April 23, 2014 by genelup
Being a newspaper boy at age 11 through 14 was very rewarding, not at least walking by an opened bedroom window at 5:30 in the morning with newspaper in hand and seeing a sleeping naked woman lying on her bed. Ah, the price we paperboys in the early 1950s had to pay so the town’s populace would wake up with news on their doorsteps.
I was always resourceful. At a very early age I constantly thought up ways to make money. I learned that from my parents who survived the Great Depression and told me the value of being frugal and holding on to my pennies. With that in mind at age 3, I would wander throughout the neighborhood and imagine spitting in Hitler’s face for money.
It was the 1940s during World War II and a popular song we sang was “When der fuehrer says we is de master race we heil heil right in der fuehrer’s face.” Instead of say “heil heil” I “pfsssssst” spitted. My neighbors sitting on their front porches laughed at my performances and gave me a penny.
At age 4, I picked my mother’s tulips from her small garden and sold them to our neighbors for 10 cents each. My mother had mixed feelings about that; she missed her tulips, but smiled on my entrepreneurship. I also walked to my Struthers, Ohio, neighborhood pond and scooped three pollywogs from the murky waters in a paper cup and sold three of them for a penny.
Our family moved to Selma, Calif., and at age 7 my parents went to sleep early and I was left to my own devices. I would walk across the street at 10 p.m. and help the gas station man roll the rubber tires that were on display into his store. He paid me a quarter. One day he didn’t pay me and I quit helping him.
You had to be at least 11 to get a job carrying newspapers in Phoenix. I counted the days until I turned 11, and was hired delivering The Phoenix Gazette, an evening newspaper. After school, I pedaled my bicycle to my station at 28th Street and Thomas, about 1 ½ miles from my home. I had about 50 or 60 customers. I delivered the Gazette for two years and later delivered the morning The Arizona Republic for an additional two years.
We were supposed to porch the papers and I usually slung the paper from my bike from the sidewalk. Once my flying missile hit a ceramic bowl and it shattered. I don’t remember if I confessed to my misdeed or not.
Another time I threw the morning paper at the porch and it landed on the roof. I got off my bike, climbed a low-hanging pole and while on top of the roof the owner walked out and caught me on his roof. I had a lot of “esplaining” to do. I think he just laughed.
But one neighbor didn’t laugh. Early one morning while still dark I decided to ride my bike across the lawns instead of the sidewalk. One man just re-seeded his lawn; it was wet and…when he came out for his paper he saw deep bike tracks across half his lawn, and the other half were bike tracks plus shoe shoe prints that led to his muddy driveway. I think I later apologized to him.
We had to collect money from our customers. We heard all kinds of excuses why people didn’t have a few dollars to pay us. Sometimes we had to go back two or three times. We paid our district managers most of the money we collected and kept the rest.
That kept us in money for candy bars, comic books, quarts of chocolate milk as rewards for delivering 170 papers in less than two hours and we still had over an hour left before we had to pedal our bikes to school. However, my biggest headaches were days when I started with 170 papers for 170 customers and at the end of the route I had five extra papers. Many times I had to backtrack to correct my forgetfulness.
Some of the most we had was while we waited for our bundles of papers to arriver at our stations. I remember one boy stuffing a potato up the exhaust pipe of the man’s car while he was dropping off the papers. I think the little delinquent wanted to see if the car wouldn’t start, or the potato would become a missile and hit something.
It was at this station I saw my first pornographic comic. Another carrier showed it to us and that’s when I learned about the birds and bees.
One carrier bought Ex-Lax, unwrapped it and put it in a Hershey candy wrapper. He gave it to another newspaper boy and he ate it. I don’t think that boy delivered papers the next day, or he even went to school.
If we did well on our jobs, such as signing up a bunch of new customers or going a whole month without getting a “kick,” what we called a complaint for missing a customer or breaking stuff on porches, we would get a prize.
Our district managers took the “good-job” carriers on day trips to the snow country or perhaps to the movies. One day at our monthly meeting my manager said I did such a good job that he gave me a baseball signed by a lot of professional baseball players who recently played an exhibition game at the old Mohave Stadium in Phoenix.
Those were good ol’ days pedaling newspapers. I still have that ball with Willie May’s autograph on it…and also the memory of that naked lady lying on her bed.