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Monday, January 13, 2014

Delivering newspapers

Long ago, when I was married, our household finances continually collided with the truth that my husband was chronically underemployed, beginning the day he left his job as a purchasing agent to become self employed. No more desk jobs for him! 


Sadly, the idea of being self-sufficient came to him just as I left a good secretarial job to go back to school for a master’s degree. I did have a plan; with the degree I could begin teaching English at the local community college. He and I never were on the same wavelength, although I also have learned the definition of passive-aggressive. I didn't know those big words back in 1969.

I took my toddlers out of day care when I started back to school; I could arrange my schedule to accommodate them. My husband became a commissioned salesman of industrial equipment. But, he never sold enough in a month’s time to draw more than his base. Rather like servers today depending on tips, except he never earned commissions.

So, I looked around for a job that would accommodate my children, fit my school schedule, and put food on the table. I found one, delivering newspapers.

Way back then newspapers were delivered by paper boys and girls. They picked up the papers at an assigned place, removed the binding, packed the papers into their bags or their wagons, in the case of the little entrepreneurs with multiple routes, and delivered the papers to subscribers’ homes.

My job was to load all the News Herald bundles for about half of Painesville, Ohio, into my car, and with my two children in the passenger seat, take the bundles to their assigned corners after the papers were off the press and before the little paper deliverers came home from school.

The pay was not great, but the best I could come up with on short notice, and off we went. My route manager hired the paper kids, arranged for the homes the paper bundles went to. My last duty was to collect the cost of the papers weekly from the paper carrier.

Like my husband and his commissions, I failed at this part of the job. My route was the poorest side of town; I wonder if the customers even paid the kids. I collected from the parents; the children were in school.  A mother would tell me her child hadn't collected enough for the week to pay for the papers. Worse, tell me the money bought a gallon of milk.

I told my supervisor he could add collections to his job description. He told me to collect the money, or make the parents sign cognovit notes. I refused. He fired me.

In thinking back on it, I decided everyone should be fired from a newspaper job. Nice resume material. So, I found another secretarial job, put the girls back in day care, finished my masters degree at night, and then was hired to each English at our community college.


35 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    OH the delivery rounds. Went that route myself during one between-jobs spell. Won't ever make that mistake again. Lovely memory post Joanne. YAM xx

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  2. My newspaper story, as the oldest I got all the crap work. One such job was to drive my little brother around on his paper route on Sunday mornings and crappy weather days. Brother had the biggest paper route for the area. And no he did not pay me for the gas. I was 17 or 18. One day he comes to me and one customer is complaining to the boss he never gets his paper. This is in apartments. I go to the place and knock on the neighbors door and ask him if he read the paper. He says yes, and I knock on the customer's door. I tell him in front of the neighbor that this is the guy stealing your paper everyday. Paper delivery was not always a great job and a lot of responsibility was put on some of those kids. And tips were never what they should have been.

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  3. No one can appreciate how hard this job truly is. My son did this for years through high school He learned a lot about people and their lives.

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  4. Where there's a will there's a way and you definitely had the will.

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  5. When my daughter was in high school she wanted to go to France with her French class. I was newly divorced and the ex didn't pay any support... I barely had 2 nickels to rub together. Donna got a paper route - we had an apartment right next to a huge trailer park - and saved every cent she could. With some help from my Dad, she got to go on that trip. I have always been so proud of her for taking that job... one many of her classmates would have scorned. Your post brought back lots of memories... some of those times when things were really tough. But we survived, didn't we?

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  6. I love your drive. And your compassion. And your common (which isn't) sense.

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  7. I never worked as a newspaper child but I did work a year or in the shop my son was a paperboy for that news agency he area included two chocolate factories, he made lots of friends.
    In one of the factories a mother of a school friend was the front desk person and staff were given all the malformed chocolate he collected what they didn't want and provided us with as much as we wanted and took some to school to sell to his teachers and school mates, he did well out of his little business as I loved all the chocolate, but the thing is it started him off at a young age that if you try and work hard you get on.
    Merle..............

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  8. My parents would't allow me a paper route,so I had a little veggy patch and grew lettuce and salad stuffs,my Nanna used to buy her salad from me. I would help my Dad at his allotment,for fun. One day he gave me some money.I refused it. He made me take it saying, "If you work hard,you should be paid for it".
    I've always worked hard ...but not always been paid for it!
    Jane x

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  9. I am not surprised that you quit. I am sure you can be tough, but not without compassion!

    What a horrible job.

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    1. The last day on the job, knowing I would be fired the next day, I tried to explain cognovit notes to people who probably had not graduated high school, and why they should not sign them when my supervisor came around, collecting. They were made illegal in Ohio, eventually, but not before more than a few were enforced in court and folks few possessions, like a car, were impounded.

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  10. Good for you. I didn't know what passive-aggressive meant for a long time. Every now and again when I tell Willy Dunne Wooters about nasty things that X did, he'll say, Oh, that's passive-aggressive. And he's right. I admire you for pursuing what you wanted and needed to do in spite of the husband's lack of cooperation.

    Love,
    Janie

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  11. In our area newspaper delivery is now done at the corporate level....no more individual routes. I find that sad.

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  12. I had some crummy jobs myself, one of which was cleaning a meat packing plant at midnight using pressure steam hoses. My dog did love the way I smelled when I came home at 2:00 am, though.

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  13. I had two newspaper delivery experiences. One as a kid that lasted only a few weeks. The second one involved driving a step-van and delivering bundles and individual papers to rural routes. I crashed the truck down a picket fence and was fired. One of the coolest accidents I ever had.

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  14. My son delivered newspapers in our neighborhood. I had to go with him sometimes when it was collecting time. People had all kinds of excuses not to pay and some were rude. He delivered every day after school and on weekend mornings no matter what the weather. He was lucky to get $5.00 a week for all his efforts.

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  15. Paper routes can provide a bit of cash to survive until things get better. Most of us have had to take these types of jobs to get by until something better came along. I know as I have had my share. And yes at the time with a passive-aggressive partner in the background. Your story is similar to mine -- I went back to school eventually getting my Masters -- as a parent.
    Congratulations for staying in there until you got your fine education.

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  16. I also had a series of horrid jobs...that's what motivated me to stay in college!

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  17. It's sad that some people couldn't afford to pay for their papers. Out here that would see them cut off until the bill was paid.
    I take my hat off to you Joanne, you've worked so hard to raise your children, now doing the same again with the grand children.
    I've never been rich, but my life has been relatively easy.
    I remember when my son was about 11, he and a friend took to selling papers along a busy street, cars would stop and buy a paper on their way home from work. M and his friend were aiming to make enough money to take themselves to the Royal Show that year as I couldn't afford to take the kids myself. They reached their goal and quit the paper job. The next year they mowed lawns instead.

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  18. I looked in my dictionaries for Cognovit and it isn't there, can you explain what that is please?

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    1. An extraordinary document by which a debtor authorizes his or her creditor's attorney to enter a confession in court that allows judgment against the debtor.

      A creditor may ask the borrower to sign a cognovit note when credit is extended. If the debtor falls into arrears the creditor can obtain a judgment against the person without notification to the debtor. There is usually little the debtor can do to attack the judgment when it is discovered. The Supreme Court has held that cognovit notes are not necessarily illegal but most states have outlawed their use in consumer transactions.

      I copied that from the wicki dictionary. My father told me once never to sign one! They came in pads and were about the size of a dollar bill, like a receipt you might sign to acknowledge a payment. Can you believe you could buy a pad of them in the drug store, right next to rent receipts and blank invoices and such like items. They were evil.

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    2. Thank you. I'd never heard of them, I don't believe we ever had such a thing here in Australia. Horrifying to think they could be acted upon without notifying the debtor, that's just wrong to me.

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  19. Here the kids who have paper routes are responsible for collecting payment from customers while the newspaper gets their payment straight from the kids' bank accounts by automatic transfer. The paperboy or papergirl is supposed to hole-punch the customer's card in front of the customer to avoid any debates on paid/not paid ... one customer (in a large house in an affluent area) claimed my daughter had "forgotten" to punch her payment and refused to pay for that two-week period. That put her in the red as the profit per paper was only a few pennies. She gave up on that job due to illness but I would not have blamed her for giving up due to not making any money!

    Joanne, you are a determined woman; no wonder you've done so well.

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  20. I think I would have been like you, I couldn't have tried to collect money from the carriers if their families were struggling as it was to have the basic necessities of life. Years ago I delivered papers on an early morning route. I lasted about 3 months, the actual delivery wasn't that bad, what was bad was trying to collect the money from customers never home, etc. Of course now years later the paper is paid for upfront through the company either via credit card/debit card and delivered by adults.

    Good for you for realizing the importance of getting an education to get a more reliable career.

    betty

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  21. Oh gosh, what a racket that was but I guess every kid and mother has to give it a try.
    Congratulations on getting your Masters.

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  22. It worked differently in England.
    The newsagent paid the kids who delivered...the customers paid the newsagent direct.
    No pay...no paper.

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  23. You sure know what perseverance is all about. I give you credit for working and studying so hard, and I am glad it paid off in the long run. You can never regret a college education, ever.

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  24. I remember paper boys. the one who delivered to my house was my age and we took a shine to each other. that is until my social climbing parents found out he lived in an apartment down the road and decided that he was too low class for me to associate with, a scenario that happened over and over until I got out of school.

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  25. Dear Joanne, thank you for sharing this part of your life. Each of us is such a compendium of all we've experienced. And I always find myself enthralled by stories that explain who a person is and how she/he became the person I've met through blogging. You were and are courageous.

    I've been away from blogging for many weeks and so I've missed all that you posted during that time. If you have any postings you'd especially like me to read, please do let me know. Peace.

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  26. My husband delivered papers when he was a teenager and he talked about dogs chasing after him and falls off of his bike, etc. You were/are a very responsible, determined, get-it-done person.

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  27. Almost everyone seems to have newspaper story. Thankfully I don't but certainly my brothers and nephews do. I admire your resourcefulness in tough times.

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  28. You are made of blood, bones and plenty extra gristle! Gristle could be your middle name. One strong woman you were and are! Hooray for you then and now!

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  29. When we moved into this house we found bundles of papers the then paperboy had stashed in the ditch !
    You are an inspiration Joanne.

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  30. You came a long way. I did not have any idea how hard people of America work. I am glad that you are one of the elected officials in your area. We need more people like you in politics. I mean people who know what an average person's life is like and understand .the need of average people.
    Kudos to you and people like you:)

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  31. I am so full of admiration for you and your determination in all things you attempt! My brother had a paper route for years and years -- his only day off throughout the year was Christmas, when he slept very late! It taught him about saving money and he always had much more stashed away they we ever knew!

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  32. My husband, with a degree in anthropology and environmental science, delivered newspapers a few years back when we were strapped. He didn't get fired--more's the pity, it appears!

    I'm loving these posts.

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