I remember when we took over the Kotzman brothers’ paper route in Frontenac. I was nine, maybe ten years old. Mom would wake me up when the papers arrived and we would sit at the kitchen table and fold them. Then my older brothers Bill and Ben would get up and deliver them. The smell of the fresh newsprint at four a.m. and the black color of my hands from it is still active in my memory banks.
After a few years a kind and generous neighbor, Sim Wesonig, noticed that I was the only kid on the block without a bicycle. One day there was a shiny, new Western Auto bike for me. The next day I was not only folding the papers but also making my start as a delivery boy. We kept the route for six or seven years, eventually having two Headlight-Sun routes and one Kansas City Star route.
• My brother Ben saving his money and buying a Sears moped. He would drive and I would have a huge bag of papers around my neck and tucked between me and him. One day as we drove through a driveway Ben hit the curb. I became airborne and landed in the middle of the street.
• One cold morning, mom stuffed newspapers under our coats to help block the wind.
• On cold mornings when dad was home from his traveling salesman job, he would sometimes drive me in our ‘48 Chevy. He was a heavy smoker and the car would fill up with second-hand smoke. I would lay on the floor in the back to escape it. I feel that is the reason I never smoked.
• There was a house just off Jefferson Street that had some sort of dirt work done. I was sure that it was a grave and would peddle as fast as I could to get the paper on the porch and get out of the area before the spirit in the grave could get me. To this day I think that was the most frightened I have ever been.
• The Kansas City paper was huge. We delivered from Frontenac to 23rd street in Pittsburg. On the first Sunday, as I arrived at Pomatto's Phillips 66 at the Frontenac junction to pick up the papers, I realized that only six or seven papers would fit into my bicycle basket — and there was no way to fold them, let alone try to throw them onto a porch. I ended up delivering six or seven, peddling back to the Phillips station, getting six or seven more ... and so on. It was raining. I stopped long enough to attend six o’clock Mass at Sacred Heart and continued the long process of ferrying those papers to their proper destinations.
• The paper routes ended when I was old enough to get a drivers license and drive our ice cream trucks around Frontenac and Pittsburg. Finally, no more early morning hours, black hands and newsprint smell.
— Bob George, 3-29-2000
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Years ago my mother-in-law fell one evening and broke her hip. We had placed a telephone beside her bed in case of an emergency, but she fell in her dining room. That phone was a wall phone and she couldn't reach it.
Early the next morning, the paperboy noticed a light burning in her house. This was unusual, so he looked in the window of the front door and saw her lying on the floor.
We don't know if it was him or a neighbor who called my husband, but someone did. My husband remembers breaking in the front door to get in the house. She had lain on the floor all night and did not survive long in the hospital.
It was so long ago, none of us living now can remember the paperboy's name. But we are ever grateful to a paperboy who was alert enough to know something might be wrong and act on his hunch.
— Thelma Wuerdeman, 3-29-2000
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I grew up in Woodstock, Illinois, which is about 20 minutes south of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I'm thinking the summer I was a paperboy was either 1958 or 1959. I'd lean toward '59, the year I entered high school.
I filled in for a friend for part of one summer, delivering the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily News and Chicago Sun-Times. My friend had run off to camp or somewhere, I think.
Part of the job required me to collect money for the paper each Saturday. When people got a week behind on payments, I developed a method that never failed: I'd wang the heavy Chicago paper hard against their aluminum screen door each morning. By Saturday, they'd be standing on the porch waiting for me to show up so they could pay me ... and get back in my good graces.
— Bill Tammeus, 3-29-2000
Have a paperboy story to share? Send it to me at email@example.com or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762. — J.T. Knoll