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Bernie Kuntz: Paper route

My first job was that of a newspaper carrier, or paper boy was what we called them in those days, for the Jamestown Sun—Route 48 in the southeast part of town. I think I was 11 years old when I took over the route from Glen Mara, so it would have been about 1960.

The Sun was an evening paper in those days, so I delivered the papers as soon as I got home from school. Ron Arness, the circulation manager, already would have been by in his station wagon and had left me my bundle of newspapers on the front walk. I'd cut the strings, stash them into my red Sun bag and be off.

Being a tireless walker, I could complete the route in 30 to 40 minutes, including walking to and from home to the start of the route more than three blocks away. I figure the entire route plus getting to the route and back home was about 1-1/2 miles...maybe a trifle farther.

Today, it is difficult to find an evening paper, so carriers have the grim task of getting up at a very early hour to do their deliveries.

Route 48 had 47 or 48 papers when I took it over, and at times I had the route built up into the low 50s. The Sun offered incentives for gaining new customers. It distressed me to lose a customer, so I always made sure I got everyone's paper either in their mailbox or between the front doors of their houses. Handling the route was good training for a couple sales jobs I would hold many years later.

The worst part about being a paper boy in those days was "collecting." Every two weeks we had to knock on every subscriber's door and ask for $1.20. It was cold, miserable work in the winter, often below zero with the wind blowing. And you wouldn't believe the number of subscribers who would turn you away because they didn't have $1.20 in the house! Today, most papers simply bill their customers so the onerous task of "collecting" is a thing of the past.

Delivering papers was not a particularly lucrative affair, but it taught a kid financial responsibility, because every month a carrier would receive a bill from the Sun. I'd dump my blue bag of money onto the living room floor, count out when I needed to pay the bill. The rest of the money was mine. My profit for the month was a bit more than $14.00. Not much, but one has to remember that back then you could buy a candy bar for a nickel, a bottle of pop for a dime, and a Dairy Queen cone for 15 cents that was so big you had to hold it with two hands. A hamburger at Harry Wong's Jamestown Café was 25 cents.

I still remember the subscribers who would give me candy at Christmas, maybe a dollar or two in an envelope, and those who would allow me to stand in their house for a few minutes to warm up in winter. Some people were ornery and unfriendly, but others were simply wonderful. The paper route really was a microcosm of all the people I would meet and have to deal with in some forty more years in the workplace.

I must have handled Route 48 for about four years when I turned it over to my brother, Jim, who also had the route for a number of years.

Over the decades, I held many jobs, some good and some dreadful. It all started in the southeast part of Jamestown, though, back in 1960, when I took over Route 48. And looking back all these years I can say that I've done lots worse jobs than delivering newspapers.