ACT News


Man with printer's ink in his veins

Jim Woods, 99, the inspiration behind and proprietor of the wonderful Queanbeyan Age Printing Museum is testimony to the miraculous medicinal powers of Glauber's Salts.

(Last Sunday's column was about Mr Woods and his museum and we promised a second instalment on Monday from our interview with him at his museum.)

But to go back a step: Mr Woods' lifelong involvement in printing and newspapers began when he was just six - selling the local paper on the streets of Temora. From that modest beginning he went on to have a long career running country newspapers. He is probably best known in Canberra-Queanbeyan as the owner of the Queanbeyan Age from the 1950s until 1994.

But back to Temora and to his childhood there.

In those days, he said, you could leave school at 14, albeit with little prospect of having a job to go to.

But when he was 14 the newspaper company he'd served so loyally as a paper boy, often cycling enormous distances to deliver his papers offered him a job on the printing and production side of the paper.


Mr Woods was a delight to interview. He is a born and enthusiastic story teller and his reminiscences kept coming .

When he recalled the company offering him a job his voice and his eyes showed what a miracle this seemed at the time. ''A job!'' he marvelled, to make the point that these were hard and depressed times (1928) when jobs were as scarce as ''Bunyip's teeth''.

He remembered running home with the wonderful news and his his mother telling everyone, ''Jim's got a job! Jim's got a job!'' But then his father came home and when he heard what kind of job it was, he was not impressed. ''He's not bloody well going to a printing office.''

''I thought 'Here's trouble,' '' Mr 'Woods remembered, and a difficult evening followed.

But mum must have triumphed, for his father eventually agreed that his son could give the job a trial. The teenager finished school on a Friday and went to work the following Monday, something almost unheard of during the Depression when the transition was more usually one from school to the dole.

But what were his father's reservations?

''He had a very good reason. In those days there was still the old setting [of printing type] by hand, leaning over, absorbing the dust. All of dad's mates who'd been in printing were either dead or dying of lead poisoning,'' Mr Woods said.

''But as soon as I got to work the boss gave me a trade union paper. I took it home and I read a paragraph that said if you took Glauber's Salts you wouldn't get lead poisoning. So I took Glauber's Salts every Monday morning for years and as you can see [tapping his chest as proof] I'm still here.''

He is indeed and though Dr Glauber's efficacious salts are not as popular item as they were way back in the 1930s, they are still available.

Meanwhile, there's a social and intellectual dose of salts for those visiting the terrific Printing Museum where most of the old printing contraptions are kept in working order.

''We could print a paper tomorrow'' Mr Woods said with the help of a team of dedicated printing history geeks.

The museum is at Farrer Place in Queanbeyan and is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm to 4pm. Groups are catered for and inquiries can be made to the Queanbeyan Visitor Information Centre, 6298 0241.