A WOMAN who was one of the best-known faces at The Gazette for nearly 50 years, has died at the age of 79.
Mavis Driscoll, who ran the newspaper’s office in Church Street for many years, started work at the then Hants and Berks Gazette in 1949 when she was 16 and the business was owned by the Basingstoke firm of Bird Brothers.
For her first day at work, her parents bought her a bus ticket, a pair of shoes and a handbag, and with her keen eye for detail, she was soon operating the switchboard, checking off adverts and maintaining ledgers.
The newspaper then had its offices and press in Church Street, and on Friday afternoons, a sharp tap on the floor from below was the signal for her to go down to wrap newspapers.
When in 1975, the newspaper moved up to the current building in Pelton Road, in Houndmills, Mavis was the chief advertisement clerk.
But after a spell at Gazette House, she moved back to the town office and shop in Church Street, helping thousands of customers to place announcements of births, deaths and marriages, place adverts, order photographs or just buy a newspaper.
She was famous for her patience with customers and said she never changed jobs because, when she started, people were liable to gain an unwelcome reputation as a “rolling stone” if they flitted from one employer to another.
She also sometimes needed her patience to deal with a string of young reporters working in the office behind, not all of whom shared Mavis’ approach to the routines of life.
At the end of each day, after checking the safe was locked several times, she would perform a gymnastic manoeuvre to get into her car in the tiny parking space at the rear of the office. She had learned to drive at the age of 40.
When she retired in 1998 on her 65th birthday, Mavis recalled how the business had very much been a family concern in the early years, prior to Basingstoke’s redevelopment for the London overspill.
She said: “The papers in those days had a great family atmosphere – there were still four or five members of the Bird family working there and you knew almost everyone.”
Of her career, she added: “I was brought up to do a job properly and that means the customer counts.”
Mavis, who lived in Hook, where she grew up, was a member of St John’s Church in the village and a member of the WI. She never married, which she regretted, being very fond of children.
Her funeral will take place at Basingstoke Crematorium at 1.15pm on January 28. Family flowers only but donations can be made to Parkinson’s Disease Society.