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Printing the Cambridge Independent

A Tribute to the Cambridge Independent (Part 2)
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A Tribute to the Cambridge Independent.

This is part two of a two-part story written by Cambridge Historical Society committee member Carole Hughes.

Staff at the Cambridge Independent

Inde Staff, from left Marlene Romeyn, Gib James, Joy Cooper, Alison Short, Marie Thompson, and Lynette (a little sweetie)

Editors came and went but Gordon Chesterman made a huge input.  Eventually he went to Hamilton and became a City Councillor.   He arrived in Cambridge after completing time in Fiji at the Fiji Sun.  I knew him before this when he was a skinny little 15- or 16-year-old boy who came from Hamilton Boys’ High School to Hamilton Girls’ High School where I was, and we had dancing lessons.  Hilarious? Yes!  Excellent editor and journalist, he eventually employed me as I was writing articles on the different organisations I was working with.

Gordon Chesterman dared to be different.  Challenging controversy, he became bold and even more challenging.  He changed the headlines to be bigger and bolder, and the Inde won the Community Newspaper awards. In 1978, Letters to the Editor were at a premium, and he eventually admitted he wrote them.  He spent 2½ years at the Inde a polarising, funny, intelligent man and I think that he really enjoyed it.

In 1976 the Inde started to be printed by offset  print in a tabloid form. Proofreader Len Chivers retired, and Lola Silcock the Company’s secretary retired after almost 18 years.  She had built up the stationary department with Jean Wallis.

Next was Lesley Wyatt.   A very astute, very good journalist.  Same High School, same class as me, she went on to beat me in English in the sixth form!  Lesley eventually returned to Cambridge and set up “The New Edition” in opposition to the Inde. Following Lesley was Brian Impson in April 1979, and then George Boulton took over the job at the end of 1983.

This was at a time when I had a personal disaster and went into hospital at the age of 42 to have a triple bypass.  Loyalty to the paper by all the staff can be shown by the fact that while I was in there for a few weeks waiting to go to Greenlane, I was working and sending articles back to George.

Then there was the advertising department all crammed into the same room as the journalists, with George, Gib and the editor in their own little rooms.

Marlene Romeyn was the advertising manager and she had Iza McVeigh assisting her. There were fashion features using our children and local models.  Local shops loved it, we all loved it, Marlene loved it, and we loved her.  She died a few years ago before her due.

The town was small, and it loved its community newspaper and modern technology didn’t take over for many years.

There was a time, before I started working for them, when Cambridge Repertory was going through a very bad patch.  Membership was low and they were close to disbanding. I wrote an article saying book your seats and go – or Repertory goes!  I can still see it, George put it at the bottom of Page 1.  They were booked out and this continued probably to this day. Productions roared ahead with Mona Ross and Gordon Sutherland taking leading roles in musicals.  This was the power of the local community newspaper.  Shows were reviewed, success plus one.

The Cambridge Museum building was at this time the local courthouse.  We had a magistrate, and our lawyers represented clients. Many cases were reported. I remember a local schoolteacher who was rushing home from school at lunchtime to get her husband’s lunch, when she crashed into a car at an intersection. She was taken to hospital, wrote off her vehicle, had to go to court, was represented by local lawyer David Jecks, fined $40 and had to go to Hamilton for driving remedial lessons. Who was the teacher? Me!

Everything was listed: births, deaths, marriages, engagements, anniversaries, weddings with photos and a report of the wedding. Women’s clubs, the A&P shows, children with their pets, features for Plunket, Repertory, columns.  Before I worked for them I wrote “Let’s Go Shopping“ a full length two-column feature suggested by Gordon Chesterman, eventually taken over by Marlene Romeyn.  George had a regular column headed “George Is On About”.  The blokes loved it.

Anyone who has lived in a small town will tell you how important the community newspaper is.  It informs, entertains and helps groups to flourish.  Groups back in those days like the Cambridge Society of Arts, the establishment of the Cambridge Community Arts Council, Cambridge Plunket, La Leche, Cambridge Parents Centre, Rotary, Lions, Jaycees, Cambridge Business and Professional Women’s Club and many more.

Salute the Inde! – as former Cambridge Museum CEO Eris Parker did when she wrote an extensive booklet on the Cambridge Independent. Thank you, Eris.

Carole Hughes
CHS Committee Member