Great newspapers need more than journalists. The unseen back-room workers are often unsung heroes. Some of those who made the Post tick over the years share their experiences Stephen Leung, telephonist Stephen Leung Yuk-kiem has been a key cog in the South China Morning Post machine since May 1967. He was the first of five blind telephone operators the newspaper has employed. He was thrown in at the deep end from the very beginning. Soon after he joined, the Cultural Revolution-inspired riots broke out and he had to spend nights sleeping by the switchboard. 'The riots were very dangerous,' he says. 'There were too many homemade bombs around and getting to and from work was difficult. Also there were curfews, so I had to stay [at work]. It was very exciting.' Mr Leung was one of the original group of six blind people trained to be telephonists in 1966 by Hong Kong Telecom and the Hong Kong Society for the Blind. It was considered the best job for blind people at the time. The alternatives were factories or working in sheltered workshops. 'The Post paid the most. I started on $480 a month, times 14 because we used to get two months' bonus. The government paid blind operators $350 a month, with no bonus. I was the highest paid blind operator in town.' He worked on a special Braille PBX switchboard, a system with manual cords. Instead of lights flashing to indicate an incoming call, small pins would pop up. He would feel along the board in front of him for the protruding pin, then find the relevant extension and plug in the cord to connect the call. There were 37 extensions and 10 outside lines when he started. By 1970 these had grown to 140 extensions and 25 outside lines. Cheung Shik-sum, advertising sales Newspapers don't just appear out of nowhere. Before the pages are put together, a mock-up is produced to show what goes where. It's known as a dummy, and until he left the Post in 1973, Cheung Shik-sum, 70, produced it every night. In those days it was a pretty laborious process. Mr Cheung began at the company's Wyndham Street offices in 1949, at the age of 16, learning to melt lead. The following year, he was shifted to the advertising department and taught to make up pages. At first, he enjoyed juggling single and double column ads and helping to fill holes in the pages with the Post's own ads. One of the best clients in the 1950s was Whiteaways, the British department store, which always had half-page ads. He used to make up the ads on wood before they were printed. He was given a free hand to select print sizes and fonts. All the company specified was whether they wanted words in a bold typeface. 'As the years went by, the job became difficult. When the Post bought the China Mail, we had to work on all three papers, including the Hongkong Telegraph. Also, we accepted late ads for the Post until 11pm. 'The early pages normally went off without a hitch. It was always those last few that caused problems. The people in editorial were not happy to see me when I came along late at night.' He says that the worst times were right after the move to Quarry Bay, in 1971. Teething troubles with the Photons, the first computers that the Post used, often meant that the whole dummy had to be remade, resulting in more than one 20-hour shift. Natalio Ritchie, proofreader Natalio Ritchie, 82, started as a proofreader for the China Mail in 1965, reading through final versions of pages to check for accuracy. He survived the retrenchments that followed the folding of the paper in 1974, transferring to the Post until he retired in 1980. He was brought back in 1986 and retired a second time right after the 1997 handover. 'I enjoyed local news best because I found it interesting and it changed daily,' he says. 'The Post had 20 readers, working staggered hours. Our main tools were the dictionary and knowing how to spell names and places. It could be boring at times, but it wasn't a bad way to make a living.' Maria Dunn, shipping list sales Maria Dunn, 75, didn't just spend her entire working life at the Post. She spent all 40 years, from 1950 to 1990, doing the same job. Ms Dunn started the shipping lists, ads that went into the Post's blue shipping pages. Admiral Dunn, as she became known, went around town collecting ads from shipping companies and pinning them down to annual contracts. She designed the ads and logos for the companies and rewarded faithful clients with prominent spots in the paper. She made up all the shipping pages, proofread all the ads and, when necessary, forced last-minute changes on the shipping editor, T.S. Koo. 'If there were typhoons, then sailing dates and destinations changed. 'Sometimes there were really a lot of changes and T.S. used to grumble his head off. I always won the arguments by asking him if he wanted his bonus [which depended on profitability, and therefore advertising revenue]. Sometimes, positioning ads was a headache. I remember one of the bosses said he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. 'One column is made up of 20 inches. All you have to do is pile them up until you reach 20 inches and then stop,' he said. 'So I suggested he could help me draw up the next page. He did. When he reached the 20-inch mark he just yanked two ads, without checking whether they had guaranteed positions. I never had any more trouble from that quarter,' she says. When editors needed to plug holes, they went to Maria for one of her surplus ads. People were more flexible then, and really didn't mind that their ads appeared on pages other than the Shipping News, she says. Judy Ng, classified sales A sunny smile and fate combined to propel Judy Ng Ting-ting, 46, into the world of newspaper advertising 28 years ago. The 17-year-old was working in the kiosk at the Lee Gardens Hotel. One of her customers was Keith Jackson, then publications manager of the Post, who commented on her 'enchanting smile' and offered her a job. 'It was just like that,' recalls Judy, now manager, China services and training, classified advertising. Mr Jackson said he had just the job for her at the Morning Post Bookshop at the Star Ferry. So she went the next day to check it out, called him at Quarry Bay, and the deed was done. She spent five years at the bookshop, arranging displays, making sure stocks were topped up and assisting customers. She was promoted to bookshop supervisor in 1980. That same year, she applied for a transfer to advertising and Dial-an-Ad. She got it on her second attempt. 'I was so nervous, I failed the typing test the first time,' she said. The job entailed taking calls, typing the information given by callers, positioning them on the screen, and then sending out bills. One of her first clients still calls and asks for her. He refuses to place his ads with any of the other ad takers. If she's not available, the message is always: 'Tell her to call the one she hates most.' The client tends to have rather a rough manner on the phone, which has become a joke between the two of them; the other ad takers are happy to let Judy deal with him.