I don't know how to start this story or finish it but, for what it's worth, here it is. Hope you can use at least some of it.


I grew up in Mulberry, Kansas. In the 1950s, I had two weekly newspaper routes, the Grit (which I didn’t deliver very long) and I think the other one was called the Chicago American, or something like that. The Grit was a hand-me-down from my older brother. I had almost 75 customers. I remember every time the Grit would raise its price, I would lose a third of my customers for two or three months, then they would get over it and start back taking it again.


I did most of my routes on foot. My big brother gave me my Grit route ... but not the bike to go with it. He wasn't ready to turn it loose just yet. In the meantime, I continued to walk.


Nearby Burgess, Missouri was one of my main routes and the most enjoyable. It may not have been much to anybody else but it was Little Italy to me. You had the Panizzis, Notaris, Marianos ... and some that I couldn't spell if I could remember their names. I do know that most of them spoke their own language a lot. They didn't always want my paper, but when they wanted it, they wanted it! If they didn't want it, you might as well quit trying. They were swell people even though I had a little trouble understanding them. I always loved garden time because they always saw that I didn't go hungry. I was real skinny back then ... wonder if they felt sorry for me? (grin)


While in Burgess, you couldn't leave without paying a visit to the widow of Jesse James, and sometimes if you were real lucky, you might just catch Frank James there visiting too. Yes, that's right. However, he wasn't the real outlaw, but I liked to make the other kids think so. Jesse's widow was my favorite aunt and she always was real interesting to visit. Plus she always bought a paper from me, even though her eyesight was getting poor.


I always had my timing so that I could catch the mail train come flying through Burgess. And believe me, it sure seemed like it was flying. This was the Kansas City Southern and the man on the train would stand in the doorway and kick out the mail sack with his foot and at the same time he hooked the other mail sack hanging on a pole. Even got to see the mail sack roll under the speeding train a time or two. That was the excitement of the day.


Well, before you finished your route in Burgess, you had to stop at Lekesha's Place, but I never did know how that name came about. We always called it Mayme & Joe's. That was my refreshment stop. I was their customer and they were mine. Dr. Pepper time, along with a bag of Guy's BBQ chips. There went my profit, especially if I had a partner with me. Mayme and Joe were very nice people to chat with. They even had a son that became the superintendent of Mulberry High School. He probably got that smart from reading my newspaper.


Now it's back to Kansas — Mulberry that is. Had a lot of nice customers in Mulberry too. One in particular stands out. She was very pleasant and she had an enclosed back porch — unlike any I had ever seen that you would call a porch. It had furniture in it and a big round dining table with a big bowl in the center. It was full of fruit and, whether she was home or not, she always wanted me to help myself to the fruit when I left her newspaper. Sorry, no candy. She didn't believe kids should have candy, wasn't good for you.


Like I said, Mulberry had a lot of nice people and I used to know everybody. Mulberry's west end was what some of us called dogtown, and they were proud of it. A lot of people there had a least one coondog, usually more than one. When a stranger walked down the street in dogtown, and that included the weekly paperboy, everybody knew it. They weren't running loose, though, and I never got bit. Only got bit once that I can remember on my route and that was in Burgess — by a nice family pet that I tried to make friends with.


Oh yes, Christmas time was one of the best times for a paperboy. Just about every customer had something for me — even some of the ones that I had a hard time getting to pay up. One year I got four brand new pocket knives, a whole box of chocolates, peanut brittle, caramel corn and a handmade stocking cap with a tassel. Even though I hated to have to collect for the paper, this made it all worthwhile.


By the way, I never got rich peddling the paper ... but I got educated.



— Ron Long, 4-19-00



If you have a paperboy story to share, you can send it to me at jtknoll@swbell.net or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762. J.T. Knoll