Friday, 13 February 2015

Looking back

A FEW DAYS AGO I had a tiny rant on Facebook over the type of paper some magazines are using these days.  I completely understand that sandpaper/used bandages paper is somehow good for the environment, but I want to see clear, glossy images and sharp text when I spend my money on a magazine. Blame it on my age.

I know where it all comes from.  When I was a young and naive sixteen year-old way back in the late Fifties, fully trained in typing and shorthand, I joined the now defunct K G Murray Publishing Company in the Subscription and Promotion Department.  My shorthand quickly flew out the window which I didn't mind at all, as I hated it.  My main duty was to type the address stencils, which were similar to colour slides in appearance, for new subscribers to the various magazines.  This entailed wetting the stencils with a sponge roller, dropping the ribbon in the typewriter, and bashing down as hard as possible so that the typewriter keys would cut through the stencil.  I then was required to file them and print them onto labels when the latest issues were ready to mail. Boring.  Mind-numbingly boring, particularly as our office was located at the wrong end of town.  The upside was that my lovely boss would ply me with Superman and other such comic books to take home to my young brother, as well as any magazine I liked, fresh off the press.  Some were a little too risquΓ© for an innocent teenager of the Fifties.

Things brightened up considerably by the time I turned seventeen, when the whole company came together under the one roof at Clarence Street, a mere couple of blocks away from the retail heart of Sydney.

There at my fingertips were David Jones, Farmers and many fabric stores to roam through at my leisure.  Every Thursday I would meet my mother for lunch and we would browse the fabric and fashion floors of the large department stores, take in a fashion parade, or wander through their china and kitchenware departments.

And this is where my dislike for the modern form of environmentally friendly paper originates. You see, back in those days the cheaper end of publications produced by K G Murray were printed on similar paper stock, obviously to keep the costs down.  This was offset by their jewel in the crown, the Australian House and Garden Magazine and other more up-market publications such as Wheels Magazine and for the fashion conscious, Flair Magazine.  They had glossy pages mixed in with the sandpaper variety - modern times!

Now that we were all located in the one building, I came face to face with the House and Garden editor, Beryl Guertner.  She was a living legend and I was terrified of her.  After all, she was so old (about forty at the time) and these were the days when you deferred to legends. She was a pioneer in the industry and was around long before Vogue Australia or Vogue Living.  I recall that she was always well dressed and had a strong personality which as a seventeen year-old I found to be a little intimidating.

The Subscription and Promotion Department settled happily into its new home on one of the upper floors which we shared with the Art Department.  The tedium of preparing those wretched address stencils was offset by being able to mingle with the artists.  Occasionally during non-rush periods I was permitted to watch them set up the production pages of the numerous magazines. I was fascinated.  Obviously there were no computers, so everything was done manually.  If a magazine editor or the Art Director weren't happy with what they saw, the whole page was discarded and the process began again.

They were heady days in publishing, but in the end I realised there was more to life than punching out address stencils, so at the more mature age of eighteen, I reluctantly handed in my notice and moved on.

Life took off and I had many adventures before finally settling down to married life.  I am grateful to our modern environmentally friendly magazines for reminding me of the thrilling days of publishing in the late Fifties.