Boyhood Memories Start at 4 a.m.
October 16, 2012
Growing up in Ohio, I delivered newspapers for the Columbus Citizen Journal and it remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
The pay was incredibly low and the work arduously hard and time consuming. But it was an adventure and it was always fun!
A newspaper route is magical, especially a morning route. I was up at 4 a.m. to retrieve my papers from the distributor who dropped them off in a bundle in front of my house at that hour.
After assembling the 60-plus newspapers into my green canvas bag on the living room floor - I walked out the front door and into the early morning night to begin the route. In those days parents did not see the need to help - I was always on my own for the 60 minutes it took to complete the route.
No one was up at that hour, and when you are 12 years old, and walking alone, it is exciting but you had to keep your wits about you.
Every morning had its own set of challenges, making the first tracks after a falling snow; staying alert for a neighborhood dog on the loose; mustering the courage to deliver to one lone house that sits off the road under the shadows of tall trees; and watching for that strange car circling the corner. I would often hide behind bushes waiting for the coast to be clear, but through it all I never had a a bad incident.
Rainy mornings were the most difficult because every newspaper had to be hand delivered inside the storm door or placed in a dry area on the front porch.
While some customers wanted the paper put inside the screen door every morning, most were content with my pitching it onto the front porch. I did it the old-fashioned way: folding the paper over a single flap, followed by a tuck and a twist, turning the paper into a tight projectile that could be thrown on the porch from 30 feet away - a shot I mastered.
The morning route provided indelible lasting impressions, especially one that is most remembered: the spotlight on an American flag flying at half-mast in a snow-covered neighborhood mourning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
What paperboy could not be in awe of being invited inside the home of one customer, Mrs. Cassady, to see the Heisman Trophy that had been awarded to her son, Howard "Hopalong" Cassady, a 1955 All-American at Ohio State.
I never forgot the Norman Rockwell-type images of Christmas morning. I could look inside and see the lighted Christmas trees with presents and packages underneath - waiting to be opened in a few hours.
Collections were made on Tuesday evenings and added to the excitement and suspense. There was something neat about using the coin changer attached to my belt. The newspaper sold for seven cents daily - six-days-a-week - thus the full amount owed for a full week’s delivery was 42 cents. The route netted me on average $7.50 per week with the remainder going to the distributor.
Some people would leave the money for me - inside the milk container on the back porch - but for most I had to knock on the door and yell "paperboy" to get their attention. Some customers I did have to track down for days, but that too, was fun.
The Christmas season was particularly rewarding as my customers were always generous and appreciative for my year-long efforts. I netted upwards of $50 during Christmas week.
There is a tangible reminder of my efforts.The plaque awarded to me for never missing a house over a two-year period. It's on the wall in my garage.
The Citizen-Journal went out of business years ago but I still have the boyhood visions of what I saw in the early morning hours of 1963.
They have lasted a lifetime.