Beacon Journal" from around 1970 or 1971. I don't recall the precise year I acquired it on a tour of that facility. A modern savant would only marvel at it, I suppose, with the offhand comment that they should have gotten a copy of Corel Publisher for their layout editor to create the galleys on a PC with, to make their work easier and do away with those stacks of leaded print altogether... never truly understanding that in those days, neither PC's nor Corel Publisher even existed...

... and actual humans had to do actual work to put the paper to bed!

“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...

As always, awesome story.  tinybiggrin
(05-10-2021, 09:10 PM)Ninurta Wrote: ...I used to have a block of that linotype. A single line from a single column of a forgotten edition of the "Akron Beacon
Journal" from around 1970 or 1971. I don't recall the precise year I acquired it on a tour of that facility...

In my area, it was required from local Scrap Metal Merchants to report any printing lead that came their way to the
Police or the company I worked for. Printer's lead isn't a good commodity to sell, it's an alloy consisting of lead,
antimony and tin, a mixture not conducive with the regular uses of lead.

However, it could be used to make lead weights for fishing and it wasn't unusual to find the guy who recycled the
lead-text back into bars, carefully pouring the molten metal into a mixture of moulds kindly provided by the

It was funny to see a queue of men waiting quietly outside of the steel-lined and pornographic-covered room where
the bars (called pigs) were made. Skilled, heavily-backed Union men relying on a labourer to help with their hobbies!

I recall the day we had a visit from a dignitary connected to the company that owned the newspaper.
The Duke of Atholl (George Murray) is allowed his own private army and is the last to do so in Europe.
Traditionally, the tall slightly-effeminate man would arrive late morning and chat to selected management until the
Managing Director's Secretary brought him his gin and tonic.

This particular Secretary could never use her vacation-time when it was announced the Duke was doing a tour in England.
Only she could mix his drink just right and I'd heard from those in the room at the time, that the Duke would get quite upset
if she wasn't there when he arrived.

With his two burly security-men, he would be gently shown around the building -mainly to the large office of women (even
though I initially thought he was gay) who dealt with advertising and finally, he would pass by the Composing Room and chat
for a few minutes in the Editorial Department. One may suspect that the correct high-toned accent and appropriate vocabulary
were the reasons.

By this time, the Secretary had plied him with enough juniper-juice that he was semi-drunk and the tall lanky man talked loudly
and usually with little knowledge of the industry that he was -I think, an honorary Chairman in. After this, the Duke was whisked
away for a fancy lunch and no doubt, more alcohol.

Except on one visit, he took a wrong turn and instead of using the fancy ornate stairway to the Editorial floor, he used the Staff
stairs for the Composing Room. Decked out in his fine suit, the merry Duke and his entourage stepped into a noisy, clanking
area where men in aprons busied themselves with preparing the materials for that night's editions.

Then he did something that made the General Manager gasp. He turned right and aimed his tipsy journey towards a large sliding
door at the rear of the Composing Room floor.

As it turned out, the regular smelter was on holiday and I was covering his job. I had a fresh barrow of used lead-slugs waiting to
be tipped and shovelled into the melting pots and I was hoping I'd made enough bars so I could get on with my own tasks of the

The Duke of Atholl stepped into a world of burning string, hot lead, melting plastic coffee cups from the vending-machine and a
bounty of naked women exposing parts of their body not normally seen on his usual route around the building.

The General Manager stood there -all red-faced with shame and the unsure security men could do nothing else except follow
the gaze of their half-drunk protectee.

As the barrow crashed its load the floor, I saw the two men jump in front of the mesmerised gent in the fancy duds.
He was grinning like a Cheshire cat at the thirty-or-so centrefolds taped to the grimy walls and realising the embarrassment
that the General Manager was enduring, I thought it prudent to make a comment.

"Yer' don't see pots like these -these days" I quipped and lifted the lid of one the smouldering containers.
Keeping his eyes firmly on the alluring beauties on the wall, the Duke murmured that he agreed.

Then as I shovelled some of the disgorged lead from the floor to drop into the pot, the Manager realised what might happen when
coffee-residue from the discarded cups comes into contact with molten metal. A clue lay in the spatters of lead on the ceiling above
the pots.

"Er... well, shall we be on our way, Sir?" he stammered and his eyes warned me not to drop the shovel-full of print into the cauldron.
Realising my life of Riley in regards of overtime was in the balance, I stood like a statue and watched the irregular scene.
Wandering out of the room, the dazed Duke and his men slipped back into normality as behind them, a large bang of liquid meeting
hot lead imitated a one-gun salute to his visit.

It's nice to know that -even for those with affluent backgrounds and important responsibilities, the ladies-on-the-wall could still
enchant with their... their charms.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"

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