As a young teenager I used to receive a little bit of pocket money from my dad every week but the only way to make more cash was to have a paper-round. I had three, a morning round, an evening round and a Sunday round. It taught me strength of character, resilience to weather conditions and I have memories of getting wet, miserable, cold and hungry.
In the late 1960s I had my first paper round and earned fifteen shillings (.75p) a week in return for getting up at six o’clock, six days a week, whatever the weather to lug a bag of newspapers around the village before going to school. The papers were carried in a big canvas bag and as I was only small the newsagent had to tie a knot in the strap so that it didn’t drag on the floor. It was a dirty job because before modern computerised production the papers were printed using real ink and it used to rub off easily all over your hands and then transferred to anything you touched as well. Thursday was a bad day because of the Radio and TV Times magazines but Friday was by far the worst because the addition of the Rugby Advertiser more than doubled the weight of the bag. Saturday was pay day so after finishing the round it was back to the shop to pick up a ten shilling note and two half crowns and I felt really well off for a few hours at least.
Letter boxes were a real problem and I can remember wondering why they were all different inconvenient shapes and sizes. My least favourite were the vertical ones with a sharp spring because getting newspapers through them was a real challenge. The ones low down almost at ground level were also a pain and the high level ones presented a real problem for a little lad like me. The best letter boxes were on the Featherbed Lane Council estate because they were exactly in the middle of the door where they should be and big enough to deliver a Sunday newspaper without having to split it up into sections. I rather fancied delivering the newspapers in the way they did in American TV shows by cycling along and without stopping just launching the thing into the front garden but I guess whilst this might have been suitable in sunny Florida or California lobbing it onto a damp front lawn in the UK would not have been so acceptable.
Later I had a Sunday round as well and that paid fifteen shillings for the one day but that stared an hour later so that thankfully meant a bit of a lie in. Towards the end of the decade I needed more money so at one point I even had an evening round as well. This meant delivering the Coventry Evening Telegraph and the Leicester Mercury and being a Leicester lad I always reserved my best service for those that took the Mercury.
One of the occupational hazards of being a paper boy was dogs, and as I have explained before I really don’t like dogs! One I can remember used to scare me witless when it would jump at the letterbox and pull the newspaper through whilst I was delivering it. One day, taking my dad’d advice, I hung on to the other end and the dog shredded the outer pages. I think it must have got a kick up the backside or something because it didn’t do it again for a while.
I would be surprised if Sunday paper rounds exist anymore because to deliver to fifty houses or so would need a dumper truck to replace the old canvas bag on account of the size of the newspapers and the weight of all of the colour supplements.
The paper round was important because towards the end of my career I used to assist the newsagent, Mr Darlaston, to sort out the rounds and this taught me new skills that I was able to put to good use later in life when it was my job at the council to organise the refuse collection rounds.