Friday, December 13, 2019

Paper Boy

Not me, I didn't use a bicycle, but the weather is about right.
A comment from yesterday's post from Skip, with a follow-on comment from Borepatch regarding delivering newspapers sent me down the memory trail. Though it was a long, long time ago, there are things I still remember about delivering the newspaper like it was yesterday.

First of all, I distinctly remember getting up at 0600, Monday through Saturday (there was no Sunday paper), every week. The paper had to be delivered come rain or shine, come heat or cold, I took it as a responsibility to get that paper to my customers on time and with a minimal amount of fuss. (With one exception, explanation to follow.)

Most of the time I accomplished exactly that.

So six days out of seven I awoke to the "click" of my clock radio followed immediately by the National Anthem. The time I had to get up coincided with the time that the local radio station (WCFR) came on the air. As radio stations seem to broadcast all the time these days, that playing of the National Anthem at sign on (and again at sign off) is probably a lost thing. Too bad that.

So I started my day with the Star-Spangled Banner (to this day if I hear a "click" and then the opening bars of the anthem, I get a bit of a nervous twitch, a sort of Pavlovian response), I'd throw my clothes on, grab my paper bag and head out to the driveway to get the papers and stuff them in my paper bag. (There was a guy who's job it was to deliver the correct number of papers to every route, by car. If he was off, he had to come back out with the missing papers. I don't recall myself being short but once or twice the whole time I had the route.)

Then it was to the streets. As I recall I had about 40 houses to deliver to, not too bad, the route covered maybe a mile, mile and a half, only part of which was uphill, the part at the end when I had to walk home when finished. Never a problem except the one morning where it was about 20 below zero, as I walked back up the hill, I couldn't really feel my legs or my cheeks anymore. There was a temptation to sit down and rest for a bit.

Yellow marks my paper route, back in the day.
Google Maps
Yes, I picked up the pace and got home before frostbite settled in, it was close.

I delivered the paper in the rain as well. There was a flap on the paper bag (which I recall as being made from some sort of canvas, it was water proof at any rate) which kept the newspapers dry but didn't do me much good. I had to walk the route and place each paper in a specially dedicated place at each house. Somewhere out of the wet. No riding down the street and flinging the paper onto the porch or lawn (or roof), no sir, we were civilized.

Friday was collection day. A lot of folks would leave an envelope with their payment (always cash), others would expect me to come round Friday afternoon and knock on the door to get the money. I tried hard to convince those recalcitrants that leaving the money in an envelope saved me a lot of time. Of course, there were seven or eight diehards who were convinced that thieves would walk off with their dollar a week. (That never happened by the way.)

Some folks would leave a tip, some didn't, I treated them all equally, after all, the paper was paying me to do the job (I think it was about 10 cents per customer per week). It wasn't much but four bucks was huge money for a small town Vermont kid. Enough to keep me in comic books and Cokes in the manner to which I became accustomed. The tips were squirreled away for a rainy day. (Or the occasional candy bar at the store!)

Saturday I would head down to the corner store, flush with cash from my collection the day before and the few who always seemed to wait until Saturday. There I would peruse the latest offerings from DC and Marvel comics (I was partial to Sgt Rock and Sgt Fury), purchase a couple, grab a Coke and saunter back to the ancestral dwelling to spend Saturday as a "man of leisure" with nothing better to do then read my comics and drink my Coke.

I remember the year I gave it up. The paper (it was the Rutland Herald) never had a paper on Christmas. One year they decided to go ahead and publish on Christmas Day. I was aghast, it was barbaric, it was horrid, it meant delaying Christmas morning until I had delivered the paper. I knew damn well that my kid brothers would be unrestrained and my parents would no doubt indulge their desire to open presents before I returned.

So I let all of my customers know that there would be a paper published Christmas morning, but they wouldn't see it until the afternoon. Only one guy bitched about that, and he was a guy that was about three weeks in arrears on his payments. Oh well, call and complain I says, wail to the Heavens I says, see who gives a...

He did complain and the paper said "We'll look into it." They called me, I said it was the afternoon or they could get someone else to deliver it. Also, said complainant was behind in his payments. The guy at the paper told me, "don't worry about it, I told the guy I'd look into it, I didn't tell him that I'd do anything about it." After that though, I figured it was time to hang up the bag and do something else for a living. Cutting grass and shoveling snow was my new gig.

Man there were days I missed that paper route! The new gig was hard work!!

At any rate. I think I had that route for five or six years, started in junior high right up until high school. It was simple, it got me out in the fresh air, I got to meet people, and it put spending money in my pocket. Life was simpler then. It was a good experience. Too bad the printed newspaper business is dying out, every kid should have a paper route at some point in his/her life.

The paper I delivered and the town I delivered it in.
(And no, I never met any of the Simpsons.)
(Source)
By the way, Happy Friday the 13th.

Full moon was last night, but it's too damned cold for werewolves or vampires, so I guess I'll be okay...



38 comments:

  1. Delivering the Juneau County Reminder is how I frostbit both of my front paws!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Easy to do up in your neck of the woods I reckon.

      Delete
  2. When we lived in town, I was dad's hired help. Lots of chores, and I got to eat. When we moved out to the county, I got my "paper route". Pig farmer down the road, cotton farmer out west a couple miles, and the High Plains Hog Market. High Plains was my high school work. Every Saturday, rain or shine, head down to the hog market to scoop up and sweep out the leavings from the Tuesday sale. $20 bills a week! Dad told me he didn't worry about me ever having a job after my gig there. I wasn't too proud to work at anything...

    After coming home smelling like pig dookie the first time, mom made me strip to my skivvies on the porch. And shower immediately. I kept a change of clothes in the trunk after that. When you've been in it for several hours, you don't smell it anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amazing what we humans can get used to innit?

      Delete
    2. Because of that, I understand why politicians act the way they do after years in DC. They just don't smell themselves anymore.

      Our legislative sessions should be important and short.

      Delete
    3. Working at KFC in the kitchen at closing got me covered in gunk and greasy filth. Then there's the job at the not-prison-because-supposedly-insane place. Both required closing the garage door, stripping down and throwing clothes into the washing machine and then proceeding to a delousing/decontamination station for cleansing. Bleh.

      Same routine when going to fighter practice or mowing the yard. Walk into garage, close door, derobe, proceed to decontamination station before getting anywhere near Mrs. Andrew.

      Cleanliness is next to Mrs. Andrewness. Plus, well, um, ur, dangit, once I'm done with filthy fun or job or chore, it bugs me to be dirty. Especially under my fingernails. Can't stand the feeling of gunk under the nails. Filthy filth. Must clean, muuuusst get cleeeeaaannnneeeed. And, yes, I have used one of those kitchen 3M scrubby pads on dirt. Scrub, scruuuuub. If Lady MacBeth had those and Dial soap and Dawn detergent, she would have been a much happier person.

      As to Congress, well, all offices should be fireproofed. At random intervals, or after 3 terms, the doors close and lock, and gas jets turn on and ignite and burn everything in the office clean. Sterilize. Fix for next customer. That would keep them on their toes. And work for the perpetual bureucratic level staffers and some lobbyists. Plus get rid of any genetic samples left by people genetically sampling... And then I'd go home, strip down in the garage and get deloused/decontaminated with a smile, knowing I helped save America...

      Delete
    4. Epic comment, truly epic. I hereby coin a new term for an excellent comment, here used in context...

      "That was a Beansian comment!"

      Delete
  3. Never had a route myself but I can remember kids delivering the afternoon paper on their bikes. The adults started delivering when that afternoon paper stopped and we switched to the morning one. Had experience cutting grass at home (a big yard) so I asked a neighbor if I could cut their lawn (not as big) and did that during junior and high school and through college along with other part-time jobs during the university years. That neighbor had a good-sized yard and a monster of mower, old, heavy and cantankerous. Felt good to have coin in the pocket that didn't come from the parents. Good post Sarge to bring back some pleasant memories. Now off to check the UK election returns, it appears that Labour supporters have had the same reactions that the left had here back in 2016.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leftists are the same the world over. They can't help themselves.

      Delete
  4. I read something a while back that many successful CEOs had jobs as children and McDonald's or newspaper boy / girl were at the top of those. At least you're the assistant to the CEO of house du Sarge!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Another great post as usual Sarge. Brings back a lot of memories of frosty mornings and not being able to handle the papers very well with numb hands.! Full moon was spectacular here last evening. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the numb hands.

      Nothing like a full moon over a snowy landscape. We had that here as well.

      Delete
  6. It wasn't my paper route, but I filled in for a friend on a couple of occasions.
    The job was an early awakening to the fact that most folks were good people, and a few were absolute jerks.

    I can agree with what STxAR said above about smelling of animal poo. In my case, and odd for a Philly city boy, I had a summer job working for the state of Pennsylvania as a farm laborer on the grounds of a nearby state hospital.
    On the days when I came home after I worked the dairy barn, my procedure was to remove all outer clothing before entering the house, and shower immediately. As STxAR said, by the end of the day you just don't smell it.

    I had some later experiences with pigs when our farm friends raised them, and by comparison, cow poo doesn't smell all that bad. I didn't say cow poo smelled good, but pig poo smells awful.

    Good post. Some vivid memories surfaced.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the way to my Mom's in NH we drive by a pig farm. There are days where one doesn't breathe for a good half-mile. I'll take cow manure any day. (Over pig crap, of course.)

      Delete
    2. Got stuck behind a hog truck on a busy two lane road once... ugh!

      Delete
  7. My best friend Mike and I had a lawn mowing business while Dad was stationed at Webb. We lived at the bottom of a hill in Base Housing, there were only 3 buildings in that sections 2 duplexes and a single. We had to push our lawn mowers and the manual edgers up a hill just to get to the start of the housing area. We'd mow a few lawns at $3/lawn, then walk back up hill to the top and back down to home. In Texas in Summer. But we had cash. Dad had a rule that I saved half and could do what I wanted with the rest. For that lesson, I'm eternally grateful. While it's no longer half, it is substantial and has stood us in good stead all these years.

    I vaguely remember a paper route, but I think I was just subbing for a friend. I also baby sat. I always had a little cash, enough for a Pepsi (Sorry Sarge, I'll drink Coke, just not my preferred soft drink) and those hand pies you could pick up at 7/11 (the name escapes me now). I always had cherry. Mike and I would walk over to the baseball diamond sit in the stands and ponder the biggest puzzle in the world (aka Girls) trying to figure it all out.

    We didn't....but life was good anyways. Still is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hostess Fruit Pies, unless you're close enough to New Orleans and then they are Hubert's Fried Pies, which beat Hostess by a mile.

      Mmmmm... Fried Pies, Fruit Pies, mmmmmmm....

      Delete
    2. Just pie in general man, I love pie!

      Delete
    3. Hostess Fruit Pies for the WIN! Probably a good thing I'd forgotten them, as I might try one again and 1) hated them, thereby ruining a treasured childhood memory and (not Or) 2) put myself into a sugar high induced coma.

      Delete
    4. Remember, if you hate them now, it's because "They sure don't make them like they used to!"

      Delete
  8. Really like that first image. Simpler times; no cell phones, no texting, no XBox, no tablets, You'd get the news once or twice a day and it was more than enough - not 24/7.

    That was quite some route!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Eldest brother had a paper route. So did middle brother. By the time it was my turn, some adults had found they could make enough money from it they could live and took over a bunch of routes and did it all by themselves. I even think they drove to the paper to pick up their allotments.

    I did do a yard mowing thingy. Which I hated. With a passion. Yard work as Allergy Boy sucked the big one. But people just weren't paying me to sort their wargame counters (yes, everything must be sorted and counted and set up just right..) or play D&D. Or read books. Oh, well, had to earn filthy lucre one way or another.

    Later, after moving into the House, I thought I would enjoy yard work. Yes.... and No.... Still sucked, was nicer than mowing for angry people but still sucked.

    Hate newspapers and I hate yard work. Dirty filthy things. Must scrub clean...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another Beansian masterpiece!

      (I really don't care for yard work, never really have.)

      Delete
  10. I started subbing after the sixth grade and got my own route halfway through the seventh.
    I had about 70 customers in a subdivision of one acre parcels (high rent district)... most were very generous at Christmas.
    I made it a point to put the papers where it was convenient.
    Initially, it paid about $1.00 a day, but each year an allowance was made and there were other ways to increase the income, so that by the time I finally stopped at the end of my Senior year in HS I had more than doubled the income.
    Then I went into the Navy and took a pay cut.

    That paper route also offered opportunities to do yard work and the extra money was nice, but the best part was it meant I didn’t have any yard work at home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a sweet gig. Pretty standard for military pay to kinda suck. But in comparison to delivering papers and yard work? Ouch!

      That's right about the yard work at home, as I had a job delivering papers, my brothers got to help do that, I was semi-exempt. Sweet!

      Delete
    2. It was sweet.
      I was thinking further and realize that I still remember the names of most of the customers and can still picture their houses.

      Delete
    3. I only remember one of my customers. Probably because she was a school teacher, single, attractive, and had a huge lawn. An all day job. I knew her from school.

      Delete
  11. Great post, Sarge! Brings back memories of my first paying jobs. I never had a paper route, but mowed plenty of grass, and then became the neighborhood "Fix It Kid" and moved into radio and TV repair, and then did car stereo installs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you've been a radio guy for a long time, that's pretty cool!

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I was fortunate to be able to turn a hobby into a career!

      Delete
  12. Ok, so I was the mean mom and when the #1 son managed to flunk out of college at the end of his sophomore year, I gave him a month to get a real job before he had to start paying rent. In the meantime I made it clear I wasn't paying for his cell phone or his dates with the chick who was the reason why he flunked out...so I handed him the newspaper, said look in the want ads, and Hey, lookit that, they need a paperboy, good thing you have a bike, and check it out!! This route is right down the street!! Want a ride over to the Gazette office so you can tell them how much you would love to do this??? He got and kept the route for 3 years, even after he was working on the roofing crew for real money. And with his moderately severe asthma, wintertime was not fun, but I only gave him a ride a couple of times, usually when it was absolutely pouring down hard rain.

    I grew up way out in the country, so I babysat quite a bit, both for my own sisters, as well as for 2 other families. Most Friday and Saturday nights I was entertaining the under 7 year old set. The summer I was 16, I babysat from 6:30AM til 10 or 11ish at night for a couple who did hay for hobby farmers who didn't have their own equipment. They had a 8 week old and a 2 year old. Best. Birth. Control. EVER!!! No way was I going out with anyone who wanted more than a hug and a kiss. For YEARS!!! lol.
    I knit an afghan that summer.

    But the best money ever was the next door lady who had a herd of French Alpine dairy goats. Yup. I was a milk maid whenever she went to any of the County and State Fairs, as well as went she went (In January) to the Islands. And in the Spring, me and her stepson would shovel out the barn of the entire winter's worth of hay/manure. It would be about 5 feet deep. The first 3 feet weren't too bad, but, boy, the last 2 feet straight ammonia!! Mom would not let me into the house until I came into the garage, stripped, washed off the top layer in the set-tub right there and then went upstairs and took a bath in the guest room so I wasn't stinking up the house. Very good money though--she paid $5 an hour when minimum wage was not quite $3/hour. I felt RICH.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like your childhood was well spent Suz!

      If a tad smelly at times. 😉

      Delete
  13. Good stuff, Sarge. We covered much of the same ground (aside from the opening to my piece, as you might see if you read it.) My take on the subject from several years back... http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/2007/08/paperboy.html Hope you enjoy it as much as I did yours.

    ReplyDelete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...