Me and my dependable bike with basket that delivered thousands of newspapers from 1951 to 1956
The year was 1952. I was ten years old. I was the oldest of the three sons of Ike and Betty Tipton. Ike, my father, was a transplanted hillbilly. He came to Pennsylvania from the western mountains of North Carolina with his eight brothers (two more would be born in Pennsylvania) when he was ten years old. He and his brothers were to work as migrant farm labor for his uncle Don Byrd’s farm in southern Chester County.
My Mother was the youngest of a family of Pennsylvania Quaker descent. Her Mother died when she wasn’t quite two years old. Both my parents had a hard upbringing. Neither had an easy childhood. Both began working before they reached their teenage years. I was to be no exception.
I came home one day from school and my Mother told me “You’re getting a job. You’re going to be a paper boy.” Uh….okay. What did I know? We were poor and lived in the poorer section of town. My father was a long distance truck driver, exempted from serving in the military because of his three sons being born in 1941, 1943 and 1944. Mom, at that time, was a stay-at-home Mom with her hands full taking care of three rambunctious boys. Any woman knows that three sons can be a handful. My brothers and I were no exception. We kept her busy.
I wasn’t asked if I wanted a job, I was told. I didn’t even think to protest. What I did know was that I wasn’t getting an allowance like most of my classmates and that my brothers and I didn’t wear shoes during the summer months off from school because it was too expensive. I would be earning MONEY. I knew that. Up until this time I earned a a nickel here and there running errands to the grocery store for my relatives who lived in the same apartment building we lived in on Washington Avenue in Downingtown. Once in a great while one of my uncle would give me a whole quarter for running an errand to the grocer store. Now as a paper boy I would be earning BIG MONEY….up to $5.00 a week!
She told me a Mrs. Lindermann would come over to our second floor apartment at 120 Washington Avenue to explain to me what I had to do. Mrs. Lindermann arrived on a hot and humid August night (no air conditioning in the Fifties – we didn’t notice). She told me that I would pick up my newspapers (The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin) at the Sam Charles News stand, which was located on Lancaster Avenue, the main road through Downingtown. This was only a few blocks away from where we lived in the center of Downingtown. I would also be delivering a few copies of the local newspaper but the bulk of my deliveries would be the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, about 60 copies. I would pick up these papers after school.
She gave me a small, hand-size three ring binder. This notebook contain a monthly grid of individual sheets of the customers I was to deliver the newspapers too. Each sheet had the customers’ address and which paper was to be delivered to them. There was also an amount listing what I was to collect from the customer once a week. She turned over this binder of customers’ names and addresses to me. At ten years old I had my first Real Job. I now had responsibility. I felt grown up. It felt good.
I was a paperboy from third grade until I entered ninth grade, from ten years old to fifteen years old. Believe it or not the main reason I quit the paperboy job was that I thought I was too big to ride a bicycle. Remember, back in the Fifties only kids rode bicycles.
I can honestly say from my vantage point now, that paperboy job was the best job I ever had in my life. The best. I was on my own, I was out in the fresh air, I got to meet and interact with people (which I love and do to this day as I do at my part-time job as a hotel front desk clerk), and I made money. If there was any downside at all (and I didn’t and never did consider it a downside) was that I didn’t have time for extra-circular activities at school. While the rest of my classmates were spending their allowances and getting into trouble or just being bored, I had something to do after school, deliver papers. And oh the experiences I had delivering those newspapers, something which I will write about in future blogs.
I don’t have any pictures of me delivering papers but I do have a picture of me on my bike that I delivered newspapers. My trusty, dependable bike that got me through many a day; hot, cold, windy, snow, rain.
I am so thankful that my Mother gave me this lesson early in my life to teach me responsibility. She is gone now but her lesson has stayed with me for the past sixty years. I am working now, albeit part-time. I will work until I can no longer function either mentally or physically. I know of no other way. Mom trained me well.
Thank you Mom, wherever you are. I have no doubt she will have a job waiting for me when we meet in Heaven.