Finishing school and being a huge fan of radio show newspaper columnist Randy Stone and Nightbeat I hopped on the pushbike, went to the Central Western Daily the next day and asked for a job as a journalist.
The manager Doug McGregor said no cadetships were available but he took my number and would let me know if one came up. The next day he called. An apprenticeship was available for a printer and because it was a job on a newspaper I jumped at the offer. The first year wage was $7 a week.
The first year included mundane tasks like sweeping the floor every morning. It was usually covered with tangled newsprint a foot deep because of frequent paper breaks on the old Goss newspaper press.
Another apprentice Brian 'Binny' Bargwanna helped take the paper out to an incinerator in a lane at the back of the building to burn it.
Often the wind played havoc with this and the surrounding grass caught fire. It was common to have to call the fire brigade because the fire burnt dangerously close to the back of the old Australia movie theatre.
Next on the day's agenda was to top up the lead ingots for the linotype operators who set the lead type for the newspaper and they all wanted them stacked differently, they were a fussy lot.
They came to work in a collar and tie and were considered top of the pile in the printing department. We were at their beck and call.
We had to run messages like taking their laundry to the dry cleaners and getting cakes for their morning tea at three different shops.
The six-year apprenticeship included hand-feeding thousands of betting tickets, wedding invitations and other small jobs into a Heidelberg Platen press in the jobbing department, then moving to the newspaper, making up the lead pages and eventually running the Goss press.
Paper breaks were regular and if we couldn't fix them by stringing tinsel over the reel to take up the static electricity, it was a 1am trip to get Fred Daniels out of bed. A commercial printer he was the paper's Mr Fixit.
After the print run we delivered the bundles of papers to newsagents and the post office in an old Dodge van owned by foreman Tom Peberdy before retiring to the railway station bar at around 3am to wet our whistles.
Officially called refreshment rooms, they opened and sold alcohol only during a mail train stop but we printers were privileged to be able to stay between trains. We just had to be quiet so passengers waiting for a train to arrive didn't hear us.
But because of a love of writing I did regular articles for the newspaper in the days of typewriters while working as a printer.
A weekly motoring section was also on the agenda and when I'd finished the apprenticeship I was transferred to the editorial staff and given the job of local government and police rounds.
I worked through the ranks to fill most senior positions before leaving to work for Fairfax. I initially covered five councils, Lyndhurst (Blayney), Boree (Cabonne), Molong, the old Canobolas Shire and Ophir County Council before going to Orange City.
At Lyndhurst meetings councillor Bill Fagan usually bought Terry Jones (Bathurst Western Advocate) and myself lunch along with a wine or two and teed us up to be ready for a 'scoop' when the council resumed.
The press table was next to a window and the streaming afternoon sun, the wine and sometimes dull debates often put me to sleep.
When Bill Fagan was ready to launch his attack on the Mid-Western Highway, describing it as a goat track, I had dozed off, so like he had done at previous meetings, he threw Jaffas to wake me up. His story made headlines in the CWD the next day.
The establishment of Orange Agricultural College came about after lots of intriguing politics and dozens of stories I wrote in support of Orange getting a college of advanced education that Bathurst thought was its right.
My campaign resulted in the City Council withdrawing initial support for Bathurst and the establishment of a community committee to fight for the college but at times the campaign was embarrassing local MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education Sir Charles Cutler. Sir Charles wanted to give the college to Bathurst to help the Country Party win the seat that had been held for years for Labor by Gus Kelly.
The Country Party's Clive Osborne won the seat with a 27 per cent swing in 1968 and the city got the college but Orange people weren't as gracious and slashed Sir Charles' huge majority, giving him a big fright.
He took immediate action to restore his popularity and announced Orange was to get an agricultural college, earmarked to go to Tamworth, a seat held by then Agriculture Minister Bill Chaffey, but Sir Charles took it and delivered it here.
Bill Chaffey was furious about the loss to Orange but was appeased somewhat when Sir Charles pulled more strings to give Tamworth a dam to be named Chaffey after the minister.
Behind the scenes a few weeks out from the election newspaper board chairman and Country Party MLC president Sir Harry Budd had shut down my media campaign. I was told it had been a great campaign but nothing more was to be written. It was going to Bathurst.
As they say, them's the breaks, but the hard work put in to get the college of advanced education did result in securing the Orange agricultural college, now Charles Sturt University.
Country journalists covered everything from flower shows to various courts, road crashes, festivals, fires and developments. Another first for me was publishing details that had fallen off a truck about the proposed city centre for Post Office Lane on the James Douglas timber yard site, Davis' garage and a bike shop before the council had dealt with it. It annoyed the council no end.
We often went to bushfires and were nearly caught in Canobolas State Forest surrounded by the blaze with flames bursting up the trees.
Another fire of interest was at Millthorpe when a warehouse went up and I set a new Orange-Millthorpe speed record getting there. The nearest brigade, a 1940s Garford, had to come from Blayney and the fire fighters reckoned they could have walked faster. The fire was pretty well out when they arrived but my story got them a more modern tanker.
We often beat the Sydney papers to big news. In June 1966 an assassination attempt was made on Labor leader Arthur Calwell after he addressed an anti-conscription rally at Mosman Town Hall. We changed the front page at midnight.
The CWD had journalists who went on to bigger things. One became editor of the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald and another was editor of the London Times and a New York newspaper before being deputy CEO of Fairfax.
The country generally is a victim of economic rationalism, missing things city people take for granted so a strong local media has an important role. The CWD has given the community a strong voice for 75 years.
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