ONE of the original papers in Stawell was the Stawell Times.
It was also the start of a long career in newspapers throughout Western Victoria and South Australia for Ken Dadswell.
Mr Dadswell was 16 when he went directly to Frank Plaisted’s home, apologised for interrupting his lunch and told the newspaper owner this was the job for him.
It wasn’t long before Mr Dadswell started an apprenticeship and the love of the industry began.
“I must have ink in my blood,” he said, as he tells the story of his maternal grandfather, Robert Burford, working for the Ballarat Courier for 61 years.
Mr Dadswell remembers hand-feeding the sheets of paper into the printing press.
“You would work for hours and hope nothing went wrong. Sometimes we didn’t finish until 2am,” he said.
Mr Dadswell always had his sights set on learning the Linotype – a machine used for retyping stories to press into hot metal, ready for the press.
“I was intrigued by the machine, built a replica at home and sat up many nights learning to touch type,” he said.
Mr Dadswell got his opportunity on the Linotype when a colleague at the time left and Mr Plaisted, who was Linotype operator himself, was unavailable to do the task.
At 24, Mr Dadswell started to look elsewhere for employment as a Linotype operator and found a position which paid well at the Ouyen and North West Express.
Mr Dadswell said his time in Ouyen was easy compared to the work he did in Stawell.
Opportunity only knocks once and you always have to take it.Ken Dadswell
“The work was easy and allowed me to enjoy my extra time playing the sport I love – tennis,” he said.
About 12 months later Mr Dadswell, an opportunity to purchase a group of newspapers was presented to him.
“Opportunity only knocks once and you always have to take it,” he said.
So with his determination, experience and the support of his father, he took his first steps into officially owning and managing the press room.
He grew the business and took on more printing for other newspapers.
This was also around the time Mr Dadswell married Jean Dundee and started his family.
At 30, Mr Dadswell decided it was time to move on and sold the five newspapers.
On a family holiday visiting relatives, Mr Dadswell was offered a job “too good to refuse” and found himself employed in Mount Gambier at the Border Watch.
Mr Dadswell spent three years as a Linotype operator once again before purchasing a corner store, selling many items – none more ironic than newspapers.
A year later, Mr Dadswell was offered another opportunity, again “too good to refuse” for his business.
He sold and moved to Kerang to take on the role as foreman at Kerang New Times.
Mr Dadswell returned to the newly amalgamated Stawell Times-News and was there for the buyout of the publication by the Ballarat Courier. Mr Dadswell worked for two years through changes before he moved again.
Mr Dadswell leased the St Arnaud Mercury for five years before the Ballarat Courier approached Mr Dadswell to return to the Stawell Times-News once again.
“I negotiated a position of power. I became the managing editor and also held a position on the board,” he said.
Industry knowledge allowed Mr Dadswell to report on significant news events throughout the Wimmera.
“One of my greatest memories was waiting hours for a hang glider to be airlifted out from where he was stuck in a gap in the Grampians. I waited hours to get the perfect photo,” he said.
Mr Dadswell retired from the Stawell Times-News in 1988. He has fond memories of a place where his career started and ended, but reflects on making the most of every opportunity.
“You always have to remember – opportunity only comes once, and you always need to grab it and go. You might never get the same offer again,” he said.
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