The broadsheet is the largest of newspaper formats and is characterized by long vertical pages (typically 22 inches). A typical broadsheet newspaper (100 pages) weighs approximately 1 pound. For several years in the early to mid 1970s, I processed, folded, carried, threw, placed, dropped (subsequently chased in the wind), and ultimately delivered 110,000 broadsheets or approximately 110,000 pounds (55 tons) of newsprint. “All the news fit to print” for 1,100 days. I delivered in the sun, rain, sleet, snow and ice. (On one occasion, after a major ice storm, I skated my route!) I delivered to yards, mail boxes, milk boxes, porches, inner doors, the tops of freezers, breezeways or into the hands of readers. To the dogs on my route, I was a second chance after the missed opportunity with the mailman. One time, as I was backed up against a garage door, I was comforted by the owner…”Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you (he already ate the meter man…he won’t be hungry again for a couple more days)!”
If you wanted to be paid, you went back out along the route, knocked on doors, and collected money. Anything beyond the cost of the newspaper, which is what you requested, was yours to keep…that was your pay…the portion you didn’t ask for! We offered calendars at Christmas. We didn’t have a good union!
I delivered the evening paper. It was dropped off in tied bundles at my house around 4 p.m. Occasionally, the paper came with inserts…advertisements for local stores located downtown. No malls…the stores were located in the city (remember that…no…me neither). We had malls…I’m not that old (but some of you just reminisced about going downtown to shop…heh heh!).
I also delivered the Sunday morning paper (add 100 pounds per paper). From my front bedroom, I could hear the delivery truck stop and drop off the bundles (and inserts…lots of inserts) around 4:30 a.m. The rest of humanity was sleeping. I would get out of bed and get dressed. My next order of business would be to wake my younger sister. “Hey, I call the TV when I get back…TV guide says an Audie Murphy movie is playing at 7:30…hey did you hear me…I call the TV when I get back from delivering the papers.” You had to call it…those were the rules!
Have I told you about our cat? We had a cat that was tough and fearless. There was a time when we had both a big dog and this cat. The cat would sleep on the back of the big dog; we presumed the cat thought that location would be the last place the dog would look. It worked; the dog never found the cat and, ultimately, we had just the cat. Anyways, this cat was tough and fearless and would, when it felt the need, accompany me on my Sunday morning deliveries; checking the shadows, watching my back. One tough, fearless cat…Tuffy was his name (really)!
I delivered a diversity of news including the fall of Saigon, the search for mass murderer Robert Garrow, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, the breaking of Babe Ruth’s homerun record by Hank Aaron, Skylab, the election of President Carter and the nation’s bicentennial. At the time, I did not understand the significance of the news I delivered. An important news day translated to additional pages and weight to be delivered. But to those that I delivered the news to, it was, in a time absent of the internet, Twitter, and Facebook, one of their few connections to the rest of the world. With deliveries completed by 5:30 p.m., I was a full hour ahead of Walter Cronkite!
On weekdays, there was no rest; upon completing my deliveries, it was straight to the supper table, then to school work. On Sunday morning, after turning the TV channel and listening to my sister complain that I was the worst brother ever (I had followed protocol and called it), I sat down next to Tuffy and watched “To Hell and Back” starring Audie Murphy.