Back in the early days of the Republic, I applied for a job selling newspapers on a street corner near the two rooms in which we lived at the time.
The rooms weren't very desirable, nor was the Cincinnati neighborhood in which they were located. We never kidded ourselves that those rooms constituted anything elegant enough to be called an "apartment."
After I had waited for a long time, I was told that the corner I wanted had opened up. I was in Seventh Heaven. At long last (at the age of 10 of thereabouts), I had become a worker -- an income producer. As people got off the streetcar at my corner, the first thing they saw and heard was me: "Times-Star, mister? Read all about it."
On my very first afternoon on the job, one of the people who got off the streetcar was my father. I hadn't told him of my new job, and he was puzzled to see me with a bundle of papers under my arm.
"What's this?" he asked. "Do you want people to think I can't afford to feed you unless you get out and earn some money?"
"I didn't think about that," I said. "I just wanted to help out."
A family council was held that night. It was solemnly decided that although I would be better advised to spend the time studying to be a doctor or a lawyer, I would be permitted to continue selling newspapers. My earnings would go into a special bank account so that some day I could go to college.
By the time my own son was old enough to carry a bundle of papers, I was making more money than my father made when I was 10. Home delivery had made street sales almost extinct by then, so my son applied for a carrier route.
We waited gloomily for a reply as the months dragged on. From time to time he'd say things like, "I'm almost tempted to apply for a Star route," but I knew he was just rattling my cage.
I'd say, "Walter, you have to be patient. Our present carrier will have to give up the route in the fall when he goes off to college, and then you'll get your chance."
Walter would groan and say, "I thought I'd get the route when the oldest brother left for college, but he passed it on to the middle brother. Then the middle brother passed it on to the youngest brother. I thought I'd finally get my chance when the youngest one went to college, but now I hear they have a little sister, and with my luck she'll want the route."
Well, Walter finally got his route.I wasn't keen about his getting up before daylight in the winter months to serve his route on time, but being a newspaper carrier was something he very much wanted to do, so I permitted him to become a "newspaperman," just as my father had humored me.
Now the World's Greatest Grandson is talking about applying for a route, and Walter will probably have to say "Yes," too.
In every instance, the motivation for this activity in our family has been the same: to do something useful and productive, to make money of our very own, to acquire a feeling of self-worth. Getting a job selling or delivering newspapers gave us an opportunity to say to ourselves, "Today I began the transformation from dependent child to independent man. I feel great!
As you may have guessed by now, these recollections were triggered when I read an ad that ran in our paper on Wednesday. "Carriers WANTED," the big black letters said. Beneath them were a few words that described the opportunities that await those who call 334-6100 for details. This was followed by a list of 72 neighborhoods where routes are available right now. I couldn't believe it.
I phoned Jack F. Patterson, our senior vice president whose special field of expertise is circulation, and said, "Jack Francis, your ad this morning was an eye-opener for me. I didn't realize that so many routes are available. In my day, one waited a long time to get a route within walking distance of his home."
"Yes," Jack said with a sigh. "I, too, can remember those days. But they're ancient history now."
"Why?" I asked. "What changed?"
"People have fewer children and more money than they used to," he said. "And neighborhoods have a way of turning older as the years pass. Mom and Pop still live there, but the kids have grown up and moved away. And of course affluence has its effects, too. Our carriers make darn good money -- more than they'd make in a lot of after-school jobs, for example. But these are affluent times, and there just isn't as much emphasis on becoming a productive person as there was when you and I were young and poor."
"I think I'll write a column about the situation," I said.
"Oh, really?" Jack replied."If you do, be sure to put in the telephone number -- 334-6100."
I guess that's how he got to be senior vice president. He already has the biggest newspaper route in town, yet he's always in there selling.