In conjunction with the upcoming play about newspaper carriers at Southwestern College, the CourierTraveler asked for — and received — some poignant reflections on people’s time delivering the Courier and Traveler.
The age of the paper carrier in Cowley County ended a few years ago, but the memories of those experiences and how they shaped area youth remain strong.
We are publishing many of the submissions here, and some will be shared during intermission of the play, “Newsies,” which premiers at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Richardson Performing Arts Center at Southwestern. The second show is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday; the final show is at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Newsies, a musical, is a story surrounding the newsboy strike of 1899 in New York. We encourage you to see the play, and read the stories below. Enjoy …
My route was Third and Fourth and Fifth Street in Winfield when I was 12 years old. Sometimes this little tiny old lady would bake me goodies. She was so sweet because I put her newspaper in her mailbox.
— Kati Doolittle
Keri White and I did the Newkirk route, IXL and west Ark City, all at different times. I remember doing the Saturday morning route in Newkirk. One time I couldn’t find a house and the Newkirk police pulled me over. I explained and he helped me find the house.
— Josh White
I remember going door to door collecting money. I think it was $3.25 a month. Every household that received a paper I had a card with each month on it. If they paid for that month I punched a hole. I paid the Traveler each month a certain amount (I can’t remember how much). What was left over was mine. That’s how we got paid way back then.
— Angie Harader
The smell of news
I was 11 in 1996 and I think that is the year I started. I did the paper routes for a couple of years I believe. I remember picking up the papers at the back of the Traveler’s parking lot in the wee hours of the morning. I even remember the smell of all those papers and the rubber bands! I remember thinking that this is the smell of news …
— Felicia Mettling
Dogs, planes and romance
I carried the Courier to the north half of Oxford from May 1962 through May 1966. Back then it cost $0.20 a week to have the paper delivered Monday through Saturday, and I got to keep $0.10.
The route was 9 1/2 long and had 107 customers. Ten dollars a week was big money for a 12-year-old back then and I was happy to have the job.
Although I started on a bicycle, I soon bought an old Cushman motorscooter so I could deliver faster and expand the route. The police chief was one of my customers and I asked him before buying the scooter since I was only 12. He said as long as I stayed off Main Street and no one complained, I could deliver on the scooter. That worked for me.
The papers were delivered to the back of the post office around 5 in the afternoon, where I would pick them up, fold them, and then start delivery, getting done about 6:30.
I never mastered throwing a folded newspaper and spent a lot of time retrieving the paper out of bushes and from under porches. I had a lot better luck rolling the paper, although I had to buy rubber-bands to hold the roll. That worked a lot better although I had to buy a couple of windows over the time I delivered.
The Courier had a delivery route where they delivered the paper by air to the carriers in small towns that were beyond driving distance from Winfield.
I persuaded them to drop my papers by air since the flight path went over Oxford on the way to towns farther away. The papers were bundled and thrown out of the airplane as they flew over an empty lot on the edge of town at about 200 feet high.
Actually, it worked quite well. The papers were wrapped in heavy cardboard and generally landed undamaged. That way I got the papers around 4 in the afternoon and got done around 5:30.
Once or twice a year the bundle would tumble as it fell and bust apart when it hit the ground. That usually happened on windy days and my sister and I would spend an hour retrieving parts of the paper and putting them back together so I could deliver them.
Getting the papers at 4 gave me more time to deliver papers to the local businesses that usually closed at 6.
One of the customers I picked up was the local pool hall. Mom wasn’t happy about that one and insisted I deliver it in the back door and made sure I knew I wasn’t to spend any extra time there or I would be in deep trouble. I didn’t know how she would know, but I believed her.
I made the last stop at the local drug store, where I would spoil supper at the soda fountain. I started to notice the young lady working there when I would order a vanilla malt, usually in the last 10 minutes before they closed. Some time later she agreed to marry me and to this day still complains about having to clean the malt machine right at quitting time. We will be coming up on our 50th wedding anniversary later this month.
The paper had to be delivered six days a week, hot or cold, rain or shine, blowing snow or biting dog. Early on, one particular dog was giving me fits and someone suggested filling a squirt gun with ammonia and squirting him.
I decided that a squirt gun wasn’t enough so I filled a old dish washing bottle with ammonia. Naturally, the bottle leaked and got all over the paper bag, the papers, and me. The dog never got close enough to squirt and after a week, I decided the dog won and got rid of the ammonia. I often wondered what my customers thought that week when their paper reeked of ammonia.
I learned a lot about people collecting for the paper. I collected monthly and found that $0.80 was a lot of money for some people. Several customers a month would ask me to come back at the end of the week or even next month.
Sometimes I didn’t get paid at all and had to just stop the paper. Other times they would stop delivery even while making sure they paid me what they owed.
Some always complained about how expensive it was or how it wasn’t worth it, and some people thanked me for the good job or extra effort I went to. I quickly realized which I preferred.
One of the days that has stuck in my memory was in late October of 1962. I think it was a Thursday and the radio was filled with talk of a speech the president was giving that evening about Cuba. The papers were late and I didn’t get them until a little after 6. The headline said the president would address the nation at 7.
In my 12-year-old mind I thought it was important that I get the paper delivered before 7. I didn’t make it of course, but I remember seeing people watching the president speak as I did my route.
I learned much more than I realized delivering the paper. I learned about the cost of doing business, I learned about people, I learned about borrowing and saving money, I learned about giving people a little more service that they expected, and I learned about responsibility.
I always had money to spend and I graduated high school with a couple of thousand dollars saved, a good part of which came from the paper route.
For many years, into the 1980s and ’90s, I had former customers tell me I was the best paperboy they ever had. I doubt it was true, but it was nice for them to say so.
— Jim Donley, Oxford
Scary but fun
In the early 1920s, stunt pilots known as barnstormers made their way across the country as solo acts and in groups called flying circuses. But in the ’70s, two local men, Don Dickerson and Tony Curvello (sp?) combined barnstorming with the job of paperboy to deliver the Traveler to several small communities.
Don Dickerson, now 92 years old, said Curvello was the pilot of a small Cessna 180 and he served as navigator and bombardier. Both men worked at GE, and after work, they would collect the papers, and take off to make deliveries.
“We delivered papers to the small communities east of Arkansas City,” Dickerson said. “We’d fly over a drop spot and I’d drop the papers out.”
Dickerson said the task was challenging, as they would approach the drop zone at treetop level, which left little room for error. The pilot also had to reduce speed to the point that he was barely able to keep the plane in the air.
Dickerson said one location was extremely dangerous and difficult.
“We would come in from the west below treetop level, heading right toward a house,” he said. “You had your choice of doing a quick, sharp climb, or you could turn left and fly between two silos.”
Flying between the two silos was a very risky maneuver. Dickerson said it was made even more dangerous because the silos were not far enough apart for the plane to pass safely through.
“You had to turn it on its side to go through there,” he said.
Dickerson said the job was a little scary at times, but also a lot of fun.
I received my first practical business experience as a paperboy for the Winfield Daily Courier in the late ’60s.
Meeting and dealing with hundreds of individual customers and households proved to be a valuable training ground for endeavors later in life. The circulation manager and the management at the Courier, including Lloyd Craig, were great to work with and accommodated our young lives as much as they could to get the newspapers out on time.
I remember the routes that I had and most of the houses that subscribed to the newspaper. I formed friendships with my customers that have lasted a lifetime.
Those days of throwing newspapers, sometimes with the help of my best friends Ralph (Chacho) Tapia and Edward (Pepe) Tapia, are memories that I will cherish forever.
My profits undoubtedly went to comic books, bicycles, guitar magazines, rock and roll music albums, slingshots and pea shooters from TG&Y and McClellan’s department stores. I also bought penny candy from D&J’s grocery store on 12th Street, owned by a great couple, Duane and Joann Wood, or at Walt’s grocery store just north of 15th and Main.
It’s a shame that modern kids don’t have the same business opportunity to deal with the public on a scale like that, or to develop interpersonal communication skills with a large, diverse customer base at a young age.
— Clayton D. Crawford
Take a bow
I had some great growth experiences while serving as a Winfield Daily Courier paper boy.
This was my first venture into commerce. I “owned” my paper route. While I was an experienced bicycle enthusiast, I had to learn how to navigate my Schwin three-speed with full paperbags on my handle bars. Not as easy as it sounds!
Then, cycling to my route, which was in the area of William Newton Hospital, from downtown avoiding Ninth Avenue traffic and a multitude of neighborhood dogs that anxiously awaited my passing.
I also learned accountability as I had to remember the specific instructions of my clients who would quickly let the circulation manager know if I had not followed them to a “T!”
I also met the nicest people as I threw my papers and collected from them. One couple, both deaf and mute, were always showing their appreciation to me by bowing to me upon receiving their paper or greeting me at their door.
Of course there were a few incidents with people who would swear they had already paid or had stopped the paper the previous month. Through all of these experiences, I gained knowledge of human behavior and humility. A great start in my life.
— Bruce Schwyhart
I was a Courier carrier in Oxford in 1966. I had an older woman on my route. She would sit on her porch waiting for me and her paper. I would stop most evenings to say “Hi,” and my visit was probably one of the highlights of her day.
One day I asked her if she would like some bubblegum, and my to my surprise and delight she did. Once she got going with that big chunk of gum her dentures would start clacking but that didn’t stop her. One of my many memories of the nice people on my route.
One more story … The decision was made by the Courier to use an airplane to drop from the sky my bundle of papers that I would deliver. The drop spot in Oxford was a pasture on the outskirts of town.
It was an experiment that was a challenge for those of us waiting patiently to band and deliver the papers to waiting customers. Several memories include watching the airplane continually circle the sky but no drop of the paper, despite lots of waving arms on the ground.
Another time the paper bundle “bomb” exploded on impact with the ground and there were newspapers all over the pasture.
My last recollection was waiting several hours for the airplane delivery and was saddened to learn that the papers had been delivered to the old drop spot via car and had been there several hours. The experiment was abandoned, as I remember, after only a short time.
— Dana Conover
Mom learns a lesson
I am writing as the mother of a boy who was a newspaper carrier back in the 1970s. He had a route east of Winfield’s downtown and like so many others, rode his bike. My problem was having to hold dinner until he finished his route. This was a time when families ate their evening meal together.
On this particular day it was raining, so mom loaded the boy and his paper into the family station wagon and off we go! All goes well until there was a dog waiting in the yard to be petted (two minutes).
A few stops later, he did not throw the paper, but walked up to the porch where an older woman was waiting for her paper and chat with the carrier (seven minutes).
We were moving right along until a little boy appeared in the yard with a ball and glove. Now, who would walk away without playing a little catch? (10 minutes).
We made it home a little after our scheduled dinner hour. Needless to say, I was much enlightened by what I saw and shared it all with his dad. After that day “on time dinners” became less important at our house.
Today that boy is and adult with grown children and grandchildren and still finds time for people in his daily life. His name is Jay Lewis. WHS Class of ’76.