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." Mr. Egan was an overly, well, let's just call him, "fat" 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!" 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 noise...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