By Robert “Caveman” McKenzie’s reckoning he has been part of life at The Ensign ever since he was born.
His father Murray came from Napier to take up the position of print manager at the newspaper, which is where he met his future wife, Elsie, who also worked in the bindery department.
The print manager supervised all the printing done at The Ensign, except the newspaper, and was also responsible for the bindery.
Mr McKenzie said he spent many hours at The Ensign office situated at the opposite end of Mersey St to where it is today.
“My association with The Ensign goes back 59 years. I’ll be 59 this year,” Mr McKenzie said.
Although his father was one of the bosses, he used to clean the offices at night to earn extra money.
“I used to go and help him. I never worked there but I used to go there a lot with dad.”
He had many memories of a bygone era including reporters who smoked at their desks.
“I can remember . . old men upstairs sitting at their desks smoking their pipes. Nobody smoked outside in those days.
“One old boy, when we went around the back, one of the reporters, used to flick me a half crown out the window.”
Mr McKenzie used to watch the operators making printing blocks using melted lead.
“They’d be sitting at their machines, the lead vat would be going at the back there’d be fumes coming off it and they’d be sitting there with a fag hanging out their mouth. It must have been bloody unhealthy.”
Sometimes his father would ask an operator to make a printing block for his son.
“Out would come the lead stamp with Robert McKenzie on it.”
Later, after the printing process no longer used lead, Mr McKenzie found a use for the metal.
“We used to buy quite a bit of that old lead from The Ensign for shooting, for casting bullets.
“It was good for that because it was a bit harder.”
Just before a horse race meeting was a busy time for his father and the bindery staff.
“When the races were on, it was all go because the fields would come out and then they would have to have the race books printed ready for the next day.
“They’d be there working half the night. It was very labour-intensive in those days.”
There was a big generator in case there was a power cut.
“Dad used to start the generator up once a month.”
When The Ensign office moved from one end of Mersey St to the other in 1971, Mr McKenzie was about 13 years old and helped with moving the equipment.
“I think they did most of it over a weekend. It was very well done.”