The Days Of Typewriters

It was a trip down memory lane and it was hard to realise how much older I am now than when memory lane was just day-to-day life.

We went for the weekend to Cardiff.

When I lived there,  journalists – and I was one, hard to believe though that might be, dear reader – used typewriters.

Indeed you didn’t have your own typewriter so if you were late into work you might find yourself landed with the upright black one dating from about 1925.

‘E’ is the most popular letter in the English language and the ‘e’ on this machine had worn out.

So when you finished typing your story – on two sheets of very thin (as in cheap,) paper with a piece of carbon-paper sandwiched between so that one copy could be kept in case of legal action – you had to go back over it writing in all the ‘e’s.

We had one mobile phone for the whole newsroom and that was so bulky you needed to have the only office car to take it anywhere.

Its range was hardly more than shouting distance so taking it anywhere was usually a waste of time.

If you wanted information you rang someone and your contacts book was your most precious belonging.

If you wanted older information you went to the newsroom ‘library’ where you would ask a surly man for the subject you wanted and he would bring you a cardboard envelope, called a packet, full of cuttings from the paper on the same issue – if you were lucky.

This was the library which still held the lovely Western Mail headline when the Titanic went down: ‘Welsh people die in shipping disaster.’

It also held packets and packets and packets of coverage of the Aberfan disaster.

I was a trade union activist – hard to believe though that may be, again, – and I used to have to go and talk to the printers.

Though they were the newspaper equivalent of horny-handed sons of toil, they were much better paid than us effete journalists and one day I will tell you about going to meetings in their Bedford HQ and beef wellington and generally how it so differed from the journalists’ union HQ – suffice it to say at this point, they had considerably better surroundings.

Anyway, I was in my early 20s in those days and one of those days, I went downstairs to talk to one of their union officials.

I got wolf-whistled which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but their union leader shouted for it to stop saying, ‘She isn’t a girl, she’s the Mother of the Chapel.’

It never seemed odd to my feminist-atheist self that the terms Mother and Chapel as a description of a woman union leader was anything other than perfectly reasonable – I bridled, though, at being called a girl.
Enough, for now of my journalist stories though I could tell you about flunking my first National Council for the Training of Journalists exam because I argued with the examiner about what was realistic in the aftermath of an all -ut nuclear war – in those days that seemed a possibility – though not like the examiner had suggested.

I could tell you about the lovely Inn on the River known locally as the Pub on the Mud where I spent many a happy Sunday lunchtime. And whilst on the subject of pubs – we were journalists after all…..

I could tell you about The Philharmonic (The Philly) a pub where we adjourned after a late shift before getting a Cardiff speciality – chips with curry sauce – from Caroline Street.

(To my delight, there are still places selling that Cardiff delicacy in Caroline St even though the new, posh Brewery Quarter is there too.)

Actually the brewery, Brains, has moved. It used to belch foul, or at least unattractive, smells of hops being transformed into Brains beer across the road to the Western Mail.

The brewery has moved and the paper has moved too.

Just a little stretch of memory lane left.


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