Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Last of the Paperboys

Hats off to Daniel J. Flynn for writing our story — Reagan-Era Paperboy.

The Courier-Express, once edited by my colleague Mark Twain, was the first paper I delivered, until 1982, when she folded. I was even interviewed by the local news station on my last day on the job. A few weeks later, I was back on my feet again with a route handed down to me by my neighbor, delivering The Buffalo News, not unaware that my city had become a one-paper town, and I was working for an information monopoly.

Most of us agreed that the wrong paper had closed. For us workers, the former, a morning paper, was much better because it instilled the good habit of getting up at 5:30 AM each day. The latter required the sacrifice of a good part of the afternoon. By the time I was ready to hand down that second route, as Mr. Flynn notes, "paperboys [were being] replaced with papermen."

Of the worst part of the job, Mr. Flynn writes, "Collection could be more negotiation session than straight receipt of payment." Of the best part of the job, he writes:
    Paper routes ensure outside activity every day, responsibility, independence, and familiarity with neighbors. The forced neighborhood interactions included a few children of the 19th century, shut-ins shut off from departed friends and spouses, whose time spent with a child of the late 20th could make a week -- for me at least.
I still remember those lonely shut-ins, who would invite me in for cookies and milk, carefully count the dimes and nickels they'd pay me with, sometimes leaving me one or two as a tip. Could kids these days even be bothered? Mr. Flynn rightly concludes, "Paperboys have faded into yesterday because society has decayed."

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2 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

That was my first job. Can't think of a better one for a young person.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Steve Hayes said...

Nowadays it wouldn't be safe. Neighbourhoods are anything but neighbourly. Last week a schoolgirl was raped in our neighbourhood on her way home from school. Parents are scared to let their kids walk anywhere any more, or even to ride bikes.

1:51 PM  

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