I remember the days when either a letterpress printer or binder would stride up to me and ask the naive apprentice comp. “Could you set a few lines for us mate.”
I do because I was that naive apprentice who was “A Nice Lad who is as thick as two short planks.”
But my pommy tradesman in charge was quicker than most and I guess after some years down the track “a little bit bent.”
And, he never told me he got paid for it!
He would get me to design and set the type on the Ludlow typecaster by pissing in my pocket by saying “you are a master of design Rod”.
And I would do it, time and time again. I just didn’t think that my tradesman would lie to me.
There was one printer in particular who would wander into the comp. room speak to my boss and then I’d be setting wedding invites for the next hour or so.
He started up a small backyard print shop specialising in wedding stationery using hot metal supplied by me (unlawfully but innocently) and that operation turned into a fairly large printing office out on the Main North Eastern Road.
The Cobbers Dictionary defines a “shitboy” as a boy of below average intelligence who worked at the Government Printing Office, South Australia from 1860 until the 1970s.
Unfortunately, the young man in the picture above (with the Top Hat) thought he was above the other Shitboys. Naturally, he got the worst of the shit jobs.
That’s what you would generally hear just before you were due to take the 2 oclock post out to the other Government departments.
“Can you pay this Bill?” “Can you get me a Meat Pie?” “I need an aspirin”.
Some would give you two shillings to run the errand. Sid Ball always gave FIVE shillings (a big amount in 1965).
Some of course gave nothing, but that didn’t matter.
At the end of the year they would go around with a Collection Tin. They usually collected 25 pounds at least.
Considering a “shitboy” only got around 5 pounds a week, it was a fortune.
Your first job in the morning was to sweep up the front path and steps.
You did this as quickly as possible just in case someone you knew who was walking past recognised you.
Then you filled up the Overseer, Superintendent and Government Printer’s wash bowls and their glass drinking water bottles.
Lunch Orders were next. At any time you may have to run some Mail to another Government Department.
There was a Bike for you to use, but most “shitboys” didn’t because it took longer to walk.
You also had to haul loads of metal across the bridge at any time.
Then it was Laundry to be taken down to the back of the Railways (near the Torrens River) and the two o’clock mail had to be taken all over the City. Parliament House, Government House, Industrial Court, Police Department, Education Dept. and so on….
In between doing “shitboy” work you would watch and listen to the Comps and pick up knowledge for your upcoming Apprenticeship in the following year.