I SPENT a very pleasurable lunchtime last Friday catching up with the man who was my editor half a century ago.

Our respective wives were also in attendance at the splendid Falcon Inn in Prudhoe, which was just as well, as they were called upon many times to act as interpreters as their aging husbands are both stupendously hard of hearing.

Witticisms and bon mots from days gone by literally fell on deaf ears, as even with hearing aids turned up to full volume, we each struggled to hear what the other was saying as we mined the memory banks of local newspaper life in the 1960s.

We bellowed and roared at each other, turning heads several tables away, while the wives nudged, scowled and translated our ramblings on long gone local councillors, famous court cases and which of our former colleagues might still be alive.

As we sat either side of 70 comparing ailments and disabilities and medication intake, it was good to look back on a very different newspaper industry to the one we have today.

There were no computer screens, no social media, no mobile phones, no ergonomic seating or teams of public relations people sending screeds of emails which could be turned into instant copy at the Macclesfield Advertiser.

There was a typewriter as big as a Mini at every desk, surrounded by squares of blank paper which stories had to typed on, before being handed to a sub editor, who would either screw it up in a ball and tell you to do it again, or cover it in incomprehensible squiggles, such as 36pt Bod bld which were in fact instructions to the Linotype operators, who then laboriously typed out the whole story again on a clanking machine which turned them into columns of lead type.

There were two big black telephones in the newsroom, shared by the half dozen or so reporters on duty and they represented quite a challenge to a boy like me. Only posh people had telephones, and I had never used one.

Part of the weekly routine was ringing round the local clergy checking on weddings, funerals, jumble sales and the like and I shamefully recall ringing the Catholic priest Father O’Connor, and being nonplussed when an Irish woman answered the phone.

“Is Father O’Connor there?” I asked, only to be told he was out visiting the sick.

“Would you be Mrs O’Connor then?” I quavered, and was stunned when she slammed down the phone and the newsroom dissolved into gales of laughter.

When I started it was an all male office, with much juvenile and reprehensible behaviour of a frequently flatulent nature, and we were all appalled when a female reporter was brought in – one of her first actions being to put up curtains at the newsroom’s only window.

Another prominent feature was the emergency equipment provided for staff in the event of a fire in the Dickensian building which boasted only one exit – a wooden flight of stairs. It was a large red bucket, with “Fire” emblazoned on the side, which was filled with water in which swam innumerable dog-ends, and dead bluebottles.

The level of water varied from day to day, depending on how many times it was knocked over, and how often it was topped up by senior reporters who could not bother going to the freezing outside loo after a bibulous lunchtime in the Swan wi Two Necks across the road.

Proud as we were of our little paper, much of the week was spent providing stories not for it, but for the Manchester Evening News or the Sentinel at Stoke on Trent for the editor’s freelance agency.

The Evening News was a voracious consumer of court cases and wanted full details of every case to go before the local bench the moment they had finished. To ensure this was done, they employed a rottweiler of a news editor called Mellor who had even senior reporters quaking when he rang up about a story.

In those pre-email days, all stories had to be telephoned over to patient copytakers, and names had to be spelled out to avoid misprints.

A colleague was trying to spell out the name Maurice phonetically on one occasion, but fled the room in humiliation when she said: “M for Mars Bar, A for apple, U for onion….”