Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

Canadian "Typeset"

EMIGRATING to Canada in May of 1949 on the Cunard Ship Acquitania at the age of 12 was a harrowing experience.

The lovely spring of England was replaced by the snowcovered hills of Sudbury, Ontario.

It is a mining and smelting community that once produced 98 per cent of the world's nickel.

The smelting process produced clouds of sulphur dioxide that stripped the hills of their remaining foliage.

Three years later I became an apprentice at the Sudbury Daily Star. The paper was quite small and had a circulation of some 45,000.

For the first 18 months of my trade I performed the duties of a printer's devil. Picking up type and proofing it, mixing ink for the proof press, killing pages, sorting spacing and correcting gallies.

Learning to mirror-read type became as easy as the conventional way. In the ensuing years the journeymen made sure I knew all aspects of the trade.

I became well versed in the operation of linotype, intertype, ludlow and elrod.

When the teletypesetters came in the union printers had typing instructors come in and teach us how to type. At first it was the slower justified tape punching but with the coming of computers we switched to unjustified.

Leaving Sudbury in 1968 I travelled north to a little town on the shores of Lake Temiskaming called New Liskeard. My new wife (Carmen) and I lived there for 18 months before being called back to Sudbury to work as foreman at Journal Printing, a small job shop.

The call of newspaper printing was strong and when the Star called me I returned there. On a trip to southern Ontario, I chanced to visit the Kitchener Waterloo Record and talked to the production manager.

He asked me to fill out an application form and within hours I was hired away from the Star. Within a year the Record made plans to move to a new plant and in 1972 moved all the linotypes and with a new Goss letterpress started printing from the new location.

Within 5 years the linotypes were replaced and "cold type" came in. Adaption came easily and soon the production department changed to cut and paste. The press plates changed from lead to Napp aluminum.

In 1992, when the acquisition of newspapers seemed to peak, the Record was finally acquired by Torstar, producers of the Toronto Star. Our pressroom was closed and our pressmen were offered work at the giant Vaughn press plant.

Some took advantage of this, some retired and some made the transition to production work.

Adapting again, I started working in the scanning department scanning for ads, obits and celebrations.

At the same time, we started sending our completed pages electronically to Vaughn, so I became quite proficient in this department.

The Record, in trying to bring in new people offered buyouts to the older printers. Some of us accepted. I retired in 1998 at the age of 60 but was asked to come back on a part-time basis.

I am still working there three days a week and more when the are shorthanded.

It has been a rewarding trade. I met and enjoyed the company of many great and skilled journeymen printers from all over the world.

I have been a member of ITU and the Guild. Also a local union in Kitchener. I don't get a chance to set type any more, but the memories of hot type are still with me.

Etaoin shrdlu.

Copyright © Dave Hughes 2000-2015. All rights reserved.