Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate how much opening a newspaper would change my life forever when we printed our first edition of Talk of the Town 20 years ago. Not only have I met the most wonderful people in the last 20 years, but I also got to work for most of those years with my best friend and partner Barbara Hanstein, who passed away in January 2015.
Not that it felt like just a workplace. We were more like a family at our office: we loved each other’s children, supported each other through good and bad times, and always knew we had each other to rely on. We also had the support of our husbands and children, who all worked for us at one time or another along the way.
Running the newspaper was hard work, but so worthwhile. The people who joined us during our journey also became great friends. People who come to mind are Stevie Godson, Val Kilian, Shirley Evans, Janet Hyde. We were also lucky enough to have Karla Venter write for us when we started, until work pressures became too much for her. Averil Oosthuizen and Amanda Mould also covered stories in the early days. These ladies would sit up with us late into the night ensuring that the paper would be finished in time to hit the streets.
Some funny memories of those early days are still so fresh in my mind, like the weekend Averil took 24 photographs, only to find out she never had a spool in her camera (yes, there were no digital cameras when we started). Nothing daunted, she promptly gathered all the people together to re-enact her “lost” photos—one of which was the planting of a tree at the high school, which they had to dig up and replant! That brings to mind how wonderful people were to us, like Neville Hope who owned Photo First. He would open the shop on a Sunday to develop our pics so we could still print and publish on the same day—yep, we came out on a Sunday then.
One evening we were working and chatting, all sitting in the front office when Val Kilian grabbed my son’s skateboard and went running down the passage screaming. We all followed her, and there was a would-be thief climbing in through the lounge window. He got such a fright at the sight of this skateboard-wielding woman that he jumped straight out again and ran away.
Believe me, though, it was not all fun and games. It was a hard slog with long hours, and a constant juggling act to ensure the children were not neglected because of our newspaper obligations. And of course it was nerve wracking wondering whether we could pay our VAT or the paper and ink bills at the end of each month, so it was a welcome reprieve when the then Johncom made an offer to buy us out in 1995.
Our friends saw us through the worst of times and all of them remained with us after the takeover, but it was very different. It was interesting to see how a huge company worked, and how easy it was for them to employ all the staff that were necessary to take the paper to the next level.
My journey with the company—now Tiso Black Star Group—has been pretty hectic, and mostly very exciting. I remained as the sales and marketing manager of the newspaper, later earning the title of managing editor of Talk of the Town.
I then went on to become the chief sales officer of all the community newspapers in the Tiso Black Star Group stable, which at one stage comprised more than 20 titles all over the country.
These days I am the business manager for Tiso Black Star Group Community Newspapers in the Eastern Cape and although I head the other newspapers in the province, too, my heart will always remain part of Talk of the Town.
It’s been a remarkable two decades.