Paperboys and vintage bikes

“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.'”



Filed under Americana, History, Texana, Urban cycling

3 responses to “Paperboys and vintage bikes

  1. John Vandevelde

    What memories your blog brings back!
    Delivering the Los Angeles Herald Express, afternoon companion to the morning Los Angeles Examiner, in Azusa, a suburb about 25 miles east of Los Angeles. I think I was 12 or 13 years old. Rode my bike rain or shine, six days a week (only the Examiner was printed on Sundays). Folded and rubber-banded the papers, adding some kind of waxed paper on the outside if it was raining. Stuck them in a dirty white cloth bag, two big pouches connected with a piece of cloth with a hole in it so it could hang over your head, with “Los Angeles Herald Express” in big black lettering. I hung it so a pouch was on either side of my handlebars, unless the paper was really thick, when I had to hang it on the rear rack. Three problem dogs on the route, and I would hope they were inside when I rode by. Knew which papers had to be “porched” if I expected to get paid at the end of the month. I think it was only $1.75 a week, yet collecting was actually the biggest challenge. Most people paid. Some even tipped. But there were always a few who didn’t answer their door or moved away withouth settling up with me. I didn’t understand it then, but I was a guarantor to the person who distributed the bundle of papers to me, and to the newspaper publisher.
    The experience taught me some things about responsibility, and people, and money, that have lasted throughout my life.
    The Herald Express exists no more. Neither does the Examiner. And neither do the paperboys and their bikes. We get our LA Times, seemingly a page thinner each day, from an adult in a car, the same person who, in order to survive, simultaneously tosses any number of competing papers and junky throwaways onto driveways (no time or skill to “porch” the paper). The papers are wrapped in plastic now, not properly folded, and always without a rubber-band. Nowdays if you want a rubber band, you have to go to Staples and buy your own box of a few hundred rather than to reach into a junk drawer in the kitchen and grab one you took off the paper I folded because it has a lot of life left, along with a little newspaper ink.
    It seems a shame on all counts.

  2. Pingback: The news is 'power of the people' | Crawley Happy Times Online | Crawley Happy Times Online

  3. My husband and I got a schwinn paperboy bike must be from the 40 50’s I look every now and again at it in the garage hanging there and wonder about the paper boys that had that bike and how thier lives and families were then.So much more today going on as a kid thanks for your time

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