Kevin Jones and Rod 'Dodge' Purtell have 91 combined years of printing experience

HAWKESBURY residents Rod ‘Dodge’ Purtell and Kevin Jones have been mates and colleagues for 42 years.

Both employed by Hawkesbury Press in the days when newspapers were produced via hot metal typesetting, the duo have sustained two company takeovers (by Rural Press in the eighties and then Fairfax Media in recent years), and more role evolutions than you could shake a hand compositor's stick at.

When Rural Press moved into its purpose-built premises at Bells Line of Road in North Richmond in the mid-eighties, Rod and Kevin’s view from the top of the hill was very different to what it is now.

Looking down over Peel’s Dairy, the duo have watched the area’s population and traffic inflate steadily over the years, and have witnessed the rise of the entire Redbank development - up and over the pastures where, back in the day, they would send golf balls sailing during their breaks.

Rod’s 49 years of service

Rod - known as ‘Dodge’ to his colleagues - began his printing career as a camera operator in 1969 at Hawkesbury Press in Windsor.

His nickname was given to him by his mentor Stan Stevens, who he said also provided him with valuable work and life skills.

The 65-year-old North Richmond resident is now the production coordinator for Fairfax Media Print and Logistics, and is celebrating 49 years of continuous service.

The printing industry is in his family: his mum wrote historic books, his wife Debbie worked for the local newspaper for 20 years, and now his three boys work in the field - one’s a printer, one’s a publisher and one’s a reel hand.

“I’ve also got a son-in-law in the industry - one of the publishing boys married one of my daughters and also works here. It’s pretty full-on!” Dodge laughed.

“We added it all together, and we’ve got well over 100 years service with the company.”

Given the technology changes in the industry over the years, Dodge’s job has been redefined on numerous occasions.

“In about 1972 with the unions I ‘broadbanded’ - which meant you took on another trade - and I became a camera operator and plate-maker. Then I became a graphic reproducer, then they told me in 1992 that I was going to learn this thing called pre-press, and be a pre-press operator. I said, ‘give me a tie and I’ll be a boss!’ and that’s how I started off in the job I have now,” he said.

Dodge said it was sad to see the newspaper industry suffer due to competition from digital press.

“I’ve only ever worked in newspapers, so I’m a newspaper person. It’s a pity it’s going out the door, and with the next lot of technology it will all be digital and newspapers will be a thing of the past,” he said.

“But while they’re still here and people read them, it’s a pity we can’t convince more young people to read them - and not just read their iPhones like we all do.”

Kevin Jones and Rod Purtell at the Fairfax Media North Richmond print site with the last ever print block used to produce the Sydney Morning Herald front page in 1983 before going to offset printing. Kevin and Rod have worked together in the printing industry for 42 years. Picture: Geoff Jones

Kevin Jones and Rod Purtell at the Fairfax Media North Richmond print site with the last ever print block used to produce the Sydney Morning Herald front page in 1983 before going to offset printing. Kevin and Rod have worked together in the printing industry for 42 years. Picture: Geoff Jones

Does he still read print media? “I take the Gazette home. I don’t use Facebook - it’s just a personal thing with me - but I do read the bulk of my news off the mobile.”

He said he and Kevin still get along well after all these years. “We’ve worked together for a long time. We’re bad boys together!” he laughed.

Outside of work, Dodge has a lifetime membership with the Windsor Leagues Club for services to football, and has been a volunteer with the Rural Fire Service for the past 50 years.

Kevin reflects on 42 years

Kevin began work at Hawkesbury Press in 1976 as a printer’s hand and machine compositor, and today the 58-year-old Glossodia resident is the prepress manager for Fairfax Print and Logistics.

He and Dodge come in contact daily in the workplace. “Dodge deals with all the clients and gets all the information from them and creates the job sheets that we work from in pre-press,” said Kevin.

“Whenever there’s something tricky, we talk and work together to see how we’re going to deal with it.”

Does Kevin have a nickname at work? “Not one that you want to know!” he laughed.

Kevin still reads print media at home, and said it was sad to see the industry declining - and strange that the job he was originally hired to do, no longer exists.

The last ever print block used to produce the Sydney Morning Herald front page in 1983 before going to offset printing. Picture: Geoff Jones

The last ever print block used to produce the Sydney Morning Herald front page in 1983 before going to offset printing. Picture: Geoff Jones

“The trade I did at tech was a four-year apprenticeship and it taught you about layout, design and typography. I started right at the very end of hot metal type, when type was cast in lead slugs and we used linotypes and intertypes. The basic principles are still the same, but the technology and the way it’s done is very, very different,” he said.

He said automation has seen a steady decline in the number of people required in certain areas of the press site; while the majority of workers used to be employed in the pre-press area, now there are only two people in this department per shift.

“There has been a lot of change in terms of technology and people, but what I’ve tried to do is adopt it and be on top of it so I’m an employable person. And so far it’s worked - I’ve only been employed for 42 years!” he said.

The North Richmond site has expanded a great deal since Kevin and Dodge moved there with Rural Press, and Kevin still remembers exactly what the North Richmond shops looked like back in the eighties.

“There was the North Richmond Hotel, then there was Jimmy Apostalu’s fruit shop, John Kelly’s bakery, a butcher and a chemist on the corner where the traffic lights are, and the Caltex servo was a little old shed on the opposite corner. That was it in terms of commercial real estate,” he said.

“Hannapak - or Westrock as it is now - was known as Hannamatch, and it was a little tiny building, nowhere near as big as it is now. The Hawkesbury Sporting Club [now Panthers] was a little tin shed. Colo High School wasn’t even there - it used to be down on the corner of Charles Street and Bells Line of Road, in a temporary demountable.”

Outside of work, Kevin is the NSW SES Hawkesbury Local Controller, and has been volunteering his time since he was 16 - before he began his print career.