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READER MEMORIES: Being paper boy was a dream job for youngster

Jan. 15, 2009 @ 10:03 AM

Being the neighborhood paper boy was one of the best jobs I ever had in the early 1970s.

First of all, the freedom that the job brought me was an awesome benefit. I would stroll along at a leisurely pace, folding the fresh newspapers into rocket-like projectiles and stuffing them into my paper bag, readying them for launch at the first unsuspecting screen door I would come to, all the while taking in the sights and sounds of my beautiful neighborhood. Believe me, the time I spent on my paper route was highly anticipated after a long, hard day at Catholic school. There was also the fact that I had no one to tell me what to do or how to do it — just me and my paper bag.

Another reason I loved being the paper boy was that I had gotten to know practically everyone in the neighborhood, and they had gotten to know me and that was always a good feeling to have. I would sometimes be called upon by some of my customers to help out with little things, such as catching old lady Woodall’s French poodle, “Princess,” who would get out of her gate and run up the street barking at every passer by and nipping at their ankles. Then there was Mr. Ellis, who couldn’t roll up his garden hose after pulling too much of it out because of an injury he received in World War II, which he never neglected to tell me about in great detail. But, on the other hand, he never neglected to remember me on Christmas Eve, so I would try to help him when I could.

But, the greatest part of the paper boy job was collection day and Christmas Eve. I could hardly wait until Friday, that was collection day, also known as “payday.” That day, I would collect 35 cents from every customer for the daily newspaper for the week. In the early 1970s, a paper route of that size, which consisted of about 60 to 70 houses, would pay about $10 to $12 dollars a week, and sometimes a little more, if some of my customers were behind on their bill. At any rate, that was a lot of money for an 11-year-old boy in the 1970s.

The day I mostly anticipated was Christmas Eve, the “brass ring,” the “holy grail of paper boy-ism.” That’s the night I would go to each one of my customers’ homes and collect my well-deserved Christmas tip. The tips would range from $3 to $5 a customer and would yield anywhere from $60 to $70 every Christmas Eve. And that was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for me. As I stood there, counting the fresh wad of crisp, new bills, sliding them into my front pocket, I would think to myself, “Man, it’s great being the paper boy!”

Philip Powell is a Lavalette resident.