Suffolk/north Essex: The annual wazygoose and other newsroom traditions remembered as we mark the EADT’s 140th anniversary
As the East Anglian Daily Times celebrates 140 years in print, Peter Theobald, of Stowmarket tells Lynne Mortimer about eels in the press room, the annual wazygoose and the story behind the picture of him in a newspaper hat.
Peter Theobald confides with a laugh: “There was a time when BR was heard to say, ‘The Theobalds want to mount a takeover bid!”
BR was BR (Ralph) Wilson, then managing editor of the East Anglian Daily Times who was referring to the fact there were, at one time, five Theobalds working for the paper.
Of course, the Wilson name was also famously associated with the Anglian, having been founded by Ralph Wilson’s great uncle, Sir Frederick Wilson with Ralph’s father, Walter, also being part of the company.
Peter Theobald had an older brother, Raymond, a younger brother Norman and two cousins who worked on the production side of the business. Now aged 86, Peter Theobald brought in a picture of himself wearing one of the hats the men used to wear in the press room to stop blobs of ink landing on their heads.
They were crafted from the pages of the paper and, a close look reveals a Halloween story on the brim which means it was probably taken in late October or early November.
“We used to take a newspaper off the press and fold it into a hat. One of the staff photographers took the picture,” says Mr Theobald who says he was not especially delighted to be selected to model it.
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He looks back on his years at the Anglian with fondness. He says it was a great place to work.
“Do you still have a wazygoose?” he asks me.
A what? I ask him to spell it for me.
“The wazygoose was an annual outing to the seaside with the families. We would have lunch at a restaurant. We went somewhere one year and we drank the train dry before we arrived,” he laughs.
I nod with a smile. This news won’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who worked in the newspaper industry back in the mid to late 20th century.
Mr Theobald was in the army until 1957 and then he joined the East Anglian.
His brother Raymond was well known to many as he used to sell the papers outside its Carr Street HQ. “I was brought up on newsprint,” he says.
He recalls his brother shouting out the latest news that there was to be a royal birth because a British princess was pregnant.
BR Wilson put his head out of the door and told him, ‘Expecting, not pregnant’.”
“This was back when the EADT had their general printing,” says Mr Theobald who stayed with the company for around 18 years, before taking over a pub in Stowmarket.
“I worked with Vince Gummer (later Mr Stringer) in the publishing department. We did the packing.
“We brought the papers out in piles and we packed them up, counting them out in quires and copies. We tied them up and the (delivery) drivers carried them out and put them on the vans.”
“My cousins Douglas and Harold were there some years after we had all been there. And my father had connections with the business too. He sold Stars on the Cattle Market.
My younger brother, Norman, was in general printing and when that closed down he went into the press room but didn’t like it and left.”
Mr Theobald talks about the time the printers went on strike.
He can’t put his finger on the exact date but recalls that a number of people, including the managing editor Ralph Wilson rolled up their sleeves and got the paper out. “There were one or two office people and us in the publishing department. We all mucked in and got a paper out.
“When a fire broke out where the paper reels were kept we still produced an Anglian the next day.”
Still working there when the EADT moved from Carr Street to Lower Brook Street he recalls there was, for a time an uncovered square in the middle of the press room floor through which you could see the water go by. “One night we pulled out a big fish, it might have been an eel,” he reveals in a story that would probably turn a health and safety inspector pale with shock.
“I know a lot of stories about Carr Street... but I couldn’t possibly tell them,” says Mr Theobald tantalisingly and gives me a broad smile. “It was a wonderful place to work.”
For more on the EADT’s 140th anniversary, see our special webpage here