Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"You're Getting a Job"

Me and my trusty bicycle with basket that helped me deliver thousands of newspapers  1951-1956

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 paperboy 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 deli-vering 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. 

My Mom, Mrs. Lindermann and my brother Isaac looks on as Mrs. Lindermann scoops up my weekly take - leftover newspapers on chair to left - 1954

She gave me a small, black, hand-size three ring binder.  This notebook contained 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 notebook 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 the 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 again in Heaven.

Mom and me Mineral Springs, PA - 1942 - she already had plans for me to go to work


  1. I never had an official job growing up... farming was a full time occupation even for the kids (well especially for the kids). But I did get to sell sweet corn in the summer and pumpkins in the fall for some extra cash.
    What did you do with the money?

  2. Scott,

    My brothers and I also sold sweet corn but my dad always got the money. The money I earned being a paperboy I spent all of it on comic books and candy. ALL OF IT! Oh how I wish I had those comic books today. My Mom threw out my comic book collection when I went into the Army.

  3. I never had a "job" as a kid--other than chores around the house--but my parents did instill in me a work ethic that i think is missing from many people these days.
    Too many people think they are owed time off, and owed vacations and owed and owed.
    Not how it works, people!

  4. Bob,

    The paperboy was my first job. Mom had other jobs lined up for me. She used to clean offices. When she got a job at Pepperridge Farms, I took over her office cleaning job at 15 years old (.65 cents an hour). I also worked on the weekends at a local farmers' market in the meat department (appropriate). I also had side jobs mowing grass and washing dishes at another restaurant on weekends. I've always had some kind of job. I don't feel right unless I have a paying job. Now I only work part-time at a hotel which is the way I like it. I don't want to work full-time anymore but I do like to work and get paid and know that I'm making a contribution.

  5. anne marie in philly6:46 PM

    I took my first job at age 16 in a small 5 & 10 in paoli. still working at age 57.5. I'll work til I drop dead.

  6. Same here Anne Marie, I'll work (I'm at work now) until I drop dead. Look for me to be working when I'm 90!

  7. Ron,

    You left your paperboy job not long after you turned 14, not 15. I took over your route and you bike after Christmas 1955. You wanted to finish out the year because you got bigger tips at Christmas. I took over at the very beginning of 1956. I also think it was the best job I ever had. I would have kept it longer than I did, but my parents moved and I had to quit in June of 1956. I turned 15 just after I quit and you didn't turn 15 until the following November.

    I went to the Farmers Market and got a job there, too. Mine was at a greengrocer and I washed celery. I went and applied for and got that job with another person, but I can't remember who. I was a bit irked because they got to wait on customers and stuff, while I was back with my hands in a big tub of water all the time.

    Before I had you paper route I did errants and odd job around the neighborhood - lawn cutting, car washing, going to the store for people. I also worked as a caretaker for the Meisels one year.

    When I had to give up that paper route I was taking in about $18 a week, $9 as commission and the rest in tips. That was big money for a 14 year old kid in 1955.
    I only had to work one hour a day seven days a week.


  8. Thanks Lar. You're better at those dates than I am. I always get it mixed up. I was pretty sure I quite by the time I got to ninth grade. Was that when I was 14 years old? I never made as much as you did delivering papers. I think the most I ever made was $5.00 a week and I spent it all thus setting a pattern for spending my job earnings for the rest of my life. You were right about only working hour a day for seven days a week. I didn't mind the weekdays but I hated Sundays because the papers were so heavy. I still remember those Bad Old Days. Sometimes I had to make two trips.

  9. So you think that the grid notebook with monies to collect and who gets which newspaper may have sparked your interest in the financial side of business?

    I love your old photos!

  10. that was a lovely tribute; thank you for sharing it.

  11. i had a paper route as a young teen, and i LOVED it. i used to barrel around on that bike like it was a tank. and i loved being able to make my own money. i do remember a couple things: once after i had gone to my first nude beach, my rear was so sunburned that i could barely sit on the bike seat for a whole week; and the time that i realized that a couple of my customers were gay and hitting on my jailbait 16 year old ass. it was a rush. good times! -tony

  12. Tony,

    Oh how I loved my paperboy job! I was my own boss making my own money setting my own time. I was never hit on by guys (that I remember) but a couple of women (much older than me) invited me into their bedrooms so I could "collect" my bill. The first time I was confused why she asked me into her bedroom in the daytime and she was in her nightgown. When I got home I told my Mother and she told me never to go into a woman's bedroom again to collect my money! No worries there! I was totally confused. I guess that woman wanted some young meat.


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