Whatever Happened to my Paper Route?
Whatever happened to my paper route? It was my first coming of age experience, so an important building block of my life as it is today. Like all experiences of that nature, it pulled me out of my small world of innocence and into the big world of responsibility, discipline and ill-mannered people.
The daily route was on the south side of a small rural community in Wisconsin, called Fort Atkinson. My mother and father had moved there from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was the only place I knew in those early years. Fort Atkinson was a fun place to grow up. Growing up, however, is not all fun and play.
At a time too far back in my memory to properly date, I decided I wanted a paper route. A paper route would provide me with wealth beyond my wildest dreams. I could then buy whatever I wanted. I would learn responsibility, although at that point I had no idea what that meant. It sounded like a good thing. All these thoughts came to me as I passed the interview and was told to report on a certain day.
Where I was to come in the wee hours of the morning was the basement of my manager’s house. It was dark, dusty and scary. The man was tall and had a temper like nothing I had ever seen before. My papers were waiting for me in a bundle, which I cut then rolled up individually so I could fling them on doorsteps as I rode by on my bike. I rode my sister’s bike through the morning darkness so each customer could read the news, sports and comics with their breakfast. I successfully served every household except one. Those people requested their paper be delivered to the back entrance where their enormous collie was waiting and chased me like I was breakfast. Their paper was often left somewhere in the front yard.
At the end of the week, I had to visit each customer and collect what was owed. It should have worked out perfectly because the manager was selling me papers at a discounted price and I was collecting from the customers at full retail price. At the end of each week I was presented with a bill which I had to pay from the money I had collected. Even though I was supposed to make money, it never seemed like I did.
I learned many lessons from that paper route: 1) Earning money is more difficult than dreaming of ways to spend it, 2) Being responsible takes effort, it does not come naturally, and 3) You cannot always trust people.
I wonder who took the route after me. At the time paper routes were only done by boys. I imagine over the years there were girls who took the route. I cannot imagine anyone on my original route is still alive. With the advent of electronic versions, I believe the route may no longer exist. Anyone living in those houses nowadays wanting a morning paper they can hold in their hand probably has to go to a news stand to fetch it.