Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Celebrating Labor

Posted to OGR on 09/05/2010

For many, Labor Day represents the end of summer but Labor Day really is the holiday for the American Worker. You know me, I am going to talk about some job I had in the past. Long before I started my radio career I was a paperboy. Back in the day, there were two newspapers in town, one published in the morning and the other in the evening. My first paper route was for the evening paper and consisted of about 150 customers in the neighborhood close to my home. I would get home from school and change into my jeans, jump on my bike and ride down to the drop location. The manger would deliver the papers in bundles to about 10 of us on the corner and we would spend about 15 minutes cutting the bundles, folding the papers and stuffing then into the large cloth paper bags that fit on our handlebars. When we were finished, we would all load the bags on our bikes and head out to our individual routes. It usually took 30 – 45 minutes to “throw the route.” It was an easy job riding down the road throwing papers into the yards and avoiding the neighborhood dogs. I think the dogs liked barking at the paperboys almost as much as they liked chasing postal workers.

When I got older, I graduated to the morning paper and bigger routes. These routes usually had 200 – 300 customers. I remember the solitude of riding to the drop spot in the pre-dawn chill with the moon and the stars overhead. Folding papers usually took about 30 minutes followed by an hour to 90 minutes of time to deliver the papers. Of course the morning paper had something that the evening paper did not; Sunday editions. Sundays were the “heavy lifting” days of the job. Folding the much thicker Sunday editions took much longer and I usually had to come back to the drop spot to pick up the papers I couldn’t fit into the bag on the first trip. I enjoyed the solitary quiet time of being the only one moving around the dark suburban streets, hearing the clicking of my bicycle chains and the soft plop of the paper as I hit the sweet spot right in front of the customer’s front door. There was a certain pride in a perfectly placed paper throw. Just like hitting the inside lower corner of the strike zone.

One morning the “big guy” of the drop spot, the retired guy who ran the 1,500 customer “motor route” asked me if I wanted to give up my individual route to help him throw his route. Of course, he would pay me as much as I made on my own route and I would not have to do customer collections. This was a no brainer; riding around in his car instead of riding my bike. Yeah, man this was the life. He would pick me up in front of my house and we would drive to the drop spot. We placed the paper bundles between us on the front seat and we would fold as we drove. He let me choose the radio station so that naturally meant listening to rock and roll on “The Mighty 690, The Big Ape, WAPE!" I learned a lot about economy of motion from Mr. Roberts as we still had to deliver the 1,500 papers in the same time that I used to deliver 300. At the end of the route, we would drive to the local all night diner and he would buy me breakfast. I cringe to think of it today, but that breakfast usually consisted of a coke and a slice of chocolate pie. Even now, I can’t see a piece of chocolate pie without smelling the newsprint and hearing the "crack" those green rubber bands made as they snapped smartly around the freshly folded newspaper. Oh MY!

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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