Our friends, the Anderson boys, Tom and Phil, had paper routes delivering the Pittsburg Sun and influenced me and my older brother Bill to become paper boys. Bill began delivering in the summer of 1944. His route included some of the downtown Pittsburg area, and he had to walk that portion of his route. Since Bill was carrying papers, I had to have a route. So just before I started the seventh grade in Roosevelt Jr. High in the fall of 1944, I got a route which had about 200 customers in the area between the Kansas City Southern railroad tracks and Water Street and between First Street and Eleventh Street.
The newspapers came off the press at about 12:30 a.m. so my brother Bill and I would get up at about midnight and ride our bicycles to the newspaper office at Seventh and Locust streets from our house at 1106 E. 14th. We were waiting when the first papers came off the press. They would slide down a chute into the basement from the press room upstairs. We were provided enough papers for our customers, and a few extras, which we had to pay for. They would not give us many extras, as I believe they were concerned that we might sell them at the railroad station or somewhere else that the newspaper had a newsstand.
There were long benches in the basement where we laid our papers out and folded them in a form that would allow us to throw the paper 40 to 50 feet. After folding, we loaded them into a cloth bag with a shoulder strap, carried them to our bicycles and put the bag of papers into our baskets. It was about one a.m. in the morning when we started delivering. It took me about two and a half hours to deliver my papers so I got back home at about 3:30 a.m. and then went back to bed until it was time to get up at about 7:30 a.m. to go to school. Bill delivered more papers than I did, and the part of his route that he walked took more time, so he would not get home until about 4:30 a.m. We generally went to bed about 7:30 in the evening.
Collecting paid off
I collected for the papers door to door once a week, and the price was 18 cents a week. I paid 10 cents a week per customer to the newspaper and I got to keep 8 cents. I remember the various odors of cooking as I made my collections on Saturdays and often wondered what was being cooked. I hated collecting so I often did not collect every week, but would wait two or three weeks between collections. The newspaper office expected weekly collections and weekly payments but somehow I got by with it. I was making about $16 a week — which was a lot of money for me — and I did not spend much, so I saved a lot. But I did buy a clarinet and paid for lessons from Mr. Theis, who was the father of my school orchestra teacher. I only took lessons for about six months, and then we moved to a farm just east of Frontenac so I quit taking clarinet lessons.
Bill and I both decided to buy new bicycles with some of the money earned. A bicycle was available that had a very large basket over the front wheel, and the front wheel was only about half the diameter of a normal wheel, so it allowed space for a very large basket. We each bought one but found out rather quickly that, although they had a large space to carry the papers, they were very hard to pedal. We used them for a few weeks, and then went back to our old bicycles.
We would ride down the sidewalks and throw our papers on the porches as we rode by. One morning, just before Christmas, I threw a paper and heard a window break. The paper went through the living room window and landed next to the Christmas tree. I don’t remember the circumstances of how the people became aware their window was broken, as they were asleep at the time, but I eventually paid for replacing it.
Tom Anderson told a story of a Pittsburg paperboy who threw a paper through a window. He knew that the customer whose window he had just broken also had the Kansas City Star delivered so, after breaking the window, he walked up on the porch, reached through the broken window and retrieved his Morning Sun, dropped it on the front porch, picked up the Kansas City Star from the porch floor and dropped it through the broken window into the house.
Dealing with dogs
There were always dogs running loose in the neighborhoods where I delivered papers, and although there were not a lot of them, they could be a nuisance and possibly dangerous. I don’t remember why we dressed as we did, whether it was experienced carriers that advised us, or whether we came up with it ourselves, but we wore knee length heavy leather boots and military style boot pants with the flare at the thighs. It saved me a few dog bites, as some of the dogs got my leather boot in their mouth, but did not penetrate the leather. One of the older paperboys had a standing offer, if we had a dog that was particularly troublesome or dangerous, he would accompany us on our route with his rifle and solve the problem for us.
— Jim McCabe, July 5, 2000 – to be continued next week
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