GRAHAM ELPHICK's story

Graham, on the Monotype Keyboard, 1961

 

It all started in 1956, when I was fortunate enough to attend a Letterpress Printing Exhibition under Wynyard station, in Sydney. I decided there and then that I wanted to be involved in the printing trade. I left school in December the next year (1957) after sitting my Intermediate Exam. I couldn’t think of how to find employment in the printing trade, till one day I decided to look through the telephone book, which in those days had everybody’s phone number. I found a place called “Printing and Allied Trades Employer’s Association”, so I copied their phone number and address. I wrote a letter to them, asking if they could possibly find me employment in the “Trade”. I received a letter back, asking me to go into their office, in Sydney, for an interview. They we quite impressed with me, so they sent me for a Vocational Guidance exam, which was a government exam, which found out what, if any, qualities you possessed, for trade jobs. I was found to be qualified (amongst other jobs) for an Optometrist, and Printing Management. So, I was accepted, by the organisation as a potential printer.

I received a telegram from the organisation, telling me that a firm called “Craftsmen Type-setters”, was holding interviews for potential apprentices, and I should ring them straight away. I had an appointment with a Mr. Hyde, who was the owner of a company called “Hartland & Hyde Publishers” of which Craftsmen Typesetters was their typesetting subsidiary. 

I was readily accepted into a line-up of quite a few boys, who applied for the apprenticeship. Each week I would go into Sydney, for another interview, as the list of boys was gradually whittled down, till there was only the two of us boys left. To my amazement, the next week, I received a telegram to say that I was the successful applicant, and was to be put on probation, to make sure that I was worthy for an apprenticeship. I started work at Craftsmen as a messenger boy, and didn’t realise at the time that I was working for one of only three companies in Sydney that used the monotype (handsetting) type of printing.

I would deliver proofs and pick up copy from all the advertising agencies around Sydney, and I became very well liked wherever I went.

As I was on probation, other printing firms made a play to get me to work for them, and be their apprentice.

My employer found out about this, and hastily made me an Apprentice Hand and Machine Compositor in May 1957, which was highly irregular, as I was only 15 and a half years old, and Apprenticeships were usually made on your 16th birthday, and ending on your 21st birthday (a five-year apprenticeship.

I really fitted in with handsetting type, and loved every minute of it. I passed all my exams, and three years into my apprenticeship, I was enrolled in Sydney Technical College, to learn Machine Composing on the Monotype Keyboard. I passed these exams also, even though I didn’t like using the keyboard at all, but, being an apprentice, I had no say in this, and just had to grin and bear it.

 

I finished my Apprenticeship in May, 1963, and was given my Indentures, thus becoming an Indentured Tradesman.

But, the Apprenticeship Commission (a Government department) would not recognise this, as I should have finished my apprenticeship on my 21stbirthday. So, I was a fully qualified tradesman, working on apprentices 5th year wages, till I turned 21 in November. My boss said that as I was a tradesman, I wouldn’t need to go to Technical College, to finish my course, so I missed nearly six months of college, until, in early November of that year (1963) the Head of Graphic Arts at Sydney Technical College, came to Craftsmen Typesettters, and suggested to my boss that I should sit for my Trade Certificate, as I had achieved so much at college, and a Trade Certificate would get me many more jobs,

whereas my Indentured Tradesman qualifications, would only get me jobs in newspaper setting.

I was worried, after missing six months of college, but I sat my exams, in late November 1963.

There was a worrying time, waiting till the exam results were published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, in  January, 1964.

I was overjoyed to find that I had passed the exams with flying colours, in the CREDIT GRADE.

All went well for a few years, but unluckily, I then had a major breakdown, and was admitted to a Mental Hospital, where I was for 6 months (twice). While in that establishment, I was put into the hospitals’ print shop, where I was totally on my own. I set and printed a lot of the Psychiatric Centres’ inhouse work.

When I was released, letterpresss printing was being run down, so I found employment with the Army at 2 Camp Hospital, in Ingleburn, which was the army Hospital (the Vietnam War was in full swing, and the hospital received many wounded soldiers from Vietnam).

I started work as a dixie basher (dishwasher) and then onto Ward Orderly, and finally, onto the Garden staff (which I loved). I did a greenkeepers’ course by correspondence, and was promoted to Head Gardener.

We moved here to St. Marys in 1969, and unfortunately I became ill once more.

I was diagnosed with AGOROPHOBIA, and I was afraid to venture outside our house for many months.

I eventually, bit by bit, ventured out into the street, but founds that I couldn’t travel far from my home, which is still the case today. I love working and have a great work ethic, but can’t get to places of employment.

A neighbour, in our street, knew this, and, as he was quite wealthy, he set up a print shop, in his garage.

It consisted of a Chandler & Price Platen, a Multilith 1250 litho press, and a complete composing room. So, I only had to walk a couple of doors to work. We received a very big job at one time – We were given a brand new case of type, and printed Diplomas from the University, and we were to overprint them with the graduates’ name. I would handset the type, and set it into the form, and my friend would print the Diploma. I loved doing this. We did a lot of printing on the Multilith, and would print booklets etc.

In 1979, I brought my first ADANA 8 x 5 handpress from Dolphin and Hannan, plus racks of type cases plus composing gear and inks.

I would print Invoices, Receipt Books, Letterheads, Business Cards etc., and made good money by doing short runs, which other Letterpress Printers wouldn’t do.

In 1983, I was on the Invalid Pension, and their Handicapped Employment Supervisor found me a job, as a Compositor, at CRANA STREET SUPPLY COMPANY, in St. Marys, as the lone Type-setter at the factory.

But, being on a pension, I was only allowed to earn $60.00 per week, on top of my pension. So, I worked as a tradesman for $1.50 per hour. I did this, and loved the job, being back in a fully operating Letterpress Print shop.

We had a Heidelberg Platen, A Heidelberg Cylinder, and a Multilith 1250.

There was only the two of us there, myself, handsetting and make up, and the press operator.

I loved the place, and worked there for five years, till the company went broke.

I set up Posters for a local Country and Western singer, (Johnnie Russell) and tickets for up and coming rock bands, for the Catholic CYO concerts, ( Such as DRAGON etc.).

The company was making good money, but the proprietor (unfortunately) started drinking heavily, and spent most of the day drinking, in local clubs and hotels, (unbeknown to myself and the printer, and eventually we weren’t getting paid each week.

I still was doing a lot of little bits and pieces on my ADANA, and, while at Crana Street I met a bloke who had a company called INTERTYPE, who set up Linotype for Letterpress Printers. Crana Street used him whenever we needed Linotype set up. I befriended him, and now that Crana Street was gone, we had an arrangement where I would do make-up for him, for free (which I had to do, being on the Pension) and he would set Linotype for me for free.

In 1998 I worked part-time for another Letterpress Company called CONTROL SYSTEMS. They had a Heidelberg Platen, and a Gallus, plus small presses which we called “Pouncers”: These presses ran inch wide rolls of stock, printing and numbering “ADMIT ONE” tickets. The company had brought all BELL PUNCH ticket machines from Movie Theatres etc., when magnetic ticketing came into vogue. They would hire out these machines and roll tickets to carnivals, fetes, special events etc. My son would cut the rolls and dye them into different colours, and I would do any typesetting, make-up etc.

 

In 2000, there was an advertisement in our local paper, saying that one ALAN CONNELL was starting a Printing Museum, in Penrith Paceway, and was looking for volunteers. I jumped at the chance, and signed up straight away, and became a Foundation Member, and the Museum opened in Penrith Paceway, in June 2001.

I am still a Member of the Penrith Museum of Printing to this day, and still hand-setting and making up type.

I still have my ADANA 8 x 5 and used it everey week, and am still loving my dream of Letterpress Printing.

 

OTHER ACHEIVEMENTS besides PRINTING

 

On the Penrith Council Wall of achievement (both me and my wife, Marj) for Community work.

 

Work as volunteers for over 40 years at St. Marys North public school.

 

Featured on ABC TV “Gardening Australia” with our Award-winning school gardens, which Marj and I built and maintained.

 

Senior Citizens of the Year award

 

Marj and myself bothy LIFE MEMBERS of the P & C Association.

 

“Elphick Memorial Garden” set up in our honour, at st. Marys North Public school.

 

Australia Medal presented to both Marj and myself, in 2001, by Prime Minister John Howard.

 

Grandparents of the Year, by NSW State Government Minister of Ageing – presented at  Italian Fiesta at Leichhardt.

 

Working as volunteers running Brekkie Club at St. Marys North public School, since 1996 b (23 years) making breakfast for the school children.

 

Marj and I built and maintained school gardens for over 40 years, with two chook pens, vegetable gardens, etc. 

We grew cuttings, to sell, and each year had four large beds of Chrysanthemum flowers, which we sold on Mothers’ Day. Eggs from chooks would also be sold.

 

We won numerous Garden of the Year awards with both our school and home gardens.

 

We were both on the Committee of our school’s 40thand 50thanniversaries, where I was Publicity Officer.

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Our Purpose

The purpose of the Penrith Museum of Printing is to collect, conserve, operate and showcase letterpress printing machinery and equipment so as to keep alive the history,knowledge and skills of letterpress printing for present and future generations.

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