Editorial evoked fond memories
I enjoyed the piece on the newspaper boy (Our View, June 30, “Newspaper carriers provide a link to a bygone era”). I myself helped my big brother deliver the San Diego Union when I was in the fifth and sixth grade in Ocean Beach, California. Ed would wake me up every morning at about 5 and ask if I would like to help him. For any day I helped him, he’d give me 25 cents. Then, when Dad was transferred back to the Pentagon, I got my own route and delivered the Washington Star News when I was in the seventh through ninth grade. The Star was an afternoon paper except on Sundays, and I delivered it from the top of an old green Schwinn Stingray bike with the front/back blue canvas bag.
Northern Virginia is pretty hilly, but you don’t really notice it until you put your shoulders under the weight of a double-sided canvas newspaper bag. I had about 75 customers and I dreaded Sunday mornings because I couldn’t carry all the papers in one trip. Perhaps worse, it took a lot longer on Sundays just to get ready to deliver the papers. That’s because I had to insert the comics and the advertisements into the paper and then fold and band those big fat Sunday papers.
It’s a darned shame such opportunities for our youth are gone today. Because of that responsibility, I learned early about money management, responsibility, discipline, being on time and customer service. One thing I hated about the Star was that it was on a four-week billing cycle, rather than monthly.
We had to not just deliver the paper but also had to go door to door to collect at the end of the month and remit the proper percentage to the Star.
One old lady on Franconia Road in Alexandria would always yell at me that I had just been there and that she did not owe me anything yet. I would have to patiently listen and then I would pull out my aluminum ticket book to show her the ticket for her account from four weeks earlier. She would always pay me, but not without a good scolding.
I also learned to be pretty good with a putty knife, glass and paint because every so often I would overshoot my target and break a window. Those were some good old days. Thanks for the reminder.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.