The centuries-old craft of printing became a highly skilled job as workers progressed from assembling type into pages by hand to operating sophisticated linotype machines and creating luxurious full-colour magazines.
Training eventually took years and when apprentices passed their final exams, it was an occasion for a boisterous celebration called “topping out”. This involved being doused with liberal amounts of printing ink and other anti-social materials.
These lads were pictured in 1981, after happily undergoing an ordeal which marked the end of studies and the start of full pay packets. They are seen in George Street, Dunstable, outside the entrance to Waterlow’s, once a giant printing factory employing 1,700 people.
But there were clouds on the horizon. Someone invented word processors and computer page design, and within a few years the labour-intensive printing factories were facing ruin.
But even before that, the happy working conditions at places like Waterlow’s were under scrutiny.
Also in 1981, the tough new owner of the company, Robert Maxwell, arrived by helicopter and set about changing things. Mr Maxwell, famous for his buccaneering ownership of the Daily Mirror, died mysteriously in 1991 leaving a mountain of debts. The Waterlow’s factory was demolished in 1995.
> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.