Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

Wairoa Star Scrap

Metal Type stalwart Graeme How sent in this article from the Wairoa Star, New Zealand.

Wairoa Star production 1970s style
A Wairoa Star edition in the making 1970s style, factory foreman the late Bib Fraser, compositors, the late Nelson Harvey, and Graeme How when the paper came out three times a week. The old printing press can be seen in the background at the top of the picture

IT was the price of potatoes 33 years ago that began a local man's association with the Wairoa Star – and a pile of lead which ended it.

The 25 kilograms of lead had been removed by Wairoa scrap merchant and former Star paperboy Tony Skudder, who said it was one of the more unusual jobs he had done as a scrap merchant.

He came to the Wairoa Star building recently to take away old printing machinery and was amazed to find a solid block of lead had melted to the furnace frame over many years of printing.

One of the former printers at the Star who is now a compositor operating the latest graphic and layout computer technology, Graeme How, said the lead splashed down behind the furnace when it was poured into ingots.

This came from the linotype lead he had helped prepare for printing the news, classifieds, display advertisements and commercial printing.

Both men have a long association with the Star at its present building, which was purpose-built in 1968.

Mr Skudder was a paperboy in 1977-78. He said his mother was complaining about the price of potatoes so, at 11 years old, he got a job as a paperboy and gave her his first pay to buy potatoes.

He left Wairoa at 15 and went to Otakau Fisheries in Dunedin where he worked on deep sea fishing boats until he was 18.

He then drove line-haul trucks and worked all over New Zealand until he returned to Wairoa two years ago intending to retire.

Instead he became a scrap merchant removing old car wrecks, washing machines, and more recently items like the Star guillotine, which weighed at least a tonne.

He said he got a shock driving back into Wairoa to find the old bridge replaced by a new bridge, the post office moved to another building, and a new police station.

Graeme How started his working life at the Star in 1969.

He said the Star used to employ 16 people when it was a newspaper and commercial printing business.

Graeme How at the old furnace
Feeling nostalgic for the old days when he would go home with lead all over his jeans, Graeme How is at the old Wairoa Star furnace before it was removed recently

The building moved to its present site in 1968 from the building on the corner of Queen and Delhi streets.

That building is now Clydestyle Furniture by O'Connell owned by Kevin and James O'Connell.

James O'Connell said his father Bill O'Connell bought the old Star building from Fred Beattie.

As a junior, Mr How said it was his job to melt down the linotype lead so it could be reformed as new type for the next edition.

He said all the printers had blood tests to check for lead poisoning every six months.

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