Special delivery: memories of a former paperboy

A paper route was a dream job for a kid. It taught discipline and responsibility and put money in your pocket.
A record player
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A Jan. 8 email from the Patriot-News announced that delivery routes are available. Arriving in my in-box on a frigid winter day, the email summoned to mind my days as a paperboy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In Maine. When winter was winter. Well before there was such a thing as Polartec fleece.

The challenges buffeting the newspaper industry have cost a lot of reporting jobs, but the past 20 years have pushed paperboys and papergirls to the brink of extinction. It’s adults who do most of the delivering, tossing papers onto driveways from their cars or trucks.

Some newspapers don’t publish as frequently as they once did (Patriot-News, three days per week). Now they are parts of larger media companies focused on digital distribution.

Reflecting this trend, in 2012 the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association changed its name to the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

“This was done in an effort to reflect the media companies that many of our members have already become,” according to the association’s website.

The PNA Foundation still recognizes its newspaper carriers of the year. The 2013 youth division winners were from the Beaver County Times, the Tribune-Review near Pittsburgh, the Daily News in McKeesport, and the Reading Eagle. (

Dream job for a kid

Youth carriers were a cheap source of labor for newspapers, but a paper route was a dream job for a kid. It taught discipline and responsibility and put money in your pocket.

It brought back a lot of my own paperboy memories to view this 2011 feature from the San Francisco Chronicle, in which pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub retraced his old paper route from a quarter-century earlier:

Four of the five kids in my family delivered the Lewiston, Maine, newspapers, the morning Daily Sun and the Evening Journal.

I can still hear the raspy voice and smell the cigar that Ed Maroon, the circulation manager, brought into our home when he came to pick up payment. (Only recently did I learn, upon reading Mr. Maroon’s obituary, that he was “Mr. Downtown,” the newspapers’ prep sports prognosticator.)

We must have been pretty reliable carriers, because the newspaper company allowed us to keep the routes in our family for years. As the youngest child, I was the last one to join the family business.

I was a paperboy for five years, starting in fifth grade with the smaller Evening Journal route and ending with the morning Sun. For a couple of years, I delivered both, mostly on foot but sometimes on bike.

For the morning route, there was a shortcut through the woods and past the abandoned sawmill with its rusted out trucks. Whether it was the frequent darkness, the spider webs, the infrequent wild turkey, the unseen but much-feared skunks, I tended to opt for the long way.

John Lennnon’s assassination

My father, ever the early riser, always had the Daily Suns unbundled and waiting on a stool for me to count. We would chat briefly, often about a late sports result. The morning of Dec. 9, 1980, he told me the shocking news of John Lennon’s assassination.

You knew it was cold when Dad urged, “You’d better dress warm.”

But no matter the weather conditions, the amount of sunlight, there was a job to do six mornings per week.

I used to joke that all those years of touching newsprint and ink, something seeped into my body, making me want to become a newspaper reporter.

I was an intern at the Lewiston papers in summer 1989, writing for the newspapers I had delivered in my younger years.

While I was there that June, the renamed Lewiston Journal published its final edition, merging the next Monday with the Daily Sun.








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