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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Everything I Needed To Know -

Everything I needed to know I learned as a paper boy. I learned how to deal with people, both the kind and unkind. I learned at 12 years old that a job meant being outside in rain, snow, heat and cold whether I wanted to or not. I learned that good service was appreciated by people and they would either thank you or give you a tip for going the extra mile. I learned that when it came to money people either had no problem with stiffing you or they were meticulous at making sure you were paid. I learned responsibility. I learned that walking 4 blocks with over 100 lbs of newspapers was hard work. I learned many other things too.

If you have never been a newspaper boy then you may have missed out on an experience of life that would benefit you greatly as you traversed the challenges of life. When I was 12 years old I got a job as a paper boy. I was a skinny kid that seemed to catch every cold or flu bug that came along. That was until I got a paper route. I had 125 customers, and I earned 1.1 cents per paper. The Lansing State Journal came out 7 days a week and the Sunday paper was delivered in the early morning and the rest after school. So here is what that entailed.

I would have to walk with my canvas paper bags 4 blocks and pick up my 125 newspapers. I would carry them home and fold them and put them in the bags. Then I would walk the several blocks and deliver them from door to door to my customers. Thursdays and Sunday was heavy so I might have to make two trips then. I placed them up by the door on porches, or in milk boxes or between the doors so they wouldn't blow away or get wet. Then on Saturday I would go from house to house collecting for the week. If someone wasn't home that meant a return trip and sometimes that could be several return trips.

That was in rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, heat and cold. Being out in that kind of weather has a way of toughening you up to where a cold or flu bug would have to think twice about trying to invade your body. Even if you had a fever or cold you would be out there delivering papers. Then once a month I would take a city bus downtown, walk the several blocks to the newspaper office and pay what I owed. What was left over was mine. Then take the city bus home again.

It taught me to save money, that if I didn't stay within a budget and set aside THEIR money first I could find myself in deep doo doo. I also learned that some people would not pay you and then cancel the paper so that came out of my portion.

I did that job for 5 + years until I graduated from high school and went into the USAF. You missed after school activities. You missed many other social functions too but what you learned along the way was a far better education than you received in school. Having a paper route was a precursor to life itself. I have been working since I first took that job as a paper boy. It is sad to see that those jobs are no longer around and have gone the way of the milk man, ice man, and so many other service jobs.

I learned much about dogs back then too. Until you have 50 pounds of newspaper weight in the basket on your bicycle and are being chased by a dog nipping at your heels you don't know what excitement can be. You don't need a super duper roller coaster to make your heart pump - that dog can do it for you. They used to hide and wait for me to come by on my bike. Most of the time when you stopped to get off your bike and chase the dog off your bike would fall over and you would have newspapers every where.

So to all the old paper boys out there, here is to the good old days when a boy could get a job and hold it as long as you also kept your school grades up to snuff. Gone but not forgotten.

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