Monitor Board of Contributors: You can learn a lot delivering newspapers
At age 72, I’ve come full circle. I am a paperboy again, with a real paper route. For the towns of New London, Andover and Salisbury, I am the designated distributor of Green Energy Times, a free bimonthly tabloid out of Bradford, Vt., with a focus on alternative-energy sources and energy-saving tips.
It’s good to be back in the saddle.
I got my first real job – delivering afternoon dailies to 50 or so households in Lynn, Mass., – when I was in the fourth grade, and it was a major focus of my life for about three years.
From it I learned:
∎ Responsibility (the papers had be delivered, regardless);
∎ Punctuality (they had to arrive at readers’ doors well before suppertime, or there would be phone calls);
∎ Frugality ( Mom made me put a third of my earnings into savings and a third into a clothing reserve; the rest was mine to spend);
∎ Higher mathematics (after the weekly collection, I had to figure out what was mine and what went to the distributor);
∎ Tenacity (for dealing with customers who seemed to delight in stiffing me);
∎ Forgiveness (for dealing with customers who were actually down on their luck);
∎ Entrepreneurial skills (I parlayed my customer relationships into a small business that offered errand-running, lawn care, snow-shoveling and trash removal);
∎ Management skills (I got my little sister to do half the route for a fifth of my earnings);
∎ Awareness of the community and world (once the headlines began to grab me);
∎ Survival skills (for coping with all seasons of New England weather, sometimes during the course of one delivery); and
∎ Surprise (those unanticipated Christmas tips – some as high as $2 – during my first year on the job, which made me a rich lad for a long time).
In short, the newsboy world was the real world. I learned far more from it than I ever learned as a Boy Scout, for example. (I failed knot-tying. Twice.) Or from many of the managerial seminars I was, uh, “invited” to take later in life.
Moreover, the interest in newspapers never left me. My first published piece appeared in the Lynn Daily Evening Item when I was 11 years old. It was a letter to the editor thanking the anonymous Good Samaritan who had returned my mother’s handbag, contents untouched, after she had left it on the bus. I had career thoughts for the first time.
Later, since I had learned to touch-type early in life, I became typing editor (!) on the high-school monthly, then features editor and then editorial chairman on the college daily. I then fell into a 30-plus-year career in public relations, dealing regularly with newspaper reporters from jobs in nonprofits, universities, and the corporate world, until I retired in 1996.
Then volunteer work began to consume much of my time – and much of that time has involved writing and editing news releases, newsletters and publications, largely on behalf of nonprofit organizations.
And now there is this “Monitor Board of Contributors” outlet, which is very nice.
Although my daughter delivered papers for a while 35 years ago, the job of newsboy/girl seems now to have largely faded from the scene. And I’m wondering: Is that same depth of early learning, that same sort of career path stretching all the way from childhood to retirement and beyond, available to kids today, anywhere else? If yes, please let me know. I have a grandson who could benefit in a couple of years from learning some of things I did.
At any rate, for this old-timer, it’s a pleasure to have one last fling as a real newsboy again, albeit as a volunteer. The contents of Green Energy Times are both instructive and a pleasure to read. But the best part is that, every other month, I get to pick up 600 copies of the paper and go from store to store (rather than door to door) in New London, Andover and Salisbury and leave a pile behind for free pickup. Get your copy before they’re gone.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the Christmas tips.
(Larry Chase of Andover is a recovering corporate American.)