Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paper route

I found this on the amazing Gangrey. It's a video of a San Francisco Chronicle reporter going back to the paper route he had when he was a kid.

(I had that "Ice Cream Castles" cassette, too. Still got the CD somewhere.)

A few years ago, when the Observer's power went out and the backup power failed, the paper came out late. Most of our carriers work other jobs and they couldn't deliver the paper that day, so some of us volunteered to run the routes. I went out with our sports editor, Gary Schwab, to a couple of neighborhoods in University City. Gary rolled the papers, I drove, and along the way we met a bunch of people who cared deeply about the paper, the news, and the city. There are a lot worse ways to learn about a place than by delivering the paper every day.

The original Gangrey post has a few comments from writers who had paper routes. If any of y'all had routes, in Charlotte or elsewhere, I'd love to hear your stories.


tommy tomlinson said...

Here's an email I got from a Charlotte reader. He didn't want his name used... you'll see why.

I carried the Charlotte Observer in '57-58 on E. Blvd and Dilworth Rd area. I picked up my papers one block off E. Blvd on Charlotte Dr in a vacant field behind what was Alexander Children's Home. I was 13-14 yrs old and walked or rode my bicycle. I picked up my papers about 430 AM, had to insert the funnies and "circulars" at the time.

There were a group of apts on E. Blvd. called Veleda Mansions that were a little scary to deliver to as you had to walked this area and there were a few unsavory characters that lived there. There was a lot of strange things to see at this time of morning, but it was a lot of fun. We had to collect door-to-door from each customer(25 cents per week) and meet the route man at our paper pick-up on Saturday afternoon and pay our bill, and we got what was left. I usually made $5-$7 per week, carried around 130 papers.

We had a lot of fun carrying the papers, as I also had a Charlotte News route at the same time. Man, you would get home from carrying the papers and be black from the fresh ink on the papers. We didn't have plastic bags or rubber bands to secure the paper as you could fold them and throw each one. On bad weather days you placed each on on the porch or behind the screen.

The vendors, bread, milk etc would leave their goods outside the grocery stores,drug stores, etc. Swan's drugstore was on the corner of E.Blvd and Kenilworth Av and a grocery store up the street. The vendors left honeybuns, pies, cakes, milk etc outside these stores and for that reason I can't leave my name, as I don't know if the statute of limitations has expired on these items disappearing on their own!!!

tarhoosier said...

Indianapolis Times (RIP), Scripps-Howard chain, Afternoons, No Sunday. Just for the younger guys.
Then the Indianapolis News (RIP), Pulliam Press, Afternoons. Both of these on the bicycle.
Then as a young teen the real money maker ;) The Star; Pulliam, 7 days, and a big Sunday edition with the added subscribers from the News. By 14 or 15 the bicycle was not too cool, so walking to the drop corner and then to the route.
I see the SF Chronicle guy had the same issue as we, is route pronounced root or rout?
We read sports and comics while collecting and counting our papers. There were the ones who folded first, then walked the route and then those who grabbed their papers and folded and threw as they walked. For me it really depended on the conversation with the other guys at the drop point (and occasionally a girl carrier, some guy's sister).
One part of the paper I never even understood until college years was the classifieds. It was all a code with "6 rms riv vu" kind of thing
It seems times were colder then than now but of course the real difference is that I am not waking at 5:20 a. m to walk a morning route in all temperatures, including once at -18. Even with gloves, only with my hands in my crotch was I able to finish that morning. Full moon in the early morning on snow was as bright as day, with stark shadows.
Stack of papers was still as warm as the press room as the bundles were naturally insulated. Slip your hands into the stack, mmmmmwarm.
Collecting one evening in the winter, well after dark and leaving a customer's house, I was accosted by some big bully with his face covered but with a teen voice. He made like a gun with his hand in his coat pocket and demanded money. I just ran to the customer's porch, flung open the door and ran in. They were quite surprised. And they were perfect hosts to an uninvited visitor.
Finished my route one morning in the summer and found 6$ in the gutter on my way home. There was a workingman's diner a block away and it was my first opportunity to spend my windfall. I realized later that it was the first time I had taken myself out to a restaurant for a meal. I ordered at the counter since I had the chance to spin the stool. The working men gave me no glance. The waitress was kind and I am SURE I left no tip. After that my paper route times were nearly over. Too much "out there" to explore.

Mom said...

newspapers sort of pioneered the low-wage, no-benefit job. First it was the paper route, then the copy boy. some made good. some just survived.

Ted Hooks said...


First, I want to describe a recurring anxiety dream that haunts
me today after 45 years.

In my dream I am walking my route
along Tuckaseegee Rd. near State
St. and I have forgotten who takes
the paper. In the cold darkness
I try to bring back that drill I
have depended on, "Carry 2, skip 1,
carry 3 and so on....

I feel the panic and I start giving
a paper to every house knowing
full well I will run out of papers
and then I wake up in a cold sweat,
thankful that it's just a dream.

In the early to mid 60's at least
four of us carriers had our bundles
delivered near the "Friendly Grill"
on Tuckaseegee Rd. "Happy" Mullen
used an old grocery cart that was
much easier than the white canvas
bags we toted and I'm still miffed
about that.
The lazy summer days were the best
for playing tricks on each other.
(summer also meant walking through
countless spider webs) One day Richard Lackey, Johnny Buchan and
I decided to follow Happy on his
route and we picked up every paper
he delivered and stacked them at
the end of the street. Grocery cart
envy will drive you to do that sort
of thing at 4 a.m.
Later we would meet at the Krispy
Kreme on West Trade and buy our
frustrated buddy a few hot ones
to settle his nerves.

Jimmy King, a former Harding football star, was our District
Manager. He drove a new, Ford
Falcon Futura convertible, all
shiny white and it had a bright
red interior. Now, that was what
we really wanted, so we kept on
slingin' those papers on cold
mornings and dreaming of future
cars......never thought about recurring nightmares....But I guess
the Christmas tips made it all

Anonymous said...

I had a very memorable paper route in San Francisco California back in the late 70's. As a paper boy in The City (SanFrancisco ), I had to go in and out of very old historical Victorian apartments with caged door elevators. My route was so large that me and a buddy split it in half and made it into two routes. We even attempted to communicate while doing our routes with low powered walkie talkies( no cell phones then)we thought it would be cool to talk to each other while doing our route several blocks from each other. We had the best manager in the world. His name was Ed! Every Saturday he would take the whole crew( usually 2 to 4 kids) out to breakfast at the Pinecrest Diner in down town San Francisco. Every Sunday after the heavy Sunday delivery, he'd take us to the donut shop on Fillmore and California. So many memories delivering those papers, folding them to perfection and throwing them with precision. Before the sunrise, was a great time for a JR high school kid. Never forget you cats, John, Mike, Joe ,Eric,David and Ed driving us to our drop offs!! Thanks, Quentin H