Opinion: A salute to the paper boy

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Commentary by Ward Degler

No matter how early I get up, the morning newspaper is waiting for me on the driveway. Even before sunrise.

That used to be my job – getting the newspaper delivered before people got up. That was back in the dark ages of my youth, of course, when my body didn’t object so much to predawn exposure.

Today’s paper boy drives a car, and I’m sure he gets paid more than the $8 a week I got for seven days delivery service. I delivered my papers on a bicycle.

My bike had an oversized basket attached to the handlebars, and I could squeeze all the daily papers into it. Sunday papers were too big to carry all at once, so the newspaper distributer staged half of them along the route.

Monday through Sunday, I got up at 5 a.m., jumped in my clothes, raced through breakfast so I could get to the paper office by six. There were usually 15 of us waiting in line to get our papers every morning. We rolled each paper tightly and tied them with string in one of the scariest machines I’ve ever seen. Whatever you stuck into it, the machine would snug up with string tied in a knot. Once or twice a week one of us would carelessly get our fingers tied to the newspaper and have to get cut free. The impression of the string lasted all day.

Most of us rode bikes, although a couple of guys had motor scooters. We were envious, of course, except when it was snowy or the streets were glazed with ice. Scooters were definitely more dangerous on winter streets.

Bikes weren’t safe, either, but at least we could get off and push them on the hills. I did lose it one snow-blown Sunday in January. I didn’t see the ice at the top of the hill, and the next thing I knew my bike was at the bottom, my newspapers were strewn over most of a city block and I was nursing a skinned knee halfway in between. All I could think of was finding all of my papers. We had to pay for losses out of our meager pay.

I delivered papers for a full year. I got fired when the kid I hired to cover my route while I was on vacation with my family never showed up. Mom said it was a blessing in disguise.

That was a long time ago, of course, but every time I walk outside in the early morning and find my newspaper waiting for me, I offer a silent salute of recognition to the guy who delivered it.

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