My Old Guv memories started at trade school, Kintore Avenue, 1966, when I first ran into Warren “Abo” Pietsch and John “Rags” Elsdon.
I used to wear my hair a little long in those days, like many other “with it” guys, but a little longer than some. Whenever Abo saw me coming into school he would say “Here he is, Johnny!” or “Here comes Nick!” to which Rags would reply, in his piercing ladylike tone, ”Eh, why don’t ya get ya f . . . g hair cut!” Then they would both laugh at their taunt. I would let these taunts go and walk away fuming after being humiliated by these two .
In late 1972 I started at the Guv and worked on the jobbing floor in Frame 1, just behind Jack Flack and with Ivan Merrett lurking not too far away.
Directly behind me was a galley rack for all to use. I forget how many T-shirts I went through, because I would back into these galleys with many of them still having ink on the ends. My protestations to “Freckle Head” were never taken seriously, with a “Watch where you’re going then” reply.
From my frame I would see the West End truck turn up twice a week to off-load the pollies’ grog. I would also see type go south out the window on diss – “I’m not dissing that f . . . g Copperplate!” When you went to set in Copperplate, there was never a lot in the cases. It would also go into bins ready for smelting. There were some very lazy comps!
I remember when a young Lewis Murray arrived for his interview. He was immaculate, dressed in an iridescent suit, gleaming white teeth and filmstar looks – back then he was a handsome young man.
I remember Russell Wight coming through the jobbing floor resplendent in his army regalia. I remember Russian Michael taking the long drop in the lift. I remember no smoking one hour before knock-off.
I remember Abo going down to the machine room in the chase lift – very stupid, Warren.
I remember Ken Davis calling out “Baker” every arvo one hour before knock-off to mark the Baker Handicap horse-race at 3.42.
I remember the morning tea pranks, where a person’s tucker was placed on the floor, a galley precariously teetering with string attached, ready for the owner of said tucker to reach down to retrieve it before the string was pulled, flattening the kitchener bun or whatever was in the bag!
I remember Barry James going for an eye test and being asked to read the letters on the chart. He begun by reading “A. B. James, Government Printer, South Australia”. He had read the imprint on the bottom, informing the optician that A.B. was his Dad.
I remember Ann Grice getting electrocuted while using the water fountain behind the reading room. The wiring was, obviously, a little close to the water pipe. The “boot” sent her flying across the floor, her hand blackened.
I remember the machinists who would place an empty 20-litre plastic container behind the reading room, insert an air hose, tape the hole to prevent leakage, then wait for the explosion! They tried this one day, blowing a tile out of the very high ceiling.
On afternoon shift, for smokos and lunch breaks, we would sit outside on benches facing Marion Road. Many a strange sight was seen – car chases, police cars doing burnouts in the servo opposite, red light runners. We even saw a camel in a trailer!
Just before we were due to go back to work after a break one night, “Big Den” Grover said “I’m not going in till I see a 1951 Hillman Minx!” Bugger me, a few minutes later a Hillman passed – was it a Minx, dunno – but it was the catalyst for us all to go back to work, after much laughter.
I remember “Bags” Baker every night would relieve himself against a tree. Don Guscott would go ballistic. “Why don’t you use the toilet, ya filthy bastard!” Bags would just smile, it was done for Don’s benefit.
I remember after every SANFL grand final I would scale the ladder above the dark room and install the colours of the two teams represented in the final and tape them to the “chimney”.
I remember seeing the hills ablaze from the roof on Ash Wednesday, after scaling the ladder in the air-con plant – a very sad day.
I worked a lot of afternoon shifts at State Print, so I had a few necessities stashed away to make life more comfortable for the long hours at work.
This included: a jar of Black and Gold coffee, Old Guv salt and pepper, and a bottle of “dead horse” (sauce) etc.
Not being a contributing member to the Old Guv Tea Club (as it was called) due to me being a tightarse I would supply my own coffee and milk.
I kept the coffee in my desk for safe keeping – or so I thought!
The milk, obviously, resided in the fridge, with my name written on the carton for my use only – or so I thought!
It took a while for me to twig what was happening.
It appeared that some equally tightarsed person on day shift was helping themselves to my coffee and my milk, as my stock was running down more quickly than I thought it should.
In my mind, there is no-one lower than a work thief.
I kept my eye on the coffee and milk for a few more days before coming up with a suitable solution to stop the continuing theft. I then decided to bite the bullet and sacrifice what coffee and milk I had left.
A healthy dose of my pepper was added to the coffee jar, then blended – and a visit to the Bindery to attain some “white binder’s glue” to be mixed in with the milk.
Now, I don’t know what this would have tasted like, but that was the last time my coffee and milk were stolen – and to this day I have no idea who the thief was.
I just hope it tasted like crap, because it did the trick.
When the Netley complex was built it was claimed to be the most up-to-date printing establishment in the southern hemisphere, with the latest equipment and amenities one could want.
It’s a pity that it was set up mostly for hot metal, not catering for the revolution of computer typesetting just around the corner.
To go with an up-to-date establishment of this enormity, where a golf cart would have been practical to travel the vast distances between some departments, the Government Printing Department acquired a state-of-the-art system for sending proofs and dockets from one department to another as fast as possible.
The installation of an air tube pneumatic system seemed to be the solution. Each department had a sending/receiving station, where plastic tubes (affectionately called “rockets”) were inserted into pipes to be sucked at rapid speed to the required department. There were two sizes of rockets: a small circular one and a larger rectangular one.
Esther Davis worked in the “Rocket Room”, which was at the end of the reading room and alongside the head reader’s office. From there she would deliver proofs etc to the head reader sent via the rocket system and also send off rockets to other departments.
Pictured: Esther Harris (nee Davis) in 2016.
I found an old, perished rubber glove and kept it for years, knowing it would come in handy one day.
It was red and spattered with many different ink colours from its use over the years. It was so perished that it could stand up unassisted.
I decided the day had come to give another life to this glove and placed the perished “hand” into a large rocket and sent it to Esther.
I immediately made a dash to the reading room, knowing that it would be only a matter of seconds before its arrival.
I made it just in time to see Esther unclip the end of the rocket to reveal its contents. On seeing the hand, she dropped it, then let out a series of almighty screams, followed by laughter.