Ninety Customers Kept a Young Paper Boy Quite Busy

In about 1958, this 16-year old young man had a 90-customer Johnson City Press-Chronicle newspaper route that encompassed five North Johnson City neighborhoods – Althea, Lake, Crocus, Lakeview and the adjoining section of Oakland.

Deliveries were six days a week; surprisingly, there was no Saturday paper. I was instructed to finish my weekday route by 5 pm and Sunday ones by 7 am. This was doable providing the bulk papers arrived on time. I began my weekday jaunt after arriving home from school at 3:30, walking from our Baxter Street home to the shared drop-off box at the overgrown spare lot on the northwest corner of Lakeview and Mountcastle. My route commenced two blocks away with the Brown family at 901 Althea and concluded with the Coxes at 1719 Lakeview, just a stone’s throw from my favorite recreational hangout – Cox’s Lake.

Most clientele specified exactly where they wanted their paper placed; randomly leaving them on sidewalks or driveways was not an option. I carried my papers in a thick white cloth bag that hung over my shoulder. My load was quite weighty at the beginning of the route, especially on Sundays, but was gradually relieved as I hurriedly trekked from door to door. Since rain was often a threat, I kept a large plastic bag in the bottom of my paper sack so as not to have to face irate customers who had to read soggy newspapers. I endured a daily ritual of coping with roughly five annoying canines, the worst offender being the Hagood family’s small white mutt on Althea.

Sporadically, Jesse Curtis, the circulation manager, would drive by to see how I was doing, his presence usually being made near the end of the route. The Sunday edition presented a whole new challenge. Not only was it thicker, it was delivered primarily in the darkness of the early morning hours when an occasional nocturnal critter would make an appearance. On cold mornings, three of us delivery boys ate breakfast while waiting for our papers to arrive. We built a small fire, heated cans of soup and consumed the warm contents during our brief wait. Ice and snow required my dressing extra warm for my hour and a half excursion. Dad would occasionally show compassion for his young son by escorting me by car on Sundays.

Collection day Fridays were particularly burdensome, as I needed to deliver papers, simultaneously collect money and meet the delivery deadline. I carried a long narrow loose-leaf hardbound notebook for keeping records of payments. I stored all monies in a leather Press-Chronicle pouch with a zipper. Several patrons hid their payments in unique locations near the front of their houses; others required me to catch them at home to collect. One customer had me stop by his downtown business for imbursement.

In spite of my efforts to finish collecting on Fridays, the task often extended into Saturday mornings. I made my deposit at the newspaper office on Saturday afternoons. An attendant behind a long counter took my pouch, counted the bills and coins by hand while I waited. She then paid me my salary. Later, the business acquired an automatic coin-sorting machine.

Today, I cannot walk into the Johnson City Press office without gazing at that long counter and reminiscing about my days of yesteryear when I was a proud hardworking wage-earning paperboy.