He went on to spend eight happy years at the paper, helping to shape its successful future. And now, coinciding with the Chad’s 70th birthday, he has written a book, ‘Pages In A Life: A Reporter Remembers’, recalling those halcyon years .
Years when reporting meant scrawling shorthand into notebooks and tapping words into typewriters. When the digital revolution was a mere twinkle in Bill Gates’s eye.
"I am not a computer person at all,” admits Graham, 72, identifying instantly the era in which he learned his trade. "I have never come across one with a sense of humour.
"I like to build relationships, but you can’t build a relationship with something that blinks at you when you press a button.
"It was a black day for me when we got rid of compositors (workers who arranged type for printing) and went over to computers.”
That day had not yet happened, though, when Graham was at the Chad, published the old-fashioned way by Linney’s and based at offices off Westgate before moving to Newgate Lane.
And one thing computers cannot do is erase the kind of memories that are captured in ‘Pages In A Life’.
A light, 102-page read, the paperback charts Graham’s encounters in court rooms and council chambers and on sports fields that helped to start a young journalist’s career.
It is littered with amusing and revealing anecdotes as Graham covered jobs that ranged from the arrest of the Black Panther, multiple murderer Donald Neilson in Rainworth in 1975, to bring-and-buy sales.
He was even dispatched to Germany twice. First, for a feature on local Army squaddies out there and then as part of a town-twinning delegation for Mansfield.
One particular assignment takes pride of place in the book, though – a meeting with legendary cricketer Harold Larwood when he returned home to Nuncargate and was reunited with his former England and Nottinghamshire fast-bowling partner, Bill Voce.
Graham’s piece began: “Two men in their autumn years stroll across a Nuncargate field, chatting, smoking and stirring within each other memories of 40 years ago.”
As Graham stirs his own memories, he says: “Journalism was very different to today. It wasn’t easy for me because I am not very outgoing, but I learned to bullshit my way through!”
Such bad language needs to be pardoned throughout the book. However, Graham makes no excuses for it because the job at the time was knee-deep in it, particularly at court and within sport.
"The aim of the book is to entertain, not offend,” he says . “It is not intended to be a well-researched social history but just my memories.
"Bad language was part and parcel of my experiences, so it seemed daft to write something filled with asterisks.
"For example, one of my duties used to be to cover Stags A team games. At one of them, a lad, who looked no older than 14, was sent off and I went into the dressing rooms to ask him why.
"His reply must have used the f-word 12 times in one sentence!”
Born and raised in Bestwood Park, Graham went to High Pavement Grammar School in Nottingham. As a shy 20-year-old, he decided to get into journalism by writing to various papers.
"The Chad was the only one that showed any interest,” he says. “The day I started, the body of a woman was found dumped by the motorway. My mum was worried that her wimp of a son would have to report on it, examine the body and conduct the post mortem!”
A similarly scary prospect faced Graham when he went to a pub in Shirebrook to interview a group of Hell’s Angels who, at that time, had a bad reputation and were angry that a booking they had for a venue in Kirkby had been cancelled at the last minute.
As he approached tentatively, a voice behind him said: “Hang on Graham. I can’t let you die on your own!” That voice belonged to Chad photographer Roger Grayson and was the start of a lifelong friendship between the two.
Their bond led to Graham’s marriage in 1996 to Glenys (nee Marshall), who was a big friend of Roger’s wife, Frances, both former receptionists at the Chad. And it is even the reason ‘Pages In A Life’ came about.
"We still go out as a foursome from time to time and, occasionally, we start reminiscing,” explains Graham.
"Some of the funny things from our Chad days crop up and, therefore, I thought it was time I put them into words.”
The surnames of fellow staff members, even Roger’s, are omitted from Graham’s book, no doubt to protect him from possible lawsuits! But it is impossible not to recognise giants from the Chad’s history, such as Tony Spittles, sports editor Stan Searl and long-serving editor Jeremy Plews, all of whom he speaks of with warm affection.
"My time at the Chad was a really good grounding,” says Graham. “It was very basic but, at the time, you were told how to do the job and you did it properly.”
Tales of his training at Richmond College in Sheffield are also related in the book and the day in 1973 when he became a fully-qualified hack.
Promotion to the role of sub-editor soon followed before he left Mansfield to join the ‘Leicester Mercury’. “I wanted to see if I, as a plodder, could adapt to the pace of working on a daily newspaper,” he says.
Seven years at Leicester were followed by the happiest time of his career as a sub-editor at the ‘Eastern Daily Press’ in Norwich, where he remained for a further 21 years. But he and Glenys have now returned to their roots in Mansfield.
Since 2006, Graham has been semi-retired, although he keeps himself busy doing voluntary work for an Oxfam bookshop in Newark and for The Workhouse museum in Southwell.
His love of the written word is never far away either. He had a letter to a national newspaper published for the first time the other day – one that reflected his disdain for politicians. And ‘Pages In A Life’ is not the first book he has released.
His first, ‘Love In Time’, was an anthology of short stories about relationships in six different decades from the 1960s onwards.
How did it do? “You get royalties six months after publication,” says Graham. “I think I got enough to buy a cup of tea!”
‘Pages In A Life’ will surely fare much better. Hopefully, it will be everyone in Mansfield’s cup of tea.
‘Pages In A Life: A Reporter Remembers’ is priced £6.99. It can be bought on the Amazon website or direct from the publishers, Austin Macauley.