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The Last Paperboy

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Columnist and former TSN paperboy Kris Meltzer paid a visit to Jean Cecil this week. Meltzer and Cecil spent the afternoon reminiscing about the 1960s when Meltzer was her paperboy.
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Dear readers,

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I wasn’t surprised. I always thought that the end was assured when the job was given to adults. Never send a man to do a boy’s job, I always say. I am of course talking about the demise of the newspaper carrier.

I was just getting ready to start writing my weekly column. Sitting at my desk in the newsroom, I was checking the condition of the ribbon on my typewriter when I sensed a presence looming over me. It was our editor, Lou Grant. Mr. Grant said rather loudly that he thought my readers deserved something of more substance than the gibberish I had been producing of late. I told Mr. Grant that I know my readers fairly well and I was pretty sure that they were getting what they deserved.

Mr. Grant said maybe so, but one more rambling column about “The Helbing” was more than he could take so he gave me an assignment. He told me, that since I had gotten my start in the business as a paperboy, I should write about the end of the era of the newspaper carrier. He told me that from now on the newspaper was going to be delivered by the post office.

I said, “Yes sir, Mr. Grant.”

Just then, one of my coworkers said, “Who is Mr. Grant and why are you drooling on your typewriter?”

I realized that I must have dozed off for a few minutes and been dreaming. I did learn from TSN editor Jeff Brown that the part about the end of the newspaper carrier was true. So, I decided to go ahead with the writing assignment that Lou Grant had given me in my dream.

I was a TSN paperboy from 1965-69. Terry Ogden was in my class and he had taken over a paper route from his older brother, David. I helped Terry pass his papers. One day the circulation manager, Dick Simpson, asked me if I would like a paper route of my own. He didn’t have to ask twice. In no time I was making the big bucks just like Terry.

In those days, the paper was 45 cents per week. As a paperboy, I was not only in charge of passing the papers, but also collecting weekly from each customer. I always started collecting on Friday evening and finished up on Saturday morning. I made about 10 dollars a week profit. I would spend 5 or 6 dollars a week on cokes and candy. I would usually then spend the balance frivolously.

TSN is still located in the same building. The room where Dick Simpson and Jim Ford passed out the bundles of newspapers to all of the paperboys is still there. It is stuck in time, similar to the room where Miss Havisham was going to have her wedding reception.

I recognized the tables where, along with many other boys, I folded my newspapers for ease of throwing onto my customer’s porch. Standing there where I had been so many years ago brought back fond memories. Apparitions of paperboys of that era including Bill Stafford, Rob McNew, Rock Robertson, and Oscar Crowe appeared briefly. I wondered who the last paperboy was before the switch to adults was made.

I decided to end my trip down memory lane by visiting one of my customers from my paperboy days. It has been 50 years, but several of them still live at the same address. I stopped to see Jean Cecil. She wasn’t at home, but I knew where to find her.

Jean is a bit of a card shark. I found her playing with some of the regulars at Shelby Senior Services. I explained that I had been going over my collection book from 1968 and found that she still owed me 45 cents. Jean said that she had deducted the amount from the cost of replacing the window that I broke and I owed her 5 dollars.

Of course, Jean didn’t really owe me 45 cents and I never broke her window. We had fun reminiscing. I’m pretty sure that I was her favorite paperboy. I know that she was one of my favorite customers.