Thursday 14 July 2016

Paper Boys

Whitby paper boy delivers the Toronto Daily Star circa 1940's courtesy

My Dad delivered both the Toronto Daily Star and the Toronto Telegram as a boy in the 1940's.  As part of the research for my picture book The Hockey Stick, I delved into the life of the paper boy. Henry Petroski's Paper Boy gave me a new appreciation for the job.  He delivered the Long Island Express, a New York paper, in the 1950's.

At one time, hundreds of thousands of paper boys delivered the news to neighbourhoods across the United States and Canada.  Many a paper boy rose before the sun, hopped on his bicycle to meet at the press office to collect his papers.  He would roll each one into a tube, an art form in itself, then stuff it in his sac.  He would sling the overfilled sac over his shoulder, mount his bicycle, and start pedalling down the street, a careful balancing act.  He would flip each paper onto the customer's porch, aiming not to get it in the garden, all the while avoiding vicious dogs.  He raced the clock, not only to be on time, but also to keep ahead of any approaching storms.  Often, he moonlighted as a meteorologist, always trying to stay one step ahead of the weather.  Occasionally, he moonlighted as a bicycle repair man after hearing a nagging squeak or losing a part.

Tired after completing his route, he would arrive  home where he cleaned and dressed his blister ridden hands.  Sometimes his parents would relay a message from the press office reporting a complaint of a soggy or late paper.  Saturday was collection day.  Some customers were prompt with their payment and some even gave a small tip, while others were always late paying their bill (or not at all).  The job carried quite a responsibility for a boy as young as 9 or 10.

U.S. postage stamp circa 1952 courtesy

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