It was 1981, there was still a National Coal Board, still jobs to be had at the coalface. Still a PR department whose tasks included luring impressionable young reporters into the bowels of the earth.
Even at the time, as I recall, it seemed a somewhat unlikely assignment. It must have been one of the very last times any British journalist was enlisted in a recruitment drive for miners.
Margaret Thatcher had been in Downing Street for two years. And if she hadn't yet fully embarked on her campaign against the traditional industries, it was already clear that most pits still open had no long-term future.
Rossington Colliery near Doncaster was reckoned to be an exception. Though first sunk in 1912, it was being rebranded as a leader in a new wave of super-pits.
Working there, as I could see for myself, was nothing like the grim endurance I had heard such tales of during my upbringing on the Durham coalfield. One of my teachers had spent his early working years creeping on his back through a seam just 12 inches thick, chipping away the coal with a pick wielded awkwardly behind his head. Re-training for a life at the chalk-face must have seemed an escape from hell. A hell his family and their neighbours had lived through for generations.
What I witnessed at Rossington was a world away from that. I saw (perhaps I was kept away from them) no tunnel you couldn't stand up in comfortably. The actual digging was done not with pick and shovel but by a mechanised toothed wheel the size of a small house.
There might have been fewer jobs than in the old days, but I felt happy recommending them to my readers. I'm afraid any who took up my suggestion were not embarking on long, satisfying careers.
Within three years Rossington would be close to the epicentre of trouble in the infamous miners' strike. In 1993 it was closed. And though it reopened in 1994, in private ownership, it was much reduced in size, its still considerable potential unexploited.
The winding gear turned for the last time in 2007. Construction work began last year on a £100million, 1,200-home housing development on the site. Like others in the area, the landmark spoil-heap is becoming a green hill with no obviously industrial past.
Phasing out coal is undoubtedly a good thing environmentally. But ever since the pits' decline set in, a string of very visible power-stations have continued operating within a few miles of Rossington. They've gone on all these years burning imported coal, much of it dirtier than the variety they were built on. Right under the noses of the unemployed ex-miners.
I remember thinking in 1984 that Arthur Scargill, the miners' union leader, could hardly have done more to seal the pits' doom if he'd been Thatcher's secret agent. It's a matter of history now that Thatcher deliberately goaded the miners to strike. It was part of her successful plan to break their power.
When she became PM, coal was still an important nationally-owned industry. By 1990, at the end of her reign, it was a broken relic heading for private hands.
And the relevance of all this sad history to today's political scene? It's a potentially even sadder scenario.
The Tories may have a harder time painting doctors as "the enemy within" than they did with the miners. The latest poll I saw suggested 57 per cent of the public are still on the junior doctors' side in their dispute with Jeremy Hunt.
But there can be little doubt that Hunt keeps deliberately goading them into what is curiously known as "industrial action". And in so doing he is following a classic right-wing formula.
Provoke the workers to the point where you can blame them for a failing service. Then claim public ownership doesn't work and hand control over to private enterprise. People who put profit before service.
With minor variations, that's what Thatcher and Hunt's party did to coal, steel, gas, water, electricity, telecoms, the railways, the Post Office and - perhaps most scandalously and disastrously of all - council housing.
And if you think it's a good prescription for the NHS, you haven't had the experience of being presented with a bill before you get into an ambulance. Or being pressured to shell out for unnecessary therapy. Or having to sell your home to pay for life-saving treatment. Yet.