Page 10 - December 2016
P. 10

|  Getting Stick:  |                              |  Pat Swadling (10453)  |
       Coping with Comping                   union became involved, and insisted all
                                             apprentices attended each week.
             verseer: “You can start in the     We were the only newspaper apprentices
             Comps on Monday next week.”     on our course, which presented certain
       ODid I want to be a comp? My          problems, not least the speed at which
       sights were  rmly set on the Linotypes; I   we could set type from the case. We used
       just didn’t realise how far in the distance   cases at work so little that the layout
       (apprenticewise) they were, but at least I   really hadn’t registered properly, and
       was on the move and o  the galley press.  unfortunately the teacher wouldn’t allow
         The Head Comp was a wonderful       us to put in pieces of paper with the letters
       old chap (at least he seemed old to me   on them, particularly during exams.
       then). He explained what he expected    Casting o , the imposition of 24-
       and put me under the wing of one of the   page booklets were all basically a closed
       very experienced comps, who gave me a   book to us (no pun intended), and of
       spare setting stick. He was also good at   course, we duly received stick (again no
       explaining what I had to do. Strange as   pun intended) from the jobbing o  ce
       it might seem now, in those far-o  days   apprentices for our perceived lack of skills.
       there were a few journeymen who felt if   They were hand-setting type all day, so
       they told you anything, you would take   they could hand-set at what seemed to me
       their job.                            an incredible rate, invariably completing
         I soon discovered that newspaper    several lines while we were still struggling
       comping had very little in common with   on the  rst couple of lines.
       working in a jobbing o  ce, although we     Our lack of knowledge about the work
       did have a ‘special’ smaller comp room   of a jobbing o  ce became most evident
       which printed the billboard posters and   during examinations: if you look at
       letterheads, and other similar items, but I   the accompanying examination sheet
       never ventured into that territory.   you can see why. Virtually none of the
         Our job was basically to make up the   questions, except for number six, had
       display advertisements, from one-inch   any bearing on us producing several
       single columns to full page adverts.   editions of a newspaper each day. We all
       The body of the adverts were set on the   approached these exams with a great deal
       linotypes with the occasional Ludlow   of trepidation.
       lines, particularly for the page adverts. We     I don’t know if the teachers made any
       also had a few cases of display type, and   allowances for us or not, but the other
       the head comp usually left this to your   apprentices on the course certainly didn’t.
       discretion as to the size and suitability.  They told us we weren’t ‘proper’ printers,
         By now I had joined several of our   among other things less repeatable. Still,
       apprentices who attended the local art   never mind, we found a way of stopping
       college printing department one day a   that dead in its tracks . . . we pointed
       week. The problem was that the Overseer   out how much more the newspaper rate
       wouldn’t always allow us to attend college   of pay was going to be when we became
       if too many people were on holiday    journeymen, and no, there were no
       or absent because of sickness, so our   vacancies!
       attendance could be slightly irregular.      Back at work in the real world, one of
       This eventually changed when the      the important jobs for the comps was
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