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40 T/D/Y #11: Paper Route

Some time probably around the age of 11 is when I started being a paper carrier, occasionally substituting for the older neighborhood kid who delivered our paper. My best friend Andy got a regular weekday paper route before I did, and most afternoons I’d join him and ride along as he did his route. Occasionally I’d substitute for him as well.

One day when I was out riding bikes with him—I believe it was actually while he was doing his route—we were stopped by a couple guys in a car who said they were looking for kids who were interested in delivering a Sunday paper, the Lowell Sun. I didn’t yet have a route of my own, so I jumped at the chance and gave him my name and phone number. When I got home and excitedly told my mom, she was horrified, as you might imagine, since there was no knowing for sure who this guy was or whether he was legitimate, which hadn’t occurred to me. He might’ve had some kind of paperwork with him about the paper, I forget, but even if he did it was still sketchy, and it’s surprising now to think that that paper worked that way. In any case, he did turn out to be a legitimate representative for the Sun, and so I started working a Sunday route, my first regular paying job of any kind.

I did the Lowell Sun paper route for a year or two, I forget exactly how long. Because it was an out-of-town paper, it was less in demand than the local one, which meant my route was rather spread out and stretched quite a ways from my home. It wasn’t too bad most of the time but it was a problem in the winter when there was snow and I couldn’t ride my bike, and would have to carry all the heavy papers with me while walking the route.

Eventually, our own daily paper carrier decided to quit, and he asked me if I wanted to take over his route, which I did. So I quit the Lowell Sun route and started delivering the local, daily Nashua Telegraph instead. The Telegraph was still an evening paper at that point, which meant I could deliver the papers after school. At some point during my time as a carrier, the Telegraph also started running a Sunday edition, so I was delivering all week after all. I believe I started during seventh grade, probably in 1983, but I’d have to check. It was a better route for me, right in my neighborhood, and most of my customers already knew me; plus, as a daily paper, the subscription price was higher which meant I earned more money. My grandfather generously paid for my first computer, an Apple IIc, which I got before the start of ninth grade, but my paper route earnings let me buy a printer to go with it.

In the summer before tenth grade, my manager had good news for me: the paper was starting, or reviving, a “Carrier of the Month” program, and I had been chosen from among the carriers nominated by their managers to be the first Carrier of the Month. This involved a full-page spread about the program, with a very large photo of me, on the back page of one section of the paper… which was published just days before tenth grade started. At the time, ninth graders still went to the junior high schools, and tenth grade was when students started attending the high school. So my first day at high school involved being recognized by many strange kids for being, reportedly, the best paper carrier in the city. I felt it was a rather dorky way to begin high school, but fortunately no one hassled me about it.

I continued with the paper route for another couple years. In the summer after junior year, I had to leave home for some event. I can’t remember what it was now, it might have been the last camping trip I went on with the Scouts, or a family vacation. In any case, I had to get a substitute carrier, which I think I was finding difficult as my usual substitute wasn’t available, and my mom declared it was time I gave up the route and got a “real” job. Certainly the paper route was no longer providing adequate income, and I was somewhat tired of it, and so I did quit. It was pretty good while it lasted, though: it got me outside in the fresh air on a daily basis, riding my bicycle and carrying heavy papers, thus providing exercise as well as a modest income.


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