Bisonalities, Again

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The Paperboy
By Jim Lammers
FLBHS Class of 1967

From 1958 until 1964 I was a self-employed entrepreneur, delivering the Erie Times and later the Morning News. I delivered newspapers to nearly every house on the west side of Waterford, from First Street to Fourth, every day. I would ride my bicycle on days the weather would permit, and walked when the snow kept the Schwinn parked in the basement.

The paperboy was basically an invisible guy, seen collecting on Saturday only. The customers were the finest people I ever met. They had to be the most forgiving; I was prone to walking past a customer's house, and wondering, when I got home, why I had too many newspapers in my bag. In my later years I recognize this as the early onslaught of ADD.

Paperboys are, in general, a rather bland bunch of people, but I look back on my colleagues as a remarkable crew. John See was a quiet intellectual; Craig and Eric Mitchell were both fine athletes. Big Brother John was an imposing figure, and is still one of the funniest people I know. Mike Monroe was a natural-born gambler, unfortunately prone to see long odds as a bargain. And then there was my good buddy Billy Beeman. Billy knew only two kinds of people; those who agreed with him, and those who were wrong. There were few who were quicker to take on a challenge, or to challenge a statement that flew into the teeth of his beliefs. These were my comrades, and I count myself fortunate to have known and worked with them.

One thing a newsboy could count on, especially in Erie County, PA, is exposure to the elements. I ran my route day in and day out, 364 days a year. On the coldest of winter mornings, the only person who was up before me was the man who plowed the sidewalks with his horse-drawn plow. The snow could be so cold it would squeak underfoot, and you could not possibly slide on it. Frost would form on my scarf, which I drew over my face in a futile attempt to keep warm. The quiet of those winter mornings was a special kind of peace, leaving me in my own cocoon of silent meditation.

No newsboy ever got rich from his route, but how many 10 year olds could walk into the local taverns, or had the privilege of going up to the door of the prettiest girls in town every day? The job only netted a few dollars a week, but allowed me to have a few items I might have otherwise lived without. It was a responsibility, and my parents were a driving force. I look back on those days with a mixture of pride and nostalgia. The daily newspaper will soon become as extinct as the rotary phone. People will be better informed, but the loss of personal connection will never be replaced.

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