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  • Writer's pictureTerry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. Newspaper Route

I delivered newspapers while living in the Clinton PMQs in the 60s

. The London Free Press was the daily paper that most read but some had the Toronto Star delivered but it was the Free Press that I carried.

Every morning, getting up early, grabbing my paper bag, a canvas carrier with a narrow shoulder strap and my wire cutters and heading out to walk the base, tossing newspapers in doors.

The papers came bundled, tied with wire, hence the wire cutters, and with protective blank news print on the top and bottom. If it was raining, you wanted to be on time so the papers wouldn't be too wet after being dropped off. The papers had to be folded and tucked then stacked into the paper bag. I don't recall how many customers I had but, for a 9-10 year old boy, there were enough that the thin strap of the bag would dig into my shoulder.

I walked because trying to use my bike just took too long and carrying the bag was awkward.

In the winter, I would often stop at the Protestant Chapel, which was between the PMQ houses and the row houses that we called 'the apartments', to warm up. In those days, the churches were never locked.

Wednesday was collection day. After school I would visit all my customers, armed with my account book, pen and change. I believe the cost was 60 cents per week. When I first got my route, dad sat down with me an showed me how to work change: how to figure out how much change to give (my math skills were still developing) and how to count it out to customer. This is a skill that has been lost with the advent of computerized cash registers where the register tells the cashier how much to return and they just hand you your change without showing you that is was correct.

Back then I would count the change to the customer. If they had given me a dollar bill, yes, there were paper ones then, no loonies, I would say the cost of the newspaper, 60, then give them a nickel, say 65, give them a dime, say 75, give them a quarter, say one dollar, smile and say thank you. Usually I would be handed back the nickel or the dime, or both as a tip. Sometimes I would get a quarter but that was a lot of money back then. At Christmas most customers let me keep all the change. Some just couldn't afford the extravagance so I never judged anyone by their tips. My own parents struggled with finances as there were eight of us to be fed and we were a single income family so I understood about families living with limited finances. Everyone got the same level of service regardless of their ability to tip.

That little job taught me a lot about business, customer service and the value of a dollar. I would think about the cost of things and how many newspapers I had to deliver to pay for things. This helped me decide if what I wanted was worth the expense. I carry this lesson with me to today. It was my introduction to the working world and the time dad took to show me how to give good service and be responsible, I had to deliver those papers every day regardless of weather, other commitments, or lesser excuses. His guidance built ethics in me that assisted me until the day I retired. I hope I made him proud.

What was your first job and how old were you. How did it shape the person you became?

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Mar 14, 2021

Cute story

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