The first blast of winter always reminds me of delivering papers in my youth.
My folks owned the paper in Littlefield, TX and the Sunday issue was delivered by me and my two sisters. The Thursday edition was mailed, but since child labor was cheaper than postal rates, and my parents wanted the paper on people’s doorsteps before church, we were commissioned/ordered/volunteered for delivery duty.
Whatever the reason, we were up early, rolling papers, putting rubber bands around them, packing our delivery bags, loading up our bikes, and peddling the neighborhoods with our list of subscribers.
I don’t remember summer deliveries, but those cold winter mornings are ever-present in my memories. The wind was bitter, the temperatures low, and sometimes the streets were icy. Winter clothing was not the same back in the ‘old days’. We didn’t have the fancy fabrics and we certainly didn’t know anything about cold weather gear. We decked out in blue jeans, bobby socks (2 pairs), tennis shoes, a couple of sweat shirts, a cap, and gloves with socks over them. And we were on our way, before the sun came up and even before most people were out of bed.
I would like to complain about why my parents weren’t delivering these papers, but often they had just come in from printing the paper when we were getting up to deliver them. So, we grumbled about the weather and not enough sleep, etc., but we were acutely aware that the adults in the family were working harder than we were. And if we forgot, they would point it out.
I became an expert cyclist on a one-speed bike. We didn’t know anything about 3-speed or 10-speed. It was one gear and peddle like crazy! One nice thing about Littlefield, there weren’t many hills, so the streets may have been rough, but most were flat.
I remember only one incident that cost me money. I hit a neon sign at the local chiropractor’s office, and, of course, it shattered. I had hoped no one would notice, but there just aren’t any secrets in a small town. As I recall, I didn’t make much money the rest of that year trying to pay for a new sign.
Aside from cold ears and hands covered in printers’ ink, I’m no worse for the wear, but at the time I was glad when I finally went to college and was able to leave my paper route to someone else. I’m grateful for those cold mornings because I can look back and realize, my life is easy now: we don’t get much sleet and snow in this part of Texas, and I don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. in order to get the papers delivered before heading to church.
Life is Good, but I do wonder what kids do these days without paper routes. It builds character, or so I’m told.