As I remember, my official tenure peddling The Pittsburg Headlight started in August of 1947, when I was entering the 8th grade at Sacred Heart Grade School, and ended in August of 1948 when I was starting my freshman year at Frontenac High.
My business associates were Perry Thomas and Charlie Youvan. Perry had the north route, Charlie the west end and I had somewhat of a central, east and south route in “The Republic of Frontenac.”
Our papers were dropped off — by Mr. Dewey Slagle, circulation manager — at the Silver Star Tavern located in the heart of downtown Frontenac. At that time, the Silver Star Tavern was a wooden structure affectionately referred to as “The Rat’s Nest.” The owner / operator was Mr. Pepe Mingori. He was assisted by his son, Ted.
Pepe was a big man, even by Frontenac standards, with somewhat of a gruff exterior ... but he had a heart of gold. During warm and mild weather we would sit on the wooden benches in front of the tavern and fold our papers prior to delivery.
Cold weather, pre-delivery folding was done inside the tavern — as long as we behaved and kept our conversation at an acceptable volume. However, if we "breka-da-rules," out we went ... and we would experience folding papers in the cold.
My route consisted of 85 customers and was approximately 2 miles in length. Delivery was six days a week (no Sunday Headlight) and collection of money from customers was required every two weeks. I retired after one year since the Headlight was an early evening route and I wanted to participate in sports.
I started my Pittsburg Sun route in March of 1949 and ended in the spring of 1951. Initially, my “Comrades in Commerce” were Virgil Albertini and Perry Thomas.
Perry was very industrious. In fact, he was a double-dipper — maintaining both morning and evening routes. After a year, Bob Vacca and Charlie Youvan replaced Virgil and Perry when they went off to college and Wichita respectively.
Papers were dropped off in the wee hours of the morning to the first floor of Frontenac City Hall and placed on old wooden benches next to the ancient fire truck (within a few feet of our cozy city jail). Quite obviously, there was no heat or air-conditioning, although we did have permission to open the large double door during the summer months.
We would gather at approximately 5:15 a.m. six mornings a week (no Monday Sun), fold papers and discuss world, national, and, of course, local events. By 6:00 a.m. we were on our way, rain or shine.
My route was north and south Frontenac. I would head west to Dobrauc Oil, north to Grasshopper Corner, and back south to Cope's Gardens. Customers ... 125. Total miles ... about four. Profits ... the paper was 25 cents per week, and our commission was 2.5 cents a paper, therefore, a profit of $3.12 per week. Considering a 16-hour work week, we worked for about 20 cents an hour.
Some people might want to ask us what we learned as paperboys. Very quickly, we learned that we would never get rich peddling papers.
— Jim Gadwood, April 5, 2000
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I read with enjoyment the comments by my three years older brother, Bob, (March 8th) about his experiences as a paperboy. My perspective is essentially the same, except it is from the front end of that bicycle and that of "the younger brother."
The basement of the Headlight/Sun building ... what a character-building place! First there was supposedly an initiation of all new paperboys: running the gauntlet of the other carriers and being smacked with the cloth newspaper sacks. I never witnessed one of these initiations — it may have been only folklore — but I certainly didn't do anything to provoke any of the older boys.
Secondly, I vaguely remember the different folds the papers would have ... depending on the number of pages in that day's paper. Nope, no rolling of the paper like now — and we were expected to put the paper in a protected area in the case of inclement weather. On occasion, a spare paper would fly through the air as the boys engaged in horseplay.
Lastly, I remember the money. It was my brother's route. His money. I was only the tag-along brother. But you know what ... after he / we collected the route on Saturday morning and took the money to the office and he received his "cut," he always paid me. He didn't make much and I didn't deserve any. But he paid me. This probably reveals as much about the character of the paperboys and of my brother as any other single incident.
— David Torbett, April 5, 2000