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:
One mountain bike
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.