Wicks signs off after 34 years’ toil

Advertising consultant Steve Wicks is retiring after 34 years at the Oamaru Mail. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Advertising consultant Steve Wicks is retiring after 34 years at the Oamaru Mail. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Things were a little different when Steve Wicks started at the Oamaru Mail in 1989.

The daily broadsheet was printed in-house at the Coquet St facility, nothing was done via computer and the advertising consultant was only 30-years-old.

Mr Wicks is set to retire next week, a month ahead of his 65th birthday.

He never expected to stay in one job for so long, but satisfying work and good company kept him in the position, he said.

Born in England, his first job was at Halfords in South London, a motoring and cycling store.

Mr Wicks holds his award-winning advertisement in 1996.
Mr Wicks holds his award-winning advertisement in 1996.
After immigrating to New Zealand in 1979 he worked at Robertson’s Hardware, then at the former Oamaru Public Hospital.

"Then I got the job at the Oamaru Mail and I’ve been here ever since."

It took about 40 people to put the paper together back then, before printing and operations moved to Dunedin.

Some of the staff had been there for more than 30 years, which baffled him at the time.

"When I started there as a young man I thought ‘how on earth have you been there that long?’ and now look, 34 years later.

"I’ve seen so many changes over the years."

He used to design advertisements and lay the paper out by hand.

Now there was a dedicated design team in Dunedin and the layout was done on the computer.

"Everything we did was on index cards.

"When computers first came on the scene we had to have training on how to operate a mouse, none of us had done it before."

Cameras still worked on film, a limitation that led to one of his favourite moments with the Mail.

One day photographer Anthony McKee needed to photograph some building boundaries above Oamaru in a helicopter, but somebody needed to pass him the rolls of film.

Mr McKee was strapped in the back of the helicopter and hung out the side while Mr Wicks was in the co-pilot seat handing the photographer whatever he needed.

To get a clear shot of the buildings the vehicle had to be tilted over, a fact nobody had warned him of beforehand.

"The helicopter pilot tipped the helicopter over on the side I was on.

"My first time in a helicopter, with nothing between me and the ground but the glass door."

He also fondly remembered the work they would put into Christmas parades, with big floats he would spend Friday afternoons painting.

"Back then we had a lot of laughs.

"I guess the reason I stayed was because I worked with decent people."

Designing advertising and being able to look proudly at a finished product gives him a sense of satisfaction and there was nothing like the sound of the printing press starting up.

"To hear that press go, it was like a heart beating in the building. You don’t get that now."

Over time his duties changed to focus more on sales, but he still found satisfaction in the position.

He planned to find a new part-time job, but wanted to take a few months off first.

There was plenty of work to be done around the house, along with his hobbies of motorcycling, cycling and model restoration.

He also wanted to spend more time with his three grandchildren and parents.

"I’ve never been unemployed since I was 17. It’s exciting, but it’s a little bit surreal."