I was a paperboy for The Pittsburg Sun from 1953 to 1959. It’s hard to believe but Dewey Slagle was still circulation manager then. He was real old.
I delivered route #13 (which had around 113 papers) for two years and then took over route #17 (which had about 225 papers). I took over route #13 from Don Laughlin and route #17 from my brother Robert. Route #13 was the best because it covered west Jefferson to Quincy. I had all the rich people ... so the Christmas tips were great. (McNally’s gave me a $10 tip every Christmas.)
People would not believe the amount of wildlife that moves around in downtown Pittsburg at 4 a.m. in the morning. On 4th and Broadway, I once saw a possum and a raccoon. In other parts of Pittsburg I saw rabbits and snakes. On west Quincy, before the new additions were built, I saw a deer.
Yes, they did have paperboy initiations. The initiation was to have a new boy bend over a table and all the other boys smack him on the butt with their sack handles. The fear and the build up were a lot worse than the actual initiation. I will never forget the time we were to initiate Warren Rhuems. He came that morning with three pairs of pants on. He was scared to death.
Subscribers paid $1.25 a month for the paper. The paperboys got seven cents a month per paper. Complaints were 15 cents per missed paper. I have collection stories that I am sure all other paperboys have experienced. Like the time I went to go up to collect at one house and this gal asked me in. She was wearing a robe and the robe fell open. Naturally, I saw everything she had.
The most important thing I remember about collecting is that, when people tell you they don't have any change, what they actually mean is they don't have any money to pay you. They would tell you to come back later to collect when they had change and I would tell them I could change any bill they had. This would sometimes annoy them ... and then they would have to admit they did not have the money to pay me — which they were reluctant to do.
I delivered with Blaine and Ralph Murphy and Gilbert Borgraum who, by the way, was a legend among Sun carriers. He had over 300 papers (the largest route) and had delivered for around 15 years. I believe he had route #3. He was in his late 50s when I delivered with him.
We were always on the lookout for John Chester the motorcycle cop because we were speeding, running stop signs and had loud mufflers on our scooters. He stopped us several times but hardly ever gave us a ticket. But he sure scared the heck out of us.
The best part of the job was talking to the other boys about sports while we folded our papers in the basement of the Headlight and Sun building. I talked with Bob Fleming (who I think had route #5) who was playing sports at St. Mary’s then, and to Bob Allen who went to PHS (I always wondered what happened to him) and Charley Borgram.
What did I learn? 1. How to manage money. 2. You will be rewarded if you do a good job (porch their paper) with a thank you or a tip on Christmas. 3. Last but not least, I learned not to have my son do the same thing — get up so early and freeze your rear off in the winter.
— Don Rati, 6-21-2000
If you have a paperboy story to share, you can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762. — J.T. Knoll