Looking back as historic Inverell building goes under the hammer

The former Inverell Times office at 37 Vivian Street was passed in at auction yesterday.
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Click the photo to see more Inverell Times history.

While there were no bids for the property, real estate agents The Professionals, and auctioneer Brian Baldwin,told Fairfax Media there had been interest from several local developers in the premises, and the were hopeful of selling the building within the next week.

For almost 80 years it was home to our local newspaper, but following the Times’ relocation to a smaller premises at 166 Byron Street at the end of August this year, the building has been empty.

Prior to the construction of the building, the Times had operated from at least half a dozen different premises in the Inverell CBD between 1875 and 1939.

The Inverell Times moved to the Vivian Street building in October 1939.

It had been especially built by the Times’ then owner Northern Newspapers Pty Ltd as a printery and newspaper production centre.

It survived a fire in the 1950s, which former employeeBrian Winmill recalled created“a hell of a mess”.

“But they cleaned it all up and got the machinery going again,” he said.

Laurie Barber started work as a journalist at the Times in 1958, and returned to work there several times.The final stint came in the early 1980s when he was editor.

“We’d wait for the press to start and the whole building would rock,” he recalled.

“Then Eileen Dwyer would find some corrections and we would have to stop the press.”

In 1968 a second storey was added to the front portion of the office.

“David Sommerlad’s office was upstairs at the front, with my office behind his and then the reporters at the back,” Laurie said. “Next to the reporters’ office was another room (later) used by typesetters.

“At the front was a board room. In the locked cupboard were half a dozen cans of beer which years later had to be thrown out because they had gone bad.”

The late Ron Pickering and Peter Seagrott were the last printers to work on the press when the Times was still printed in the building.

The printing of the paper was moved to Armidale, then to Tamworth, but the commercial printing business remained until 2002.

Brian Winmill worked there for more than 40 years, from 1959 until the printery section ceased operations.

While there was only about five employees working on the factory floor at the end, during the 1960s, Brian recalled that there were about 50 employees working in the building.

“There were a variety of printing presses there,” he recalled.

Brian had been familiar with the building since he was a child as hisgrandfather had worked there.

His daughter, Julie Heard started working as a table hand on the factory floor when she was a teenager, and she still works for the Times in advertising, carrying on a long family tradition.

Carolyn Millet started as a journalist not long before the printing business ceased.

She started as a cadet journalist in 2001.

“Jenny Baldwin was manager, and the newsroom was made up of me, Leanne Michael and our editor Ned Makim,” Carolyn recalled.

“Thanks to their patience with, investment in and high expectations of me, The Inverell Times was where I made big gains in the skills, ethics and attitude I needed for a journalism career.

“I joined the staff about the time the press operations wound up, and still remember the quiet machinery, low light and workshop/darkroom smell I experienced when I let myself in through that part of the building every morning.”

Speaking of letting herself in, Carolyn said she cringes when sherecalledone night she ducked into the office with her future husband.

“We were buying a house, I had a photo of it on my work computer and we just couldn’t wait to email it to some relatives overseas we’d just been talking to on the phone. Well, a good Samaritan thought it was a bit strange to see the office lights on after hours – and as we left, the police and Jenny were just arriving.”

A memory that still makes Carolyn chuckle is the Times’ “very high-tech document conveyance system: The Bucket”.

“Kind of a dumbwaiter set-up, it was literally a bucket on a string, and saved many a trip up or down the stairs.

“I was pleasantly surprised, when I returned to the Times for a short stint as acting editor about 10 years later, to see The Bucket still in use. I hope it has a place in the new office somewhere.”

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