DEL MAR — Every day there is a story about papers (you can’t call ‘em newspapers anymore) tanking because of the high cost of getting them to you.
Not too many decades ago there used to be paper boys (no girls in this business) that delivered your paper seven days a week, rain or shine, with no days off for holidays. School-age boys earned a few sheckles when they each delivered papers to as many as 100 customers.
Sometimes the carrier would knock over a milk bottle when the paper sailed on to the porch. But you could always count on it being there — sometimes in a puddle of milk or impaled on a branch.
Route managers kept carriers interested in their job by offering them freebies if they obtained two or three new subscribers. Maybe two tickets to the Fox or Spreckles theaters in San Diego. Getting there was the carrier’s responsibility. Usually it was by Greyhound bus since the journey was too far to ride a bike.
Managers always told their carriers they were in business for themselves, which meant they had to buy their own rubber bands at 85 cents a box. These were needed to keep papers from flying apart as they sailed through space. Canvas bags also were a necessity and they cost a couple of bucks. Repairs to the carrier’s bike, like a new tire, were written off as a cost of doing business.
Paper boys had to collect from their customers each month and were expected to pay their paper bill by the 10th of the month with no discount for early payment. It was the paper boy’s loss if a customer skipped without paying and this seemed to happen too often but not surprising since these were Depression years. In carrier lingo this was referred to as getting stiffed.
Actor Ralph Bellamy still owes $2.05 for a month during the summer.
Paper routes became motorized when child labor laws dictated that paper boys couldn’t start their deliveries before a certain hour and then they had to get work permits from school. Soon customers started complaining their paper was arriving too late to be enjoyed with their cup of java.
Maybe it’s time to have boys (and now girls, too) reclaim the paper routes. It would save a pile of dough particularly when the cost of petrol reaches unlimited heights. And rubber bands will be back in use (and are affordable) when those plastic sacks your paper comes in are banished. Distributors wouldn’t be out of jobs. They would make super managers.
Filed Under: EyeWitness