Those were the days: Paperboy, pt. 1

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Okay, don’t laugh. It’s a job and it could be a dam good paying one if you had a good route. Being a newspaper delivery boy isn’t what it used to be many years ago. Today, newspapers are much more efficiently run and the delivery services themselves have been upgraded drastically. Today’s paper boy doesn’t work anywhere near as hard as the paper boy of the 1940s. 

One of the memorable times of my life was being one of those unique souls for the community of Pampa, Texas . .. population around 20 thousand. I was eleven years old and in business for myself The paper was called the Pampa Daily News and was an afternoon paper except on Sundays. There were thirty-two of us route boys and the circulation manager was a Mr. Francis Green, who always wore a “dress up” bat and tie and white starched shirt. I always wondered how he withstood the heat in the summertime working around the news machine presses. It had to be 110 degrees inside the pressroom because this was before air conditioning. The year was 1948. A new employee that year was the sports editor who was a young fellow by the name of Warren Hasse. In 1950, he was calling the “play-by-plays”; radio announcer of the Pampa Harvester football team and the semi-pro Pampa Oiler Baseball Team. I even remember listening to him doing wrestling matches ... which he told me later, was a script they gave him to read! 

The Pampa Daily News was next door to the Rex Theater on Foster Street. Behind it was the Pampa Bowling Alley where my older brother, Zack had worked picking up “pins”. This was before automatic pin picker uppers and automated ball returns. 

The papers were ready for us anytime between 2:30 and 4 p.m. We had to have them delivered by 5 p.m. Our entrance was in the back of the building where there was a window for pickup and an upstairs “cage” for waiting if the press happened to break down, which was a common occurrence. If it was cold, you used the cage to sit on the floor and fold or roll your paper. Only Thursdays and Sundays we used rubber bands to roll our papers due to their thickness. This was because of advertising “inserts” and the “colored funny papers” on Sundays. 

I was totally fascinated at watching the presses in operation. They stood 20 feet high and approximately 70 feet long and were extremely loud when operating. A paper roll was eight feet wide and stood six feet tall. It must have weighed 500 pounds and probably moved through the press at two hundred miles an hour! 

I had 116 customers and my #8 route was Wynne, Warren, and Hazel Streets and three blocks of East Browning Street. Usually I peddled my bike unless the snow was too deep and then I walked my route. I never did mind the walk because I knew the dogs were inside the house and out of the weather! 

One of the fun things a paperboy developed was the artistry of folding and throwing a newspaper! It was almost like throwing a baseball! It took lots of practice but after throwing 116 papers each day, you “got the hang” of it. I could do a curve to the right or left, and skimmer (like throwing a rock on top of the water), a drop, or a fastball. I also had what I called a “Belly Flop” which drove the dogs crazy! The skimmer was for taking the legs out from under a dog that was charging me. I was pretty good because I never was bitten! My equipment was a ‘’paperbag”, which was made from heavy canvas and designed like a poncho with a hole for your head in the middle, bags in the front and back for carrying papers. Loaded at 116 papers, I was carrying around 50 pounds. There was also a route book used for my collections.

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