“It meant a lot to me as a kid. Today it’s basically something that doesn’t exist.”
— Matt Lauer, host the the NBC morning program “Today” speaking of his first job as a paperboy
Charles Holmes, a fellow participant in Fort Worth’s nocturnal bicycle rides, passed along to me a snapshot of his father, a cyclist from an earlier time, as he was about to embark on his daily mission of delivering newspapers on the city’s west side.
“The photo is of my father, the paperboy, rolling out of the driveway onto Clover [Lane] on April 10, 1938,” Charles wrote in a post on the Web site RadRod Bikes.
Charles’ father was a Depression-era kid and he and all his brothers had jobs. “They were paperboys,” Charles wrote. “And the cycle they used, or rather shared, has captured my imagination for years. What a bike. It was old, beat, tough, it worked, it had to, it was a RatRod. What a grand time that must have been.”
The bike in the photo, Charles wrote, is a 1930 Elgin.
During the 1930s, Elgin bicycles were sold by Sears Roebuck & Co., in its stores and through the company’s mail order catalogue. Sears used the Westfield Manufacturing Co. of Westfield, Mass., to produce many of the bikes and, at the time, Sears was one of the biggest marketers of bicycles in the United States.
The only relic that Charles still has to remind him of his father’s and uncles’ days of delivering the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in the Arlington Heights neighborhood is a hole punch that made triangular holes to mark payments in subscribers’ receipt books.
Like most newspapers these days, the Star-Telegram no longer uses paperboys to deliver its daily product. Contract distributors are used instead.
The decline of the use of paperboys coincided in many communities with the disappearance of afternoon newspapers. The delivery times for afternoon papers worked better for school-aged children than did those of morning papers, which typically were delivered before 6 a.m.
Wikipedia offers this tidbit on the history of paperboys: “Newspaper industry lore suggests that the first paperboy, hired in 1833, was 10-year-old Barney Flaherty who answered an advertisement in the New York Sun, which read ‘To the Unemployed a number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper.'”