PAPER TIGER
At the tender age of ten I inherited a paper route from my Brother Gary.  Gary had decided that at sixteen years old he was too cool to
be delivering newspapers and decided to live a life of leisure.  He still is.  So it fell to me to take the reins of delivering The Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette in early morning hours, in all weather, everyday save Sundays.  At ten years old I was the youngest paper boy in the city,
or so, someone said.  At one point my route topped out at 48 houses.  On Thanksgiving that amount of houses equaled 75 pounds of
papers!  At four-foot four, 65 lbs. it was a herculean task to get the papers delivered.  Remember when it use to snow every
Thanksgiving?!


Unfortunately, I had also inherited Gary’s Boss, Mr. Egan.  Gary had warned me, “Watch out for Egan, he will try to rip you off
for your money.â€�  Mr. Egan was an overly, well, let’s just call him, “fatâ€� man.  His oversized head was plastered with
black horn-rimmed glasses that were two sizes too small for his head.  His white shirt always had a stain on it and his nails always had
crud under them.  He would look at you with the eyes of Charles Laughton and had the breath of Broderick Crawford.  Gary had seen
all of Egan’s tricks.  He would always miss count the collections, in his favor.  He would give you lone houses that were five blocks
away from your route.  He would check to see if you had the papers delivered before 5:30 AM when other paper boys were delivering at
6:30 AM.  He would even do his own collecting and not tell you!  Gary’s great last act of defiance on Egan was to pay him the thirty
dollars he owed him in pennies, then quit!  It was brilliant!  However, I was his new boy and Egan never let me forget.
So before school, I would get up at 5:00 AM, in the dark, unbundle the stack of papers wired together, stuff them in my paper sack and
trundle throughout the streets of Dormont, in the snow…uphill.  I eventually perfected the wrapping of the paper into a missile that
could fly the distance between the street and the highest houses of Piedmont Avenue.  It would take customers ten minutes to unravel
the paper that I had knotted into a solid, usually frozen, brick.  This led to, sometimes, errant missiles that would miss their mark and
land in the strangest places, like through the screening of their door.  Sometimes even the glass of their wintered screen door.  I never
collected there again.  One of my errant throws landed on a roof.  Without a paper to spare, I tried using a large tree branch, while
standing on the iron railing to pull it down.  Apparently, the scrapping noise had terrified the owners and the next thing I knew a man
appeared at the door with a shotgun in his hand!  His wife, in curlers and pink nightgown, clutched tightly to his shoulder.  As I
sheepishly tried to explain about a paper on their roof, pointing and gesticulating, while backing away, the man kept sweeping the shotgun
and screaming, “Get out of here!â€�  It wasn’t until two weeks later, out of financial desperation, when I finally gathered the
courage and the new underwear to go back to their house and collect.  The man answered the door and we laughed and laughed about
the whole episode.  Okay, he laughed, I nodded a lot.  But I did get a ten dollar tip!  Until now, I never said a thing.


The best part of being out that early in the morning was the stuff you would find just lying on the street from the night before.  Besides
underwear, prophylactics and the rival Pittsburgh Press, which I left for the Street Sweeper, I would find money, lots of it, 8-track tapes,
toys, jewelry and even a bag of marijuana!  It was the 1970’s, you know.
In the summer, my friends and I would sleep
out on my front porch and wait for the papers
to come around 3:00 AM.  After hearing that
familiar “splat� of the block of papers
landing on the sidewalk we would gather the
papers and go delivering them at 3:15 in the
morning.  Three twelve-year olds walking the
streets of Dormont in the middle of the night
talking as if it was the middle of the day.  
Taking turns firing the papers at screen doors
and seeing who could make the loudest noiseâ
€¦I never did make good tips.  One night as
we were running wild on the streets of
Dormont and, oh yeah, delivering
newspapers, we noticed a car, a green
Triumph TR-7, that had a pack of Lucky
Strike cigarettes on its dashboard.  It was
unlocked!  So with stealth of a Rush
Limbaugh in a drug factory, we opened the
car’s door, grabbed the smokes and
bolted for home!  We still had half the
papers!  Crossing the street into the
Old
Cemetery we smoked until we all got sick.  
That cured me of smoking for a good three
years.
I was fourteen before I got a real job, setting pins at Recreation Lanes.  I
surrendered my newspaper route to Wayne Mock.  I hear he expanded it to over 60
houses.  I don’t know how he did it but, I do know he never had as much fun as
I did.  Except for that Caesar the dog incident…
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