Looking back to News-Optimist history


Today (July 18) I read the News-Optimist relaxing in the Regina Library. Sixty-six years ago in 1953-54, I worked for the News-Optimist. Yes, when a student at NBCI in Grades 11 and 12, I was an employee of the paper. I had been hired by Irwin McIntosh, proprietor, publisher and editor of the newspaper.

A kid could not have asked for a better after school job. It wasn’t just after school. In those days the whole newspaper staff, including me, worked Monday to Friday, and a half day on Saturdays.

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The newspaper office was a busy place. There was the weekly paper, the backbone of the business, plus a lot of other printing jobs from raffle tickets to grocery wholesale flyers. These were the years of moveable type, the invention that had revolutionized the printing industry centuries before. The newspaper had two of the most complicated machines known to man and probably the most sophisticated machines that were then located in North Battleford. The Linotype was a mechanical assembly, a myriad of levers, keyboard, arms and legs. It produced the hot lead slugs that formed the legible newspaper columns.  

I learned to feed sheets of newsprint into the jaws of the huge printing press and the same for the machine that folded and trimmed the pages. I made more hot lead cuts, pictures of whatever, than I care to remember. These were used to jazz up advertisements in the paper.

I had all the joe jobs at the newspaper and everyone was my boss. Often on a Saturday morning, for example, I would be located on the adjacent spare lot, tending a bonfire, melting used lead type from that week’s newspaper. I would pore the molten lead into small ingots, now clean of printer’s ink, to be used again in the Linotype. If it was snowing I would find a large cardboard box for some shelter. It was a quiet and relaxing time removed from senior supervision. A good joe job.

I will end with a related coincidence. I went on to university and a job with the Saskatchewan government. We were using the government airplane to travel from Regina to Lloydminster. On boarding the plane there were two other passengers – Irwin McIntosh, the person that had given me a job when I was in high school, and his wife. He was then the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan. The pilot dropped them off in North Battleford and we continued on to Lloydminster. A Saskatchewan happening where I have lived all my long life.

Douglas Gillard


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