The Little Battler of a News Man

Memories With Ivor Jones & Friends
I HAD AN IDEA OF WRITING AN ARTICLE ON the history of this magazine. However in doing so I thought that I would get in contact with the family of the late Ron Stettler, founder of the magazine. News Man 

Ron was the person who got me started on this aspect of my life in 1984. Jennifer Touzel, Ron’s daughter who many long time residents of the Hills will remember, has supplied me with the following information which I found very interesting.

I will now leave the article on the history of this magazine to another issue.

Knowing that Ron had been working in the newspaper game for quite some time (he was a compositor by trade, and did his apprenticeship at Cumberland Newspapers in Parramatta, prior to starting out on his own at about the age of 26) I asked Jennifer about the Parramatta & Hills News and this is what she had to say.

By Jennifer Touzel “(Dad) had two partners one called Harry Dowling, who operated a printing business in Boorea St, Lidcombe, and the other was Ted Stoney, of Castle Hill, and they printed the Parramatta & Hills News at Bushell Press in Silverwater and later at 5 Conie Ave, Baulkham Hills (this was the former Saw Mill of the area and the land was owned by Mr Hill).

To get the venture off the ground, Dad, Harry Dowling and Ted Stoney (who was Health & Building Inspector at Baulkham Hills Council) each put in 1,000 pounds – quite a bit of money back in 1956.

He had an office in George Street, Parramatta and also at Castle Hill. The office at Castle Hill was in a cottage in Old Northern Road, next to the picture theatre, later known as the Castle Hill Arcade (Castle Mall).

For a number of the early issues of the Parramatta and Hills News, a Castle Hill supplement known as “The Leader” was included in the edition. This was later dropped.

As the publication became established, the printing shop and office moved to premises in Conie Ave, Baulkham Hills.

For the first two years at Conie Ave, Dad – aided by his family (mother Hilda and sister Pam) plus linotype operator Fabian Phillips – worked without a telephone. Can you imagine a present day newspaper being brought out without a telephone or presentday communication?

This was because there were not enough phone lines available and a number of homes in the area shared phone lines.

Dad struggled through for two years without a phone, which was hard to come by in those days, as there was a waiting list and wait we did. So it became a bit like the bush telegraph. The paper was six to eight pages and Dad always managed to fill the paper.

In those early days, newsagents were not permitted to stock free newspapers and a charge of three pence was applied.

Copies of each issue were filed for posterity in the Mitchell Library in Sydney and also at Parramatta Library. But the bulk of the newspapers were delivered to homes in the district by dad in his Hillman Minx car (Nana would roll newspapers in the back seat and I recall delivering newspapers at the age of 4 to the shops in Baulkham Hills.

Dad did just about everything and he soon had a circulation of around 10,000 with Cumberland offering to buy him out, but he refused, and a bit of a newspaper war started.

One day the milkman came to the office and reported he had seen people removing the newspapers from letterboxes after Dad had delivered them. This was reported and because of witnesses this was stopped.

Dad was a newspaper man through and through and a real little battler, and nothing deterred him, hence “Little Battler” is engraved on his resting place.

A great deal of the news was contributed by the community for the community. It was known as the “Voice of the People” and it was written by local residents, who wanted to keep people informed as to what was happening in their local community. People wanted hope and that’s what they got and the area grew along with the newspaper.

Dad would spend a couple of afternoons at the local Barber’s shop where he picked up a lot of gossip and current happenings (some could be printed and some could not).

In those days there were two mail deliveries a day and people used to post their contributions to the paper.

Even when Dad got married in November 1961, Mum (Margaret Rose) told the story that the wedding ceremony had to be planned to fit in with the paper. The wedding was at 6.30 pm on a Thursday evening at the Methodist Church in Castle Hill.

It had to be at 6.30 pm as Dad had to first deliver the newspapers. Mum had no say in the matter! The honeymoon had to be cut short as he had to get back to the office/factory in time to produce the next edition.

Dad was also well known for his intrepid reporting of Baulkham Hills Council meetings and council affairs. At one time he was banned from attending council meetings as he was not a qualified journalist, but he still got the news and printed it. He certainly was no “yes” man for the council. Dad (Ron Stettler) passed away in June 1990 (aged 60) and two days prior to his death attended his last Baulkham Hills Council Meeting.”

* As Ivor Jones reported back in January 2018 in The Hills to Hawkesbury Community News, the “Parramatta & Hills News” was sold to Warwick Dawson and Jim Holmes and renamed as “Hills News” in 1984, and later sold to Fairfax (now Nine) Newspapers. It closed in December 2017.

Photo to go on page with this story is of Christine Touzel with the Heidelberg Printer at Stettler Printing

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