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To Be a Paper Boy

The newspaper business has changed and evolved over the years. Little Falls now has “the Record,” a collection of local stories of interest, advertisements, and classified goods and services, and news of activities, events, and school information. One can find the St. Cloud Times, Brainerd Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and St. Paul Pioneer Press at vending machines outside local restaurants. However, for many years a classic paper was published on Broadway in downtown Little Falls called the Little Falls Daily Transcript.

Everyday a new paper was published by 3:00 p.m. and newspaper boys would pick up their ‘paper bag’ with the Transcript logo on the side and head out on their ‘routes’ through the city on bicycles. We didn’t throw the paper at the house or porch as seen in movies. We would walk up each walk and place the paper in the mailbox on the house. (At that time mailboxes were on the house or door, not out by the curb or in the country.)

The variety of characters met on a paper route is diverse, and taught me a great deal about people. Sun, rain, wind or snow, the route would have to be completed Monday through Friday after school.  Moving through the route took about an hour and fifteen minutes. My route wound through my Southeast neighborhood and covered about four miles.

We learned to put the bag over the back fender of the bike to prevent it from always being on our shoulder. If one walked, or in the winter, the bag would be carried.

It was a pleasant experience for the most part and people would be grateful for their daily paper. Sometimes we would encounter a territorial dog and this presented problems. At one house there were several large German shepherds who would dig large holes by the front of the house. They would be looking suspiciously at me each day as I walked past large bones they had gnawed on where they laid. Fortunately, they never decided I was a threat as I carefully laid the paper at the door and retreated.

Most frightful was a large brown dog at the Rosenmeier house; he would charge down the hallway and leap on the white curtains at the sound of the mailbox lid opening. Fortunately, he was almost always inside the house.

My brother, who also had a paper route, was, unfortunately, not so lucky. One time a small white dog growled at him as he approached and slowly laid the paper on the step and retreated. He would have escaped unharmed, but he decided to run when he reached the halfway mark of the sidewalk. At that moment the small dog bounded down the sidewalk and bit on to the seat of his pants. He ran several steps before the little dog decided to let go. Unfortunately, he needed a shot from the doctor as he had two little red marks on his bottom!

Every two weeks or so we would knock on doors of the customers and say, “Collect, please,” as the weekly cost of the paper was 25¢ in the early 1960s. Most people paid promptly. We heard several excuses why people could not pay on time. – one was, “My dog chewed up my wallet” – so we would return the next week.

To be sure, the memories of being a paper boy were mostly pleasant. I have saved my paper bag as a fond memory to this day.

-Dan G.

Date of Essay: October 24, 2011