Note: As delivery of the print edition is now by mail only, each week the Morning Sun will be honoring paper carriers of the past by publishing the stories many shared with me years back when my collection ‘Paperboy,’ was published. – J.T. Knoll
It was April of 1962 when I first started delivering the morning edition of The Pittsburg Headlight and Sun. I was 14 and nearing the end of my freshman year at Arma High School. I had taken the route over from the Stewart brothers, who had had it for years before. After a "crash course" in learning the route, I was ready for my first "real job" in my young existence.
After the two large bundles of papers hit the front porch at 5:00 a.m., my parents and I would awaken to roll or fold them on the kitchen table. We would then carry and fit them tightly into my large basket (with an extra six inch metal mesh extension my welder father had "invented").
The basket, which I “balanced” while riding my approximately eight mile daily morning excursion, was mounted on my red and white Schwinn "Tornado" bicycle. Since the initial load would fit in about 80 or so papers, and my entire route averaged about 130 houses, I would then have to make another trip back to the house to pick up the rest of the papers.
My route extended to the north and west city limits and south to the Young's at the Long Ave. "Loop.” The east boundary was about one fourth of a mile east of the Arma Bottling Company, which was also the scene of many a "drag race" challenge at varied hours of the day and night.
I always needed cinnamon rolls and hot coffee, heavy with milk and sugar, to get me started, even though the "sugar blues" would let me down at about my second hour class at school.
I went out for all the sports offered at Arma, played summer baseball, "bucked" hay bales for 50 cents a ton, and had a hard time “remembering” that I had to get up early, in spite of last night's game.
My late father, Roger Sr., would help deliver papers in his black 1961 Ford two-door in bad weather, then "hot foot it" to get to his job at McNally's on third street in Pittsburg by 7 a.m. He really extended himself by delivering my papers for me over a two-week stretch in the Fall of 1962 when I sustained a football injury and developed pneumonia — which caused me to be bed-ridden.
Velma Ciardullo, whose husband Frank "Buck" Ciardullo, also worked for The Headlight and Sun, was my immediate supervisor. I reported to her once a month with Saturday collections in my special canvas bag.
A few tips, of between five and twenty-five cents, supplemented my $40 a month salary. Christmas — the paperboy's "dream season" — brought the big tips of $1 or more, bonuses of $10, delicious French cookies and Italian delights!
My first year, I rode my bike (and would complain about having to spend a couple of dollars for tires and tubes). The next year I used my first car for delivery — a 1950 blue Chevy two-door, 6 cylinder automatic, affectionately called "The Blue Dog.” After that, I drove a 1959, black, Ford four-door, four cylinder, three speed (with a floor shift) christened "The Black Dog." Even at 24.9 cents a gallon I was constantly running out of gas.
I ended my initial newspaper boy experience in May of 1965, leaving hometown Arma to work the summer in Kansas City at Sidney's Restaurant and Drive-In at 48th and Main for 80 cents an hour — and a tasty "Big Buster" (if needed) per shift. Thanks to my parents, the Ciardullos, and many fine customers, my newspaper boy experiences were still very satisfying ones. I returned, at the end of summer, to work in Pittsburg at part-time jobs at the legendary 1106 Drive-In and the historic Colonial Fox Theatre.
Years later, in the winter of 1972 in San Francisco, California, I found myself, as a struggling actor, "hawking" the Bay Guardian near Fisherman's Wharf for 35 cents a copy. My “take" was 15 cents.
Fast forward to July 1991. My oldest son John D. (then eleven years old), and I split a Morning Sun route of about 54 customers in Arma, using mostly bicycles. Mine, another red and white Schwinn "Tornado" of similar mid-’60s vintage with dual rear baskets, and his, a heavy-duty, framed "Black Dog" with front basket.
The delivery car of choice, when needed, was a 1978 black Eldorado Cadillac, 500 cubic inch, V-8, two-door. Similar scenario: same house at 5:00 a.m.: Mom and dad help roll papers; drink hot herb teas with honey and healthy snacks; familiar neighborhood; early morning prayer; and more money — $5 a day!
Fast forward again to April 2000. Our son, John D. Rank (former paper boy "makes good") is now a part-time Morning Sun staff photographer.
Deja vu ... and God's blessings!
Roger John Rank - April 23, 2000