Friday, February 13, 2009

The Passing of the Paper Boy

The recent announcement by the Detroit newspapers that they will reduce printed newspapers in favor of digital editions likely means that home delivery of the paper as we know it is coming to an end, and it seems only fitting to mourn the passing of the paper boy. Of course, daily newspapers are delivered by motor carriers these days, but for my generation and those that came before, a newspaper route was usually the first paying job for a pre-teen youth. The newspaper route taught young entrepreneurs responsibility, discipline and an appreciation for the value of a dollar earned. In the late 1940s, my Dad was one of Rochester's delivery boys for a national weekly tabloid newspaper called Grit. Mom delivered the Detroit News and Detroit Times - but freely admits that whenever she could sweet talk a boyfriend into doing her route for her, she took advantage of the opportunity. She considers this to be evidence of her excellent managerial skills.
In the early 1970s, my sister and I trailed along behind our uncles, who delivered the Oakland Press (or Pontiac Press, as it was called until 1972) in the Parkdale/Charles/William section of town. The preferences of each customer were duly recorded in the route book: whether the newspaper was to be placed in the front door, side door, or porch box. Collections were made each Friday, and small receipt tabs were torn from the cards in the route book to mark the customers as paid. Tips were promptly wasted in the candy bar vending machine at the Sunoco station at the corner of Romeo & Main. About the same time, my future husband was an award-winning Oakland Press carrier in the Brooklands area of Avon Township, where he collected routes as other carriers gave them up, until he was delivering to half the subdivision. When he started his first hourly wage job as a grocery store stock boy, he was disappointed to learn that he earned less than he had with his paper route.

1 comment:

  1. I clearly remember my paper route with the Detroit News back around 1957-58. I covered the Albertson St to Glendale section of North West Main St. Great job for a budding entrepreneur - I went on to own two consulting firms and I am sure those early years with the paper route taught me some valuable business lessons.