Skip to comments.Whatever Happened to the Newspaper Delivery Boy?
Posted on 05/16/2015 4:03:41 PM PDT by SamAdams76
Back in the 1970s and into the 1980s, the early morning streets of the cities and suburbs would be full of young boys making the rounds of their paper route, either on foot or on bicycles. Or maybe on a rainy morning, they would be driven around by a sympathetic mother in curlers and bathrobe, in the family station wagon.
Somewhere along the line, the paperboys disappeared, and now newspapers are delivered in pre-dawn darkness by unshaven overweight middle-aged men in beat up Toyotas and Nissans. Wrapped in plastic, the papers are unceremoniously dumped at the foot of your driveway and you get a monthly bill sent to you.
It's a shame. Many successful people started out delivering newspapers as boys (and yes, a few girls, but mostly boys). It was a great entry level job for an enterprising 12 or 13 year old who was too young to bag groceries or shag shopping carts at the local grocery, but wanted to put a few dollars in his pocket.
For me, July of 1976 cleanly separated my innocent (and penniless) childhood from the beginning of my slow and steady path to responsible adulthood. For it was the month I began delivering the Boston Herald American as a 13-year-old kid just out of 8th grade with a lot to learn about the ways of the world.
For months, I had watched with envy as my classmate and next door neighbor delivered his afternoon papers (yes, they actually had afternoon editions in those days). Suddenly he had cash in his pocket and was always able to buy a sack of candy or go to the movies, without having to beg his parents for cash first. I wanted that freedom for myself.
But it was not easy to get a paper route in those days. Newspaper distributors maintained a long waiting list of kids wanting a route. So I had to put my name in and wait for my opportunity. In the meantime, my friend, who was on the lazy side, would let me deliver his papers for him from time to time and he'd toss me a quarter or two for my trouble so he could sit in the house and watch Speed Racer or Munsters re-runs on the TV.
Even though it was not officially "my route", I felt like a big shot walking down the streets with a sack of newspapers bouncing off my hips. I determined that this was what I wanted to do and I started to check in with the "bossman" at the paper distributor to the point of annoyance, to find out where I was on the waiting list.
Finally, I got the call just as school was letting out for the summer. There was a boy with a morning route of 23 papers for the Herald American that was taking a summer job and was quitting his route at the end of June.
I did somersaults and handstands for about half an hour.
The next day, the boss of the paperboys (probably some 19 year old kid) came to my house and showed me the ropes. The papers would be delivered to my house by 5am each morning and I'd have to have them delivered by 7am - no exceptions. Any complaints about the papers being late and I'd have the route taken away from me. I would also have to fold the papers in a specific tri-fold manner and would need to put them in plastic bags if it was raining. Then, once a week, I'd have to go to each house in the afternoon and collect the weekly subscription money. On Saturday mornings, the boss would come by to collect my money. Whatever money I did not collect would come out of my earnings, which was something like 35 cents for each daily subscription and 15 cents for each Sunday paper. (50 cents if customer got both daily and Sunday).
I studied my route carefully, which covered about a 12 block area around my house. I even did dry runs, figuring out the most efficient way to get them delivered.
The day my route officially started, I was up at 4:30 in the morning and was eagerly waiting for the stack of papers to arrive. 5am came and went. No papers. I was starting to panick. Did they forget about me? What would my new customers think if I could not deliver the papers on time on my first day?
Finally, around quarter past 5, a van pulls up to my house and I hear the THUNK of a stack of papers dropped on my porch, wrapped in twine.
I nervously folded the papers, hoping I was getting it right, stuffed my official "Herald American" sack with the neon orange strap, and bolted out the door.
Every morning that week, I had my route completed by 6am. Then it was time to go collect the subscription money, which was around $1.20/wk for the daily and 50 cents on Sunday, for a total of $1.70 if the customer took both. When making the rounds, several customers thanked me for getting the paper there so early (guess the earlier paperboy like to sleep in) and gave me as much as a dollar for a tip. Those most people gave me $2.00 and told me to "keep the rest."
At the end of the first week, I made something like $11.70 from the newspaper company but had another ten dollars just in tips - clearing me just over $20 for my first week.
Up to that point, the most money I ever had in my pocket that was mine was a $5 bill which a "rich" uncle gave me on my birthday. In 1976, to a 13-year-old boy, having $20 in my pocket, to spend any way I pleased, with more to come a week later, made me feel like Nelson Rockefeller.
For the next three years of my life, until I was old enough to get a job at the supermarket, my route and income just grew and grew. When I finally gave up my route in 1979 (delivering papers was considered a child's job and nobody did it once they turned 16), I was delivering over 60 papers a day and making close to $100 a week. I also had several thousand dollars in the bank.
That paper route taught me so much about life and how to make it in the working world. I encountered irate customers who were upset that their paper wasn't in the perfect spot for them. I dealt with deadbeat customers who avoided me on collection day. I knew they were in the house but they wouldn't come to the door. I showed up to one house where the woman I normally collected from was having sex with somebody on the parlor couch with nothing but the screen door between us. I tip-toed off the porch and pretended I saw nothing.
I learned how to take care of customers and do special things for them, such as taking the paper up three flights of stairs to an elderly woman who lived on the third floor apartment. She always tipped me well. I also learned that these people depended on me to get their morning paper in time. People that had to go to work in the morning appreciated having their paper by the time they had to leave for work.
So many stories to tell about that paper route and so much life experience gained. I firmly believe that I would not be nearly as successful in life as I am today if I did not learn to be responsible and dependable at such an early age. Getting up before 5 in the morning no matter what the weather, really builds a work ethic. I delivered papers in drenching downpours, sub-zero weather and blinding snowstorms. Only several times did I not make my rounds, usually due to blizzards in which the papers never came to me (especially in the winter of 1978).
Taking away paper routes from young boys and girls and handing the job to adults who simply fling the papers out of their car windows - not good.
I had same experience. I even had so many customers I had kids working for me.
Newspapers are about defunct. The advent of the internet ended the good old days of paper routes.
I hated Thursday because that was the day all the advertisement inserts had to be placed into the paper.
I had to get up extra early to place the ads and fold the paper and it loaded the bag to the point that I had to make two trips.
I did make a few quarters selling sunfish to black people on the Sudbury River. I went back for a visit (ick) as an adult and now that bridge I used fish off of warns people in (I think) 8 languages the fish are contaminated.
I learned how to work by helping my father in his business.
I was just talking about what this was like with my 12 year old son earlier today. He wants to make some money, but there aren’t any paper routes any more and no yard work either. Illegal aliens do both those jobs now.
It would be harder to do a paper route now as less and less people take papers. I did an afternoon route in the summers. On my 10 speed. Most houses took the paper. Now it would be few and far between.
Inserts. Hated those inserts.
I suspect that most delivered the afternoon paper which is most likely extinct. Morning papers are off the press by 5:00 AM and expected by 6:00 or 6:30 which would be tough on school days.
Quit the paper route to bus tables, when I was 15 and could get a work permit.
Paper routes were great jobs for young people to get a start in the working world.
Today they are just jobs for dumbed down Americans, too lazy to develop real skills. So they take a job that a grade school kid can do.
Same thing with fast food. What WAS a starting job for yesterdays high school kid, has become a career choice for todays Obama voter.
The current “paper boys” are the adults who deliver packaged advertisements via their vehicles and throw them onto your driveways every Saturday morning..........
I've had the Wall Street Journal delivered for years. Even though I take the online edition and read it on my iPad on the commuter train to work. I don't think you save any money just getting the online version so I take the paper as well, which I take to the local dog shelter where they apparently have uses for them.
I had 2 lawn mowing jobs because of my paper route.
I don't know about that.......I don't know where you live but I would think your kid would be able to score some neighbor lawns by undercutting the cost of whatever landscaping that is doing the work......
Me too. Also, I shoveled driveways of some of my newspaper customers on snowy morning. They loved that - waking up to a newspaper and a shoveled walkway. I had so much energy back then!
I had the experience of being a paper delivery boy.
I also had the experience of delivering papers as an adult.
When delivering the papers as a boy, I delivered just in our own neighborhood. There were about 50 customers.
As an adult, I took a paper route, at a time when I had been laid off from a job, had a family to support, and was having trouble finding new professional employment. As an adult, the route had about 220 customers. We carriers went to a central warehouse each day, in the middle of the night, to pick up our papers and get ready for delivery.
The reason carriers nowadays toss the paper in the driveway is because there are so many deliveries to be made in a short time, that it would be impractical to deliver on foot, or by bike, and still get all the deliveries done on time.
He’s still around. His name is Matt Drudge.
I’ve recently had delivery problems. My newspaper told me they can’t give me the name of my carrier because it is a privacy issue. My long term carrier always left a Christmas card with name and phone number. The new carrier now throws the paper on my driveway (if I even get it) instead of putting it in the newspaper tube.
I’m thinking these newspapers have become as worthless in informing us as the TV. They now want us to hit their website and give them advertising dollars while wasting hours surfing, instead of allowing us to simply read an informative newspaper while multi-tasking in the powder room.
Where is he? That’s a Good question! I’ve been waiting all friggin day for the paper! (kidding)
My first job ever, in the early 1970s, was a paperboy for the Long Island Press here in NYC.
Omgosh, the green sheet! My dad used to read that.
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