Remember When: Being a Paperboy

It was a major responsibility, but it was also an opportunity. It was an admirable thing to be a Paperboy. I remembered when ours would come to our house to collect; they were always clean, and neatly dressed and groomed. They were also polite, patient and good at math (add, subtract and divide). I was surprised how they always knew when to come to collect their money. We had both the Cleveland Press and Plain Dealer delivered to our home. That meant we had two different paperboys and they were both standouts.

Once I realized it was a way to make money, I decided this was something I wanted to do. My first route was Pulaski Avenue and Ansel Road. It started from 82nd Street and went down to Ansel Road. It was for the Cleveland Press. I picked up my papers every day (except Sunday) promptly at 4:30pm. There were 3 of us at that corner. Our pick up designation was on the corner of 82nd Street and Pulaski right by the convent.   The navy blue Cleveland Press truck would pull up and my District Manager would greet us and have our papers precisely counted out. They would be dropped off if we were late and that meant you had to double up your delivery time to catch up.

Your canvas bag held about 20-25 daily evening papers. Once I learned the secret of folding the newspaper, I could get them to fit snugly in my bag and this would not only save space, but also expedite delivery time, since I could now throw a folded paper accurately from a good distance. My aim and precision were infamous. In the summer I could pitch them on the front porches and if the house was a duplex, I could pitch it right to the door on the upstairs front porch. Rain always made the job more difficult and it took longer to finish your route. Winter was most difficult and certainly more challenging. When it was cold, I had to bundle up, go inside hallways, alleys and inside stairwells. I had to protect myself and keep the papers dry and make sure not track in mud or debris, into people’s homes. 

I had primarily residences on Pulaski, but when I got to Ansel Road I had a few businesses like the PLAV, Mikes Bar, the delicatessen and the Gulf Gas Station. Businesses meant good weekly tips and great Christmas Bonuses.  Sometimes on Fridays I would get a free Walleye or Perch Fish Fry from Mike’s Bar. Nothing beat those Friday Fish Fries form those neighborhood bars.

Most important about having a paper route made me learn responsibility, customer service skills, money management, organizational skills and it prepared me for learning how to solve some of life’s problems. These include people who wouldn’t pay their bills on time, or never answer their doors when you came to collect. If you needed to, you could get your District Manager to help and he would have the main office send delinquent notices.

I also learned that good service meant good tips and compliments. Nothing hurt worse than a customer calling the paper and complaining about my service or me. The next day my District Manger would hand me an envelope with a pink slip in it describing the complaint and what action needed to be taken. Quickly I learned there were consequences for poor performance or mistakes. 

What did I like and enjoy best about being a Paperboy? Well, I got to know a lot about my customers, I could knew every family member, their pets, became familiar with the individual smells and characteristics of their homes, and learned about where they worked and what they did. I was like an extended family member who delivered a service, door to door. I was just like their insurance man, milkman, dry cleaners, grocer and every other individual who delivered goods or services. It also gave me an opportunity to establish a good reputation as a businessperson and individual. Thanks to the Cleveland Press for this valuable learning experience.