Perhaps you saw the news that the local unemployment rates appear to have been steadying out heading into this fall. Throughout the Miami Valley, the percentage of those in the work force without employment has hovered around 4 to 5 percent. From what I understand, a multitude of economists would say this is pretty much full employment. All of this talk of jobs had me thinking about the first job that I had.
The first job I had is one that has pretty much disappeared over time. For about five-and-a half years, I was a trusted carrier for the Troy Daily News. Every day, I would go out and pass out 35 papers along South Clay Street. My adventure into the paper carrier world started when I was 10, which was the minimum age for a carrier. I walked up to the newspaper office downtown and asked to be a paper carrier and within a couple weeks I was given Route #45.
I quickly learned that the paper carrier business is one that experiences a lot of turnover. It seemed that every month there was always a new paper carrier that arrived at the house where the papers were collected. In retrospect, five and a half years as a teenage paper carrier was a long time; perhaps too long.
The job was perfect for a youngster because it was a real good teacher of responsibility. One hour each weekday was scheduled out to walk the route after school. Usually I arrived home for just enough time to drop off the books and grab my bag and walk to the route. Of course, the papers needed to be at their respective homes by 5:00, which didn’t leave a lot of leisure time. Weekend mornings were spent passing out the extremely small Saturday paper and the extremely large Sunday paper. Thanks to my parents, those Sunday papers were always at their final destination by 8:30.
Weekends also had that ritual of collecting dues from customers, which was certainly the most time consuming part of the job. Looking back, I was horrible at it. I would knock on the doors of customers at pretty much any hour of the weekend; I am sure my customers were sick and tired of seeing me every Saturday morning. But I had a job to do, all that mattered was that I needed to collect the dues so I could pay my own bill every Sunday night.
The greatest time of the year was certainly the holidays. I am not sure if it was my boyish good looks, nice demeanor or the fact that I actually got people their paper at a reasonable time, but the holiday tips were amazing! I would consistently get $200 a year from these tips, which for a kid that just hit double digits in the age category was the equivalent of hitting the lottery. And just like any kid that just hit double digits, I know I spent way too much of that on candy, gum and trinkets.
But, the best part of the job was always the people. I remember so many of the wonderful families that lived on South Clay Street. There were widows, empty nesters, single parents and young families that all lived up and down that street. There were girls I had crushes on and guys I loved to hang out with.
Even more than that, there were people that allowed me to be in their home and even part of their family. I remember an older widow who was confined to a wheelchair. She would usually keep the front door slightly ajar and I would come in and deliver the paper on her dining room table and see if she was doing well that day. She loved her jigsaw puzzles and even bought her a few over the years. I also remember a young family that moved in to the neighborhood. They immediately welcomed me in to their home by having me over for the occasional dinner or just to hang out.
I still find myself driving down South Clay Street looking at the houses and I can tell that after twenty years, the families have changed, but the spirit hasn’t. There are still the young and the old, big families and small families that all live down that slice of heaven.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]