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Visit to Crescent Card Co

3rd September 2011

A meeting of the BPS Essex Branch was scheduled for Saturday 3rd September at Len Friend's Crescent Card Company in Heybridge, but the twelve members who attended discovered that it was still 1964. This was the year, according to Len, which marked the high point of British engineering (and when Queen Victoria died, according to Spike Milligan). Looking round the workshop we could quite believe we had been transported back 47 years.

The morning started off upstairs, where Len had assembled a number of publications and artefacts from the era, relics of local vanished businesses like Cowells, QB and the Anchor Press. After perusing these and ruminating on the march of progress we held a brief meeting to discuss future branch activities. We were then ushered down into the press room to start work. Everyone was given a time card by the suspiciously youthful overseer and instructed to clock in at the machine by the door. This was when we found it was not only 1964, but a Friday. Len wasn't going to pay overtime rates for Saturday working!

Tasks were allocated to everyone and Mike Perry went back upstairs to make a photopolymer plate while others started on text for a commemorative keepsake of the day. This was printed in black on the Heidelberg then taken to the back of the room where a rainbow border was added on the Arab by John Alexander, the ink disk rotator disabled to keep the colour blend.

Meanwhile, Alan was making a mitred box border while Charlie set to work on the lead cutter, swiftly reducing Len's stock of spacing to a heap of unusably small pieces. When the block was ready it was locked up in a forme with the border which was to add the colour to an eight-page sheet of litho-printed text forming the centre section of a local fair programme. This was printed on the Vertical Miehle, red and green simultaneously by means of a split ink duct.

On the little Pearl platen, Mike occupied himself proofing a collection of blocks showing local scenes from South Essex, while Ron Rookes handed out a poster which he claimed to have printed from non-existant wood letter on an eye pad of some sort. Of course, as the rest of us were still in 1964 we didn't understand a word of this.

It was a very enjoyable morning, most of us getting an opportunity to see and use much larger and more sophisticated equipment than our own, and to watch a master printer at work. We were all grateful to Len for his hospitality but it turned out that, as none of us remembered to punch our card on the way out nobody was going to get paid, even at 1964 rates!

Report by Alan Brignull - Photography Ron Rookes