Our Frontenac family of ten strong – the Georges on West Washington - has a pretty good legacy of delivering papers in the 1960s; both the Morning Sun and the Kansas City Star.
My older brother Bill got started in his fifth grade when John Kotzman decided he was moving on and recommended our family to take over. A few weeks after that, an 80-customer paper route came to us. I rode behind Bill on my bike learning the correct houses. We ended up splitting most of the deliveries for a couple of years.
I’m not sure if it was the extreme cold temperatures during the winter or Father Grabner’s sales pitch but, after Bill’s 8th grade at Sacred Heart, he headed to the Seminary. That left me with the entire route — and a year later an additional 90 papers from a retiring paperboy in Pittsburg.
Now, at age 13, with my newfound money, 170 customers and a bike, I was able to talk my Dad into letting me buy a MoPed from Sears and Roebuck in Joplin, (strictly for business). A few weeks later — with a nice loan from my favorite banker of all time, Joe Cinotto of Miner’s State Bank — I was happily riding a MoPed on my route at 5:30 a.m. daily, except for Mondays.
The money was good for a kid in the '60s. As others have mentioned in these chronicles, the deliveries were easy, it was the collecting of $1.80 a month that was hard. I pretty much spent a Saturday a month going door to door collecting.
Basically, I’d collect until I had enough to pay my paper bill plus $20 running money in my pocket. When I’d run low on cash, I’d go collect from 10 or 15 customers.
There were a few I could never catch at home so they would get behind three or more months. I remembering Dad asking me from time to time how things were going and even once in awhile asking for a $10 or $20 loan for a couple days. “Absolutely no problem,” I’d say.
I told him one particular customer was five months behind. Dad solved that problem very easily. He said, “Go to Bartelli’s Blue Goose Tavern by Pallucca’s on Saturday at 11 a.m. He’s a nice gentleman and more than likely will be there and pay you.” Bingo, after a complimentary Pepsi and a $10 bill, I was finished collecting for the day.
One story I’ve got to mention is how my mother helped me. Mom was good at making sure I wouldn’t oversleep and would also occasionally fix me a hot chocolate before I’d leave on cold mornings.
One morning she was helping me fold the papers (14 pages or less could be folded, but 16 pages or more had to be rolled and rubber banded) and had a proposition for me. She would let me sleep an extra half an hour every morning while she folded the papers and packed my paper bag. She had her eyes on wall-to-wall carpet for the living room and hallway of our small home. The payment would be $14 a month and that’s all she was asking of me. Wow! How could I turn that offer down? Mom got her carpet and I got to sleep an extra half hour.
Around my sophomore year, my Dad spotted a sure fire moneymaker for me and my brothers ... an ice cream wagon! Not only did this business help my brothers and me, the three-wheel Cushman proved very valuable on snowy winter mornings instead of the MoPed, which was prone to crash and scatter papers everywhere.
I remember the morning I decided to give up the paper route business after six years. It was the fall of my junior year at St. Mary’s. On Friday night we played Riverton in football. I was a 130-pound defensive back. A bull named Russell Garber breaks through our line and is at full speed headed directly toward me. He had his chance to dodge me and I would have faked a tackle but he had other plans. He hit me like a freight train and then stomped my chest with his #12s.
The next morning as my mom folded my papers and my ribs cried out for help, my career as a paperboy was over.
— Ben George, May 31, 2020
If you have a paperboy story to share, you can send it to me at email@example.com or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762.