– memories of a man getting older –

Christmas & Newspapers

December 17th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Grade school, Washington School, comes to mind. The main entrance of the building was right in the middle, twin sets of doors behind large pillars. Entering, you took one of two flights of stairs to the second floor. Here, centrally located, majestically stood the Christmas tree. Like most Christmas trees seen through the eyes of children, it was a thing of beauty and magic. I don’t recall decorating the tree but I think it was covered with decorations that students had made. Classes would meet, gather round the tree and sing carols. It felt like Christmas.

Our home had a basement and two floors. My sister and I had our bedrooms on the second floor. There was a banister on the steps that ran about half way up, then stopped, connecting to a wall. This meant that you had to come down the steps about half way before you could look upon the first floor, into the living room. It made for a great Christmas presentations.

I remember the year the vision that greeted my eyes contained a new bike. The bike was much more than just fun, it was a time saver and a money maker. The distance to the baseball field behind the Presbyterian church center could be covered in a fraction of the time it would take to walk. And miniature golf by Hadley Airport became part of my solar system. Same with going down town to Costa’s ice cream or Danford’s convenience store.

One of the great things the bike brought me was a job: newspaper delivery boy. I delivered the afternoon paper, the Newark Star Ledger, Monday through Friday. Total weekly cost for this “at your doorstep” service: 35 cents. The papers were dropped at my home, in a stack, tied with cheap twine. I proceeded to fold each paper. Paper boys had a variety of “folds.” There was one where the outcome was the newspaper in the shape of a triangle. This fold created a very tight, secure paper, that was delivered with a tomahawk-like throw. It could carry a great distance and stay folded upon impact. Problem was, it was not a quick fold. The typical, and quicker fold, was created by the insertion of one side of the paper into the other open side and putting a crease in it by slapping it against your knee. Although neither as compact or secure as the triangle fold, it was quick and allowed the papers to be conveniently organized in the canvas bag that hung off the front of the bike, its straps looped around the ends of the handlebar. As you rode by a house you reached in, grabbed a paper, gave it a side arm toss, hoping to have it land on steps or porch. The normal fold held up OK for short, low-impact deliveries.

One time I delivered papers in a ferocious storm. I road through driving rain, puddles and rivers flowing down curb side, tree branches falling. It was exhilarating. Don’t recall if the papers survived but the ride sizzled with excitement and adventure.

Saturday was collection day. People who gave me 50 cents for the weeks collection (15 cent tip) got first class service. There paper would be placed behind the storm door, or carried up onto the porch and put in the mailbox. These people would also give me a Christmas tip, usually an envelope, that would contain U.S. currency. Christmas tips imparted a feeling of being rich!

For each customer I had a square, cardboard page, about 4 x 4 inches. Each page had a series of perforations that created small blocks, a date printed on each block. Upon payment, I would tear off the appropriate block and give it to the customer as proof of payment. Some customers were difficult to get hold of and the fact they were falling weeks behind in payment could be tracked on the page. Although this was an annoyance, when they would finally pay it felt like you were tapping into a savings account.

We put out milk and cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. My sister and I would wake in the morning and  race down the stairs, stop halfway, and gaze upon the packages under the tree. The glow of the lights on the tree, the decorations, the colorfully wrapped presents, was a vision of wonderland. Odd though, I don’t have a lot of distinct Christmas memories, rather more of an encompassing “sense.” It might be because memories live in our brain while Christmas lives in our spirit, in our hearts. Like a soft, silent, evening snow … peace on Earth.

Tags: Early Years · Metuchen N.J. · Msc Ramblings

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Teresa // Jan 12, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I remember back when kids used to do the newspaper delivering! My brother had a route for The Home News, when the paper changed it’s name he got a red sack with “TNT” on it,and pictures of firecrackers.
    One night whe nthe weather was really crappy, my brother opted to throw all the newspapers down a sewer grate, rather than deliver them. The shit hit the fan when his customers started calling our house. My mother made him and I go down to Danford’s and buy any newspaper we could find and deliver them no matter how long it took.
    Teresa (formally of Metuchen)

  • 2 admin // Jan 23, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Teresa, that is a wonderful story, thanks for sharing. I recall dumping sample papers we were getting paid to deliver off the bridge overlooking the railroad tracks. Got away with that!

  • 3 cliff breen // Jan 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    It’s been great reading your blog entries. On the subject of delivering papers.. you need to find a book “Paperboy – Confessions of a Future Engineer” by Henry Petroski. It’s comical, insightful and for anyone who was a paperboy in the 50’s or 60’s it “smalls like home” as you would say.

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