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On my cousin Brian’s advice, I bought a used DVD of this documentary from Amazon for $10. I was a paperboy once, in Boise, and I remember  the needle-nosed pliers I brought to the streetcorner where my manager dropped a bale of papers at 4 a.m. I used the pliers to snap the wires around the stack of Idaho Statesmans, folded them and stuffed them into my bag, the set off down Irving Street in the dark. I think I had maybe 60 subscribers on my route. The worst part was collecting for the month’s subscription, with my little perforated tablet of receipts, knocking on doors and having people hand me cash in exchange for a little ticket I ripped from the top sheet. No, wait, the worst part was when our manager tried to turn us into salesmen and drove us down into the valley knocking on doors in the less privileged neighborhoods, asking people to sign up for the newspaper. I really hated that. There was no Internet, of course; it was long before computers, back when I kept a collection of 45 rpm hit singles, with the big hole in the middle requiring the plastic adapter for the turntable spindle, songs like Red Rubber Ball and Black is Black and Sloop John B. But I digress . . .

The point is, this film is directed by a graphic designer who did “groundbreaking collaborative design for Beck, Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth.” It came out sixteen years ago or so, back in the heyday of the first (or was it second) bubble, better known then as the boom. Oh, those were the days, when the economy at least appeared to be strong. He says:

I wanted to see if these kids were aware that they are part of a long tradition. Were they aware of how they were also changing that tradition? While doing this film I was excited to see how the almost Norman Rockwell image of the paperboy blended in with the contemporary Eminem-influenced teenage boy. This hybrid of contemporary television/rap oriented teen and American icon of “the good old days” is so full of contradictions that happily live together.

Our  Democrat and Chronicle, here in Pittsford, is delivered by an adult in a car, who comes around as early as my manager did in Idaho. He’s diligent and industrious. We pay by mail. I miss the kids on their bikes. It’s consolation that the Girl Scouts still knock gently on our door, offering to put our name on their list for cookies. Some traditions endure.

4 Responses to “Paperboys”

  1. Richard Harrington

    My paper route was in Walla Walla. 160 papers in a bag that was two straps over the shoulders with two huge pouches front and back. I nearly asphyxiated when my folks lifted that Sunday paper load up on me and sent me staggering out the door, my father laughing. I think I was 10. Damn I hated the job. A year and half of that and I lined up enough lawn mowing to move on. Good riddance.

  2. dave dorsey

    Wow. That’s a real route. I think I had that kind of bag too.

  3. Sarah

    It might be PMS, but this made me tear up – and I never had a paper route.

  4. Brian

    Thanks for the memories. My paper route was in Syracuse suburb – Dewitt. My career began in 1968. Morning route. Can’t recall how many customers, but I would guess 50. Syracuse had an afternoon paper (as did most cities) as well and that customer count was larger than the morning route. How do I know this? I had both Morning and afternoon routes. Same neighborhood for both. I use the paper route experience to explain the difference in our environment now compared to then. I would wake at 6am and leave the house to walk to the drop for the papers to be delivered. Ten minutes in summer, 7 in winter! Then I would wander the neighborhood, alone, delivering the papers. About a 45 minute task. Often in the dark. It is amazing to me that we were able to view our environment with this level of comfort. Parents OK with kids getting up in the morning to go out and wander the neighborhood. The baby boom youth years were truly different. Many stories from that job. I remember pulling the paper out of middle of bundle one morning – we pulled out of middle to loosen the papers from their packaging – and sitting down to do a quick read of the front page followed by checking Yankee score. All stopped when I saw the headline that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I ran home to tell my parents.