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Panpa Bulletin : May 2006
May 2006 PaNPa bULLETIN | 55# NEWS at 93, Jim Woods has found a new passion, writes Rod Kirkpatrick. Jim Woods at 83 looked lost after a lifetime of being a hands-on newspaper printer and manager and sometime proprietor. Jim Woods at 93 has rediscovered purpose and drive and energy. How? Through helping to establish the Quean- beyan Printing Museum, where Jim and his offsiders bring the equipment to life. The museum is small enough to fit easily into a tourist's morn- ing or afternoon schedule and big enough to fascinate anyone with an interest in the hot-met- al and letterpress technology of newspapers and printing. Much of the equipment was used in producing The Quean- beyan Age between 1860 and the 1970s. It ranges from the hand-set type that Age founder John Gale used for about 40 years to a Meihle press, a Model 14 Linotype and a Ludlow type- setting machine. There is even a darkroom which Jim's son, Bob, has set up just like The Queanbeyan Age darkroom in 1963. When I visit- ed the museum last November, Jim Woods, Jim Buckley, Peter Neuss and Bob Woods were there to operate the equipment and bring the museum to life. Jim, or Lial James Woods, was 14 when he began a six- year printing apprenticeship at The Temora Independent on March 12, 1928. That was the beginning of a lifelong associa- tion with the Bradley newspa- per family. Woods was a Bradley em- ployee for 21 years and a Bra- dley partner for 46 years in, at various times, 10 newspa- per and printing businesses throughout southern NSW. Jim the publisher is born In November 1949 the Bra- dley family assisted Jim Woods to buy the Crookwell Gazette from John Robert Winning. Woods recalls the office was "an eye-opener -- the plant came out of the ark and the factory space was so limited that a rather stout staff mem- ber couldn't even bend down to pick up a Linotype matrix off the floor". After two factory exten- sions, an office upgrade, plus the acquisition of machinery, The Crookwell Gazette won the NSW Country Press Associa- tion's 1955 W.O. Richards Award for the best weekly newspaper in NSW. Woods said this en- couraged them to increase the size of the paper, to publish twice a week and "it can be said that we had transformed a ba- sic newspaper business into a little gold mine". By the end of the 1950s, Jim Woods had inherited three of the worst printing plants in Australia: at The Crookwell Ga- zette, The Queanbeyan Age and The Braidwood Dispatch.Woods left Crookwell in April 1958 to manage the Queanbeyan Age after A.T. Shakespeare, who had bought the Age from the Fallick family in 1955, had decided to admit the Bradley and Woods families to the proprietorship from January 1, 1957. The Queanbeyan Age was then printed twice a week by a staff much bigger than was needed. Invariably the Tuesday issue hit the streets on Wednes- day morning and the Friday issue on a Saturday morning, resulting in a lot of double time and overtime that was wel- comed by the staff. When Shakespeare had ac- quired The Queanbeyan Age from the Fallicks, the paper had the Rolls Royce of flatbed presses, a Swiss Duplex. Shake- speare sold it to La Fiamma, the Italian-language newspaper in Sydney, to meet his require- ments for cash at The Canberra Times. Thus, when Woods arrived the paper was being printed on an old double Royal press mounted on a wooden floor; the press bounced up and down during printing and made so much noise that staff members could not make telephone calls while the press was running. Woods says he spent his first 10 years at Queanbeyan rebuild- ing the premises and re-equip- ping the plant. Braidwood: the nightmare In the midst of it all, he was confronted with the Braidwood situation -- a dream that turned into a nightmare. Woods was amazed at the apparent pros- perity of The Braidwood Dis- patch, a paper crammed from cover to cover with advertise- ments. The Bradleys joined him in 1958 in buying both the Dispatch (established 1858) and The Review (established in 1907 by one member of the Musgrave family in opposition to the Musgrave-owned Dis- patch) and closing the Review. The Dispatch became the third of three newspapers where Woods faced the task of upgrading the plant extensively. Initially he arranged for the pa- per to be printed at Crookwell. Then came the discovery that for years, none of the advertise- ments had been paid for. The Bradleys and Woods sold the Braidwood paper for £4,000 ($8,000) around 1963 to Keith Pearce, their manager, and in 1969 Pearce found himself sit- ting on a little gold mine when Maxwell Newton came along and paid him $32,000 for the masthead alone. In July 1971 Jim Woods heard that Newton might be interest- ed in selling off his south coast newspapers.Woods telephoned Newton on Friday, July 9, and Newton invited him to talk in Canberra that afternoon. Newton said he wanted to sell the mastheads of the Moruya, Bega and Eden papers for $22,000 but he wanted the money by 11am the next day, Saturday. Newton offered the New life for old machinery and old printers at Queanbeyan Former long-time Queanbeyan age employee, Peter Neuss, demonstrates the Meihle Vertical, the most “modern” machine in the Queanbeyan Printing Museum.