50 YEARS and still going strong
Recounted by Debbie Burgess, Director (nee Bright)
At some point this year, unfortunately I cannot give you an exact date, Bright Print turns 50 (it may have already done so)! This is an enormous milestone for a company in any industry, least of all, the printing industry. The last 50 years have seen significant technological and societal change. More than 500 people have called themselves Bright Print employees and more than 10,000 customers have nominated us as a supplier.
The company started as a single linotype machine in the fibro garage of William Robert Bright (John and Debbie’s grandfather). The garage area was no bigger than 5m x 4m. One of the first clients was Cabra-Vale RSL Club and it is a testimony to all that they are still one of our biggest and most loyal clients.
W R Bright & Sons back then consisted of a single linotype and platen – it was predominantly a typesetting business. It supplied type for Fairfield Printery which was owned by my grandfather’s sister – Maisie Bright. Maisie never married and had devoted her whole life to printing, following in the footsteps of her father (my great grandfather, another Bill Bright!).
The very first William John Bright started in Fairfield in 1928 and at the time of his retirement in 1958 had become the proprietor of one of the regions’s largest newspapers – The Biz (it was subsequently sold to Rupert Murdoch’s Cumberland Newspapers). The Fairfield Museum houses a complete collection of items from the Biz. On his retirement, the then Mayor of Fairfield, held a community reception with over 100 guests, paying tribute to William John Bright’s services to the community.
Upon William John Bright’s retirement, Maisie Bright commenced Fairfield Printery. In 1970 with only 4 employees, my grandfather bought Fairfield Printery off his sister. Her business was in a shed behind her home at 29 Kenyon Street. My grandfather’s business was behind his home at 27 Kenyon Street. It was a matter of literally joining up the buildings in the back yard. It remained a family affair until Ken Worger was employed in 1972 (the first non-family member).
The first 6 employees, in order of employment were:
- William Robert Bright - compositor
- William Henry Bright (my father) - printer
- Lillian Radford (nee Bright – another of my grandfather’s sisters and purported to be the best woman compositor in Australia!) - compositor
- Ted Radford (Lillian’s husband) - compositor
- Julia Bright – (my grandmother) – bookkeeper/cook/delivery/cleaner etc etc
- Ken Worger (who remained with us until he retired in 2010) (commenced September 1972) – compositor/printer/later factory foreman
In 1973, the company moved into lithographic printing when it purchased its first Heidelberg KORD 62 for $11,000. At the height of its letterpress days, the factory contained 17 letterpress machines, mostly Platens, as well as 5 linotypes.
My father recalls one of the most challenging periods in the company’s history was in 1975 when electricity restrictions were put into place. Electricity was rationed and it was turned off every three hours for a three hour period. When you are running equipment that requires lead to be molten to be used for type and the type is allowed to cool down, it was almost impossible to maintain any production. They improvised (as they did regularly in those days) and used oxy-acetylene torches to keep the lead warm. They also worked continuously from Friday morning to Sunday night to catch up with production. At the time they had 5 RSL Club magazines to produce, all on letterpress machines. Dad recalls that many businesses were forced to close down as a result of the electricity rations. My grandmother who lived in the house at the front of no. 27 supplied the sustenance throughout the nights and days.
W R Bright & Sons started its major expansion when Cumberland Newspapers was forced to sell off its commercial printing business in 1975. By the end of 1975 the company had 22 employees and the business was now becoming a major player in Sydney.
Working conditions though were very difficult – typical of the era. The factory in Fairfield was built on low lying ground so whenever it rained for 4 or 5 days it would flood and 4-5 inches of water would cover the entire factory floor. Everybody wore gumboots. The oil that was in the drip trays at the bottom of the machines would end up all over the floors making them very slippery.
Over the years, the premises were added to and in early 1991 no 31Kenyon Street was acquired. Conditions though did not improve until the move to the new factory at Wetherill Park in 1996. For the first time we were able to move around freely without getting wet feet!
Over the years there have been many more acquisitions and technological advancements. One of our biggest achievements was the relocation to Wetherill Park. The new premises allowed us to amalgamate a number of acquired businesses including Printout, Western Separations, and Points & Picas. It was exciting to be working in a purpose built factory that was state of the art at the time and allowed for further expansion.
Some of our biggest acquisitions occurred in 2000 with Bloxham & Chambers Printers and then again in 2004 with Rivertsone Printing; both iconic printing businesses in their own right. In fact Bloxham & Chambers Printers was established in 1912 and would also be celebrating its 100 year history this year.
In addition to acquisitions considerable change was made to production processes, technology and systems. In 2007 we purchased our first 10 colour A1 press – a brand new Komori. In 2008 we introduced systems to ensure compliance to the ISO 14001 environmental standard. This led to the winning of a number of environmental awards, including Gold Medal for Environmental Systems twice at the NSW Print Awards and being the first NSW Printer to be certified to Level 3 of the PIAA’s Sustainable Print Standards. The ISO14001 certification complimented our Quality Certification to ISO 9001 which has been in place since 1996. In 2010 our entire workforce undertook training, and was subsequently awarded qualifications to Certificate III or IV in Competitive Manufacturing.
To survive 50 years in any industry is an enormous achievement. Think of all the companies that have come and gone just in the last 10 years, least of all 50. Iconic printing companies such as Potstill Press, Superfine, Chippendales and McMillans to name a few.
Our commitment to Bright Print remains just as strong, if not stronger, than the commitment of our grandfather and father 50 years ago. We will continue to weather the storm that our economy is raging within. We will continue to seek out better production methods, more efficient and new types of equipment and improved systems. We have to continue to look forward, plan appropriately and remain vigilant to the opportunities and challenges that are around the corner. This means not only staying true to our printing heritage but also embracing the new digital opportunities and markets that are emerging.
Some interesting facts from 1962:
- Prime Minister – Sir Robert Menzies
- Australian Ballet is founded
- Cahill Expressway is opened
- NBN Television in Newcastle commenced
- The Australian Open was won by Gary Player
- NSW Rugby League Grand Final – St George best Wests 9-6
- Population was 10,700,000
- In the US – President Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolds
- Release of the first Beatles recording ‘Love me do’
- Popular singers were: Neil Sedaka, Shirley Bassey, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Chubby Checker
- The Beverley Hill Billies and the Dick Van Dyke Show were on TV
- The first trans-atlantic television signal was relayed
- Nelson Mandala is arrested and jailed
- The average family income in the US was $6000
- Life Expectancy is 70.1 years
The family tree
First generation - William John Bright (19/9/1886 – 31/3/1966)
Second generation - Lillian Bright – Maisie Bright - William Robert Bright (18/2/1915- 20/10/2010) and Edward Bright* (twins) – Ellen Bright
Third generation - William Henry Bright – Robert Bright – Kathleen Bright
Fourth generation - Debbie Bright - William John Bright
*Edward Bright remained in newspapers after William John Bright sold The Biz to Rupert Murdoch and in 1968 moved to England to manage the News of the World.