History of our times

KIMBERLEY CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 05:00 08/11/2012

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Fifteen decades of Southland Times history was opened up to the public last night, and one former staffer had a few stories of his own to share.

The Times of our Lives exhibition, which opened at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery at a special event last night, includes dozens of photos, stories, and memorabilia from the newspaper's past and present and is part of the 150th celebrations.

Bob Wills, who was the Times' advertising manager for 42 years starting in 1952, said one of the biggest changes during his time in charge was technology.

The change in technology brought about a change in staff, which in turn meant a few changes to the staff rugby team, he said.

In the early days of his tenure at the Times there were a lot of men on staff working as linotypers and compositors.

"Between The Southland Times and The Southland News we used to have a reasonable sort of rugby team. When the Otago press came down for Southland versus Otago games one of the features of the day was a press game," Mr Wills said.

"With the change in technology the girls took over and we lost our numbers."

Looking around the exhibition, which Mr Wills said was "very, very good", he said he was keeping an eye out for a photo of former managing director RJ Gilmour, whose father had first bought the paper in 1869.

"He was the big wheel in the company when I first started, and he was so old but still very interested in newspapers," Mr Wills said.

"His last dying wish was to have an afternoon back in his office on the first floor, and in those days there were no lifts. I was a young rugby player so I was designated to carry him from the foyer to the first floor."

The exhibition contains many more stories, taken from Michael Fallow's book Times of Change which he has described as a "scamper through 15 decades".

Times staff worked with museum staff to put the exhibition together, printing photos from the book and their accompanying stories to display on the walls, and matching memorabilia from both the newspaper's and the museum's collections.

Times general manager Sue Gregory said it was "absolutely fantastic", and museum manager Gael Ramsay said they were delighted to be bringing the exhibition to the people of Southland.

A 20-minute audio slideshow is also part of the exhibition, detail changes at the Times and how the way reporters cover stories has changed.

Mr Fallow hoped people appreciated the progress.

"We are in a position to do so much more in how we communicate with our community."

In recent tragedies such as the Easy Rider sinking, the public was communicating with the newsroom online straight away.

Editor Fred Tulett said the exhibition and book were a reflection not just of the development of The Southland Times and associated community papers over the past six generations, but also of the communities we live in.

He was confident The Southland Times would be here in another 150 years.

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- The Southland Times

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