Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Delivering Holiday Newspapers

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Newspapers B & W (4), by Jon S. [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

The other day I spotted a bag of advertising circulars for Black Friday laying on the apron of my driveway. It brought back memories of delivering The Vindicator on Thanksgiving morning, as well as all the Sunday papers leading up to Christmas. Generally the Thanksgiving Vindicator was the biggest paper of the year with all the sales ads for Friday (it wasn’t called Black Friday back then). There were maybe twenty or thirty pages of news content, and the rest was advertising, either in the newspaper of the advertising inserts–in all there were often several hundred pages.

Stories that I found online said that these papers could weigh between three and five pounds apiece. I had seventy customers on my paper route, and so that adds up to 210 to 350 pounds of newspapers that I had to deliver. The newspapers were delivered in one bundle, the ads in another. For seventy papers, this often turned out to be four to six bundles for my route.

I picked up my papers at a drop on Steel Street and haul them four blocks uphill on Oakwood Avenue to my route. Most days, I could put all my papers in one canvas paper sack, or two on Wednesdays and on Sundays I used a wagon.  For this haul, I used a wagon one year and it about killed me. I enlisted dad after that, and he would stuff the ads into the papers for one side of the street while I loaded up my paper sack and delivered the other, and then he would meet up with me to deliver the other side, or go up to the other block that I delivered.

Newspapers obviously made a good deal of extra money on all this advertising, but paper carriers didn’t get any more money. But in a way we did in the form of Christmas tips. For a route my size, I could get a hundred dollars in tips at Christmas time. Some were Scrooges, some were generous, and most remembered. It made hauling those papers worth it. One lady made homemade hard candy and would always give me a bag. If you were thinking of quitting your route, you usually waited until after Christmas, despite all those heavy papers.

In most communities, kids don’t deliver newspapers any more. When I delivered papers, most every person on my route, which covered two city blocks, took the paper. These days, you are lucky if about one out of five homes take the paper, and the routes are much larger, and usually delivered by adults in a car. But there are generations of paper carriers with memories of hauling hundreds of pounds of ad-laden Vindicators on Thanksgiving morning. Maybe some of you will share your stories…

8 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Delivering Holiday Newspapers

  1. I didn’t deliver papers (a country kid where all the papers came from adults in cars) but all of my kids did. For much of the time, we had the “station” at our house, where the papers were dropped for the carriers to pick up. Since it was a morning paper, I often made hot chocolate on Sunday mornings when the inserts had to be stuffed before everyone left to deliver their routes. In those delivery years, our Thanksgiving plans had to be adjusted to be sure the papers were all assembled (sometimes with as many as three parts, to get all the inserts in) and delivered to the full route.

  2. For me, it was the Richmond News-Leader. Now, I read my Chicago Tribune on-line. Given the fragile state of the environment, we need to lessen our use of paper, and, even more so, plastic. 90=% of the time I gather the various flyers and ad booklets left on my front porch to dump immediately into the recycling bin. We must adapt to the challenges facing us, make what are really small sacrifices for the greater good. Isn’t it long past time that the United States Postal Service stop subsidizing advertisements by providing absurdly low “bulk rates”?

    • I agree that we need to lessen our paper and plastic usage, but I think we need to consider having daily newspapers and solid magazines the last of these paper products to give up. I too read the NY Times, the Washington Post and others on-line but will probably be one of the last of the local paper’s subscribers to give up my daily (or alas, now only 5 days a week) delivery. Considering the small volume of paper these news sources use compared to the other paper products even the most environmentally conscious of use use, their value is immeasurable. When we are confronted with a newspaper’s hard copy layout, we will see the broad range of articles that they include for us all, not the handpicked (sorry, AI-algorithm-picked) “related” stories of the day.

  3. Thanks for a great reminder from my childhood on the West Side in 50’s and early 60’s. My brother delivered the Vindy daily and Sunday/holidays. I helped with the later. Helped provide great lessons on timeliness and discipline for the carriers.
    Michelle Humans White

  4. I started delivering the Vindy on W. Dennick on the north side around 1990. I was 8 and my sister was 7. We were some of the youngest carriers in the city so my dad had to sign for the route. We had a small route at first, with Dennick and part of Ohio Ave. and maybe only 35 papers. My sister did one side of the street and I did the other; my dad did Ohio Avenue because it was out of sight of the house. A few years later we moved a few blocks to Bradley Lane and took the route there, from the Dairy Queen and Northside Pool on Belmont Avenue east on Tod Lane to Guadalupe and then Bradley to Goleta. I still remember the names of most of the people who lived on those streets, who their kids were, what they did for a living, and where I dropped their papers. My own young kids won’t deliver papers when they are older. They won’t have the good fortune to get to know as many neighbors as I did. We can add these to the list of impacts from the decline of print newspapers.

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