Oregonian Paper Boy
(c) Copyright Leo G Campbell 10/24/2020 9/20/2020
I was an Oregonian newspaper boy, in Portland, Oregon when I was 10 years old until I quit delivering newspapers at 12, when I found mowing lawns was easier to make a little money. That was in the years 1955 – 1957, or part of 1958. I had a paper route, delivering to about 50 customers’ houses.
I remember seeing my first 1958 Ford Edsel, it was parked at the curb in my paper route delivery neighborhood.
I was on my bike delivering papers, but I was so amazed at the car – I really liked its quite-different auto styling (still do) – that I parked my bicycle, and walked all around that blue-green and chrome, slick brand-new 1958 Edsel, peering in every window.
I had an afternoon-evening paper route, in Northeast Portland, that I did after school. Pretty close to my own house on NE 52nd, near to Sandy Boulevard.
We had an Oregonian sort of, “gather” wood clapboard shed, set in a vacant lot, right south of NE 58th and Sandy. Where about 20 of us paper boys would meet right after school, say 4 pm. We had an Oregonian adult manager in there, to answer the “route telephone” for new or current customers. We’d park our bikes, go in and gather on benches with tables, to set and prepare our newspapers for delivery.
The thickness of a daily Oregonian newspaper varied with the day – more pages, the thicker the “paper” – made it harder to roll up and stuff in the big heavy canvas delivery bag with “Oregonian” printed on it, in big letters.
The busy manager would let us phone to the downtown editor news room: “How many pages?” we’d ask most days – the delivery trucks weren’t at our shed, yet.
Saturdays would be 40 pages, the lightest day. All the other days’ editions’ pages varied a lot, and “Sundays was always a killer!” Newspaper bundles, bound in the middle by a single thin aluminum wire, would be hauled into our shed, the wire got snipped, each bundle, and we took turns getting our share.
Lots of kids used a thick aluminum “v”-shaped fork carry device, that could be set over the handlebars, was strong enough to balance a big, heavy bag of rolled newspapers, the bag top opened to the rear.
Then, riding a bike along down a sidewalk, a paper boy would barely slow his bike, pull out a rolled paper, and ‘skillfully’ toss it onto the designated house porch. Or into bushes by the porch. Or through a window. We were fine.
I never got the hang of balancing the bag. It always slid away… off the bike. So I used a double-bag to bodily carry my newspapers – two smaller, connected-on-canvas bags, with a hole between for my head. Not as cool, but way better than a bigger, single bag fall-off into a rain puddle.
I missed the porch sometimes (went in the bushes. Stop, get off the bike); none of us would ever admit, nor talk about that. Nor about forgetting a new customer. After over 2 years, I didn’t miss so many porches, and only once missed – and broke a window. The customer was actually nice about that. We all had a delivery-route card, after a while it got hard to read, from scratched-out addresses, new addresses.
All of us paper boys (there were never, paper girls) had to go around at the end of each month, to our customers, and collect for the Oregonian newspaper. I think a “Daily & Sunday” was $1.95. Then you had a “Daily-Only” at $1.30 and “Sunday-Only” customers ($0.45? I forget). A daily Oregonian sold at stores, was a nickel (or $.05).
My house porch customers were a fairly stable lot, and most promptly did pay. I think I made about $20 – $30 a month (all these dollar figures are 1957 values).
Did I make that much? I don’t know. I was 10 or 12 years old. Ask the Portland, Oregonian accountancy.
For awhile, I also did an apartment route. I lost too much money because customers would simply move out, and not cancel the paper. So the paper boy got stiffed (me), so I quit that.
I had a friend, when I was 10 years old, and we were both in fifth grade. He had an official retail-evening newspaper spot, at the west door to the Hollywood Fred Meyer store. He was going on a two-week vacation with his family, so asked me to do the Fred Meyer’s door paper job, for him.
All I did, he said, was to wear the Daily Journal green apron, shout at the customers going in and out, of the Fred Meyer’s door, and take their “Evening Daily Journal newspaper” nickel ($.05), or their “Evening Sunday… (wait, I forgot… Portland had blue laws then. Fred Meyer’s store was closed. I sold the evening Portland Daily Journal, only on weekdays there).
I had a green steel, fold-up newspaper stand. Opened and folded down, it provided a rack, upon which to stack about 20 daily newspapers (I refilled the rack, from my supply I kept in the store). I stood close to the outside sidewalk door, with my green apron and my green rack, and began to sell Oregon Journal newspapers.
Shout at the customers. I felt shy. I had nothing to say. So, I did what I had seen movies or, on TV:
“Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”.
That worked swell, especially when I held up the newspaper in my small, 10 year-old hand. I’d wait a few minutes, and shout it again: “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”
So the two weeks rolled along, I most always sold out my Fred Meyer pile, of 60 papers each evening, from 4 pm to 8 pm, unless it was really stormy. $3.00, or 60 nickels, all the nickels, they bulged my pockets out, so I waddled just a bit, as I walked along Sandy Boulevard, the 9 blocks home.
Near the end of my time there, at that Fred Meyer store, I was in my little green apron, holding up a paper and doing my stuff, “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”.
A man in a gray suit, paid his nickel got his paper, went into the Fred Meyer store.
He came back, after a while, leaned down and spoke quietly to me: “Son, you’ve been telling folks a fib. ‘Extra Extra’ means this paper is very special – not your normal paper – something’s bad happened, like we’re going to war.” He patted my shoulder, and walked way. Ah.
So, I kept selling my papers in 1957, for the last 3 remaining days, same as before. “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”.
After 6 years in the military and Viet Nam, in 1972, I finally understood what he meant.