As I was growing up in the ‘60s, I was very happy when I got my first job at the Sweetwater Reporter as a route carrier. My mom was raising us kids and the money didn’t get around very far, but with me having a job, I had planned to contribute to the family and hopefully make life better for all.
I remember it like it was yesterday going in the basement of the Reporter’s “distribution room” and getting my papers and rolling them in rubber bands. The ink on the paper always rubbed off from the couple hundred papers I rolled every day but Saturday. It was always a contest to get there first and get my papers rolled up before any of the other guys (there weren’t any paper girls back then), had a chance to beat my time in rolling papers.
I would put my rolled-up papers on my bicycle and take off under the underpass on Lamar, and turn left on E. Avenue B and began my route. I liked throwing papers and I always thought a kid had to be a pretty good athlete to get the paper on the porch while dodging dogs and traffic. It seems that most people on my route were very good people and I wanted to make certain they got their papers. Folks in Sweetwater (and I assume everywhere) love their paper, but if I missed a house, I can pretty much guarantee you that they would call the paper office and talk to my boss, Mr. Baxter. He was a good boss and smoked a pipe. He never got excited and I appreciated him hiring me, and being patient while I “learned the ropes.”
I thought my paper route was the best job ever, (until I went to work at the Village), except on Sundays when I had to get up while it was still dark, and roll the Sundays papers which were much larger, and had sales inserts. Obviously, it took more time to get my route done on Sundays.
My customers were all very nice. The only part of the paper route that I didn’t like was going to my customers and collecting the money. Most of the times the customers paid, and I would give them a little stamp looking receipt, but there were some customers that wouldn’t come to the door, and I could hear them inside when I knocked on the door. I could usually tell that those were the folks that would be about to move, because a few times, they just never paid.
All in all, I loved throwing papers. I loved my route and 99% of my customers. It helped me a lot to get to know my neighbors, and when I went to work for the Village store, I got to sack groceries for some of the same nice customers that were on my paper route. Looking back, I had a great childhood in Sweetwater. If you wanted to work, you could do just that.
Lew Patton is a former resident of Sweetwater who now resides in Fort Worth. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org . Lew’s blog can be found at www.lewpblog.com .