Four decades of news in focus

PUBLISHED: 10:52 15 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:40 06 May 2010

I BECAME the owner on Tuesday of a spanking new digital camera which can do just about everything bar vacuum the house. Although there are millions of people throughout the world who have already done the same, I think my event is noteworthy for two reaso

I BECAME the owner on Tuesday of a spanking new digital camera which can do just about everything bar vacuum the house.

Although there are millions of people throughout the world who have already done the same, I think my event is noteworthy for two reasons.

The first is that it did not cost me a penny.

This little beauty came from my friends at the Comet who are naturally generosity itself but normally their largesse extends to the odd biscuit or sweet.

The second is that it marked the day from when anything I have written in my journalistic career could now be recalled in any one of the three sections of our regular From Our Files feature.

To save you turning to the letters pages to check it out immediately, let me remind you that these have tit-bits from 20, 30 and 40 years ago.

So there we have it - I have been here for four decades. It doesn't quite go back to Victorian days but it was before man set foot on the moon and we went over to decimal coinage. (The two are not connected, of course, but to my mind they are just as alien as each other)

In the days when you knew what was going to happen in the seasons, spring was just around the corner when I got on the bus to travel to Hitchin and begin work at The Comet's predecessor The Pictorial.

It was housed in a quaint, centuries-old half-timbered double fronted building at 25 Bancroft.

The bow windows right on the footpath contained masses of photographs from that week's paper and one of my first duties as the cub reporter was to take responsibility for changing these each week and that involved laboriously typing out long captions for each one, cutting them out and sticking them on before fixing the pictures to a series of boards with drawing pins.

It also became my job to do the church calls, traipsing round on a Monday morning to the various ecclesiastical residences in the town to get the latest snippets of news from the parishes. It usually amounted to a list of forthcoming weddings, jumble sales and special services. But such things helped make up the content of the paper in those days.

I came to know the difference between Empire line and A-line wedding dresses while it remained a mystery to other youths of my age.

When the paper came out, I was going round the town again with an armful of voucher copies delivering them to many worthy offices including those of the police, coroner, magistrates' court and probation office. And at every one I stopped for a chat, which was great for building up contacts.

And then there were all the council meetings to attend, from parish upwards. I particularly remember the road safety sub-committee meetings dragging on.

And one got to places by bus or train - I could not afford a car until I had been in the job for two years.

There's a world of difference to the job these days. But one constant has been the camaraderie of colleagues. There's a good bunch of them currently and I would like to thank them for what they did for me this week.


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