Paper Boy No More

New Year’s Day was the first day in 15+ years that one of my sons didn’t trudge out to deliver papers.

One paper route passed down through three boys.  With their earnings from the route, they purchased:

Three cars
One truck
Three motorcycles
One mountain bike
A snowboard
A computer

The car was always the first big purchase.  Our only rule was “Pay Cash.”  By the time each guy was 15 and had a permit, he had found a car to buy and had saved enough money for it.  They all loved counting out those hundred dollar bills.

Sometimes the route was a pain in the patootie.  How many times did a son suddenly realize–the night before we were leaving for a trip–he had forgotten to get a substitute?  Frantic phone calls followed.  It has become harder than ever to find a reliable sub.  There were no Sunday papers.  The only other day off was Christmas Day.  Sports schedules and fun activities had to be worked around the daily need to deliver the (afternoon) papers.

But many great lessons were learned. 

The biggest lesson, I believe, was respect.  We have many older folks on our route, for whom receiving the paper is The Highlight of their day.  Each boy had to be taught to respect his customers even when he thought it was lame to be so attached to ink and paper.  Learning the preferences of 50-70 subscribers took patience and perserverance. 

Another lesson was courage.  One grouchy lady scared Chris so much, he didn’t collect from her for six months!  He would rather pay for her paper himself than ask her for money.  (We found that out waaaay after the fact!) One man-curmudegeon would be too kind of a word-opened the door, saw a young boy and never failed to respond: “What the #*$&% do you want?”  Carson inadvertently missed collecting from him for several months; with shaking knees he had to explain and ask for the back money owed.  Even I was scared; but I made him deal with it himself!

The boys also had to be taught discretion.  I checked the Sexual Offenders list to see who might be living on our route.  I wanted them to be wary of too-friendly neighbors. 

Organization is the key to life, my sister-in-law says.  Learning to keep track of payments was an important part of the job.  Carson did his best to convert as many customers to “Office Pay” before he handed the route to Collin.  “Collecting” was the bane of the boys.  I couldn’t believe the few folks who tried to stiff the boys, put them off, continually ask them to come back. 

Friendship was the biggest benefit. So often when I took my turn substituting, customers along the way would stop me to compliment the boys, ask about the older ones or just chat.  If Collin took longer than usual collecting, I knew that he was in the living room of one of our neighbors telling hunting stories. A while back when Carson and Taryn were home for a visit, we saw Mrs. Whitmore working in her front yard.  We stopped the car and said hi (she always liked Carson a lot) and introduced Taryn to her.  A few months later she died of a stroke.  We have enjoyed the kind comments and notes from customers.  I sigh; I say Yay!  The end of an era has arrived. 


16 thoughts on “Paper Boy No More

  1. Such a good story :)Our girls learned and earned such cleaning their dad’s medical office:  four daughters, four exam rooms, and four other rooms to be divided.  Only last year, make that the Fall of ’07, did I finally have to hire a *real* cleaning service.So, what is Collin doing for dollars?

  2. This fascinates me because paper routes don’t exist in southern Cal. anymore. For the most part, papers are delivered by guys driving a route before dawn. There is no personal interaction between driver and customer — you pay your monthly bill by mail directly to the paper’s business office. My dad often talks about selling papers in downtown Los Angeles on street corners and also having a regular route — Los Angeles hasn’t seen much of either of those types of paper delivery in years. I do miss that personal touch.

  3. Thanks for this personal glimpse. Beautifully written. You know, Carol, I think this local newspaper should write an article acknowledging the B-boys service. What a wonderful human interest story. I would gladly suggest it to them if you would send me the name of the newspaper! Janie

  4. @FatherofGavinTheGreat – Oh no, here we go again!  You see I can read between the lines.  I know what this means.  It’s the famous baseball card accusation.  “How could you let me spend ALL THAT MONEY on baseball cards?”  (grin)  Bad mom, bad mom… Tell it to your therapist, Chris. :p   [I love you!]  

  5. Hahahaha….I just wanted everyone to know that we aren’t as responsible as make us out to be !!!!Oh and I had good warrant to be afraid of the  “grouchy lady” . It was worth the $7 a month to not get eaten alive !!!!  

  6. You guys all just made my day!!! Just had to tell you–it’s like listening to the interchange between my daughters  And just so you know you’re not the only ones, I remember many a candy bar sale where most of the candy was bought by either the seller or the seller’s mother, if you know what I mean. Any way you look at it, it’s the end of an era. Best wishes on your new job, Collin! Let us know how it goes. Are you gonna be a busboy or a waiter?

  7. The same in Sydney, no paper routes. Papers are delivered by mail. I find a part- time at a little cafe, hope can earn some to buy a second- hand car and pay off the rent~~

  8. Great post, Carol.  Terry delivered Sunday papers when he was a teenager.  It meant picking them up at midnight and delivering in the wee morning hours.  Love the comments from your three sons. Priceless!Congrats to all on a job well done.

  9. How fun was this whole thing, from your well written post to the comments! My 16 year old grandson worked hard during summers and breaks at his dad’s company warehouse so he could save for a car. He managed to buy a used truck this past summer, and i love how proud he is of that worn upholstery-ed vehicle!

  10. We get that same paper delivered by a man in his car. We may wave at each other if we happen to be around, and it’s nice to know he’ll be by at some point in the afternoon. But it’s not quite the same as having the paper brought or tossed by a neighborhood child. Sometimes we have a sub who brings doggy treats to the paper boxes where she knows dogs live, it’s a real treat for my 4 legged pals when she does that. I once left a sack of dog treats in the paper box, to donate to her cause, however the regular man was back that day and didn’t take the treats, I wonder what he thought about them in the box? I would imagine it was a bittersweet emotion for you, not having the paperboy go out but some relief that it’s over as well. . .

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