When I was twelve, one of my class mates asked me if I wanted the throw the newspaper. On an impulse I said yes and accepted my first job. He told me to show up at his house with my bicycle about five am on Sunday. In the cold fall darkness in the Cotton Mill district of Denison, I learned to roll the largest size Herald of the week and how to wrap a rubber band around it into a growing pile. It was winter and freezing that morning but soon I was warm from squeezing fresh news print into a presentable round package. After he showed me how to load the one hundred and twenty papers into the dirty faded cloth paper saddlebags and then heft them onto my groaning handle bars, I had to quickly adjust to balance this heavy shifting load and still pedal fast enough to go down the early morning streets.
I was playing little league baseball at the time and even though I was not very good, I could still manage to throw out some heat behind each paper I slung into my customers’ yards. Sometimes I miscalculated and it flew on top of the roof. I had a few extra newspapers and on bad days, I used up all of them. For two years, I faithfully delivered the only news most people had access to on Coffin, Florence, Ford, Chase and Wilde streets. The Herald cost 40 cents per week back then and most of my customers worked long hours at the Cotton Mill. The mill paid them every two weeks and many of those mill workers had to pay me 80 cents right after payday as they could not afford it any other way. Even back then, some would try and dodge me when I came to collect what they owed. Soon I realized if I stopped giving them the home delivered paper, they would call the office, complain, and then pay after I resumed delivery.
Collecting the 40 cents each week took me out at night every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, to make the entire route. The Denison Herald wasn’t printed on Saturday, but all paper carriers were required to pay their bill on that day. We owed the Herald 25 cents for each paper we received that week and got to keep the 15 cents. If enough customers weren’t home, or wouldn’t answer the door, there wasn’t much left, so a lot of Saturdays were spent going back to attempt collecting again. Since I lived in the Cotton Mill area, a man in a car dropped the bundles of papers in front of my house; others who lived near down town had to go to the plant on Woodard where it was printed and wait for it.
Those times are still burned in my memory. It was a daily adventure that included rain and sleet, hot summers, huge Sunday editions, dogs, and sketchy homes where things twelve year olds shouldn’t have seen was common. At Christmas time, a lot of elderly women presented me with home made candy. I always had money and often stopped at Coffey’s Store and bought an RC. They let me rummage through the bottle cap reservoir and take out enough Pepsi caps to go to the Rialto on Saturdays after I paid the paper bill.
I will never forget those two years. Much has changed now and most humans don’t read anything much less a local newspaper. The demise of the Denison Herald is one of the saddest events of my life. I know it is called the Herald Democrat and is merged with Sherman’s paper, but it is not the same. I accept that times change and this bygone era will not return. This is definitely not a complaint but I just wanted to pay homage to US, the carriers by bicycle of the Old Denison Herald. I can not finish this with out taking my hat off to those who still carry on this thankless tradition of delivering the news. Cheers!