As a working advertising professional turned professor, I like to say that I started my career in the distribution of news and advertising when I was 11 years old. ELEVEN years old, you ask? Yes. I was a paper boy! I had two newspaper routes. Remember those? One of the routes was a door-to-door delivery, Sunday only route. One of the duties of that route was to also periodically go door knocking to ask if they wanted to subscribe to the newspaper delivery?
The other newspaper route, which I will write about later, wasn’t necessarily a route, but a designated area of sales for which the newspaper gave me exclusive rights. I sold the newspaper one at a time on the Naval ships that were in port at the Newport Naval Base, in Newport, Rhode Island. My family lived on the base in Naval housing because my father was stationed there at the time. I was a Navy Brat!
At the age of 11, I wanted so badly some money to buy the things that every boy wanted at that time, a transistor radio, sports items, snacks and soft drinks, even some clothes, all of which my parents always said, (because of their limited funds), "No," when I asked them to pay for such things.
I was one of five children and my father was not a commissioned officer, who we all thought made LOTS of money. He was an enlisted sailor, and at the time had achieved the rank of First Class Petty Officer. Even by mid-sixty standards with a wife and five kids his paycheck was spread pretty thin. Although some did, most women did not yet work outside the home for extra income. My mother did not. My mother had her hands full at home taking care of her house, husband and five kids. To make up the household fund deficit my dad usually had a side job fixing and repairing electronic appliances.
With that home scenario I approached my dad telling him that I wanted to find a way to make some money. “Like a job,” he laughed? “Yes,” I said, “I’m ready to get out and get a job so I can get the things I want that you and Mom refuse to buy for me.” He quickly and loudly responded with “Absolutely not!”
My father was never known as somebody that was even tempered, rational, or even reasonable when it came to listening and discussing anything but his way. Being calm and rational were not in my Dad’s skills-set. The only person that could come close to tempering him was my sweet and Godly mother. My Dad said whatever was on his mind, even when it was inappropriate, rude, crude or lewd. So, when he came to my room a few days later to discuss my anger and disappointment, (no doubt sent to my room by orders of my mother), I was happy because I thought the tide must have been starting to turn my way. He said, “OK, let’s give this a try. But here are the stipulations.” He went on to rattle of a few rules and such for which I just nodded my headed saying, “Okay, Okay, yeah, yeah, I will, I promise,” etc.
After we came to an understanding of me working, he told me we would go check out what newspaper routes were available. He had a newspaper route when he was about my age and I guess he thought he could help me manage the process. As he left my room, halfway out the door, he turned and said something to me that I will never forget. He looked back as if he were trying to justify his previous defiant attitude, and said, “I just wanted you to know that “once you start working, you’ll work for the rest of your life, and I wanted you to hold on to your youth as long as you could.” In my loooong eleven years of life to that point I had never heard my dad utter such a deep and heartfelt sentiment. And, I have never heard him say anything like that in my many decades since.
A few days later, my dad and I went down to the offices of the Newport Daily News to inquire about what was available. They had daily routes in (Monday through Saturdays), and one day a week, Sunday’s, available in my neighborhood. He quickly said, we’ll take the Sunday route! Of course, I wanted the daily because it came with more pay, but at that point I was just happy to be getting something that gave me a little cash in my pocket.
The next Sunday, I was up very early in the morning waiting for the papers to get there. All of a sudden there was a thud outside my front door. I opened the door and saw about 50 Sunday papers wrapped in bailing wire, and a list of what addresses they were to be delivered. My dad was up with me. He showed me how to fold them in such a way that they were self-enclosed and made for easy throwing up to the door as I passed each location. I loaded the folded papers into the Paper Bag that I had been given when I signed up for the route, strapped the bag across my shoulder, mounted my bicycle. Before I took off on my first job, I asked my Dad if he would come with me for the first week? He said, No. But halfway through the route I looked back over my shoulder and saw him following me very slowly in the car. I have no doubt that my mother sent him out to make sure I was OK.
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Steve Shaner, is a professional storyteller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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