Back in my day, every other kid I knew had a paper route at one time or another. Some were good at it – they delivered promptly, they collected money from customers on a regular schedule and they kept meticulous books to track it all.
Others, like myself, were lousy paperboys. We often overslept and delivered our papers late if we delivered them at all. We tended to procrastinate about the tedious process of collecting unless we happened to be in desperate need of cash on that particular day.
Whether you were a good paper carrier or a bad one, you probably learned a few lessons from that classic first job. Maybe you learned the value of hard work and dedication and took those lessons into later careers. Maybe you learned nothing more than how to evade skunks or how to fold a newspaper so that you could fling it onto some old man’s porch from half a block away.
You don’t see kids delivering newspapers very much anymore. These days, the very idea of children hauling newspapers down city streets in the wee hours of morning seems so antiquated, it’s almost quaint. Ask some old-timers why that is and many of them will grumble that kids these days just don’t appreciate the notion of honest money for honest work.
Maybe. But there are also logistical reasons for the decline.
“As subscriber numbers started to dwindle and people moved to the suburbs,” says William McCarthy, who delivered papers as a kid and then went on to work in circulation and transportation for 47 years at the Sun Journal, “the customers were too far apart for kids on foot or seasonally on a bike to cover them.”
It’s a pity because working a paper route can be an eye-opening experience – an experience full of marvels best appreciated through the eyes of a child.
Since there are few youngsters slinging papers these days, we rounded up former paperboys and papergirls to tell us stories from back in the day. It turns out there are a lot of you. Here, then, is merely a sample of the tales we heard from paper routes of days past.
The Gobeil sisters in Auburn — possibly the area’s first papergirls
Back then, they were Margaret and Georgette Gobeil and along with three other sisters, they worked a paper route in the neighborhoods along Minot Avenue in an age just a few years after the end of World War II. These days, Margaret Goulet has fond memories of working that route with her siblings, but she’s pretty sure she would never have had the opportunity if not for her older sister Georgette Sampson, who was believed to have been the first girl to work a paper route in the area.
“They hadn’t had any girls up to that time,” Margaret said. “I thought she was kind of brave to take it on.”
Their father was a popular barber in those days, Margaret said. It was through his connections at work that Georgette was able to get herself a paper route. And once they had it, the Gobeil sisters hung on to the work.
“We would do that until we got real jobs,” Margaret says. “That was in the days when kids worked because mom and dad wouldn’t give them an allowance. It was good training for life. Six days a week we’d be out there. No matter what the weather was like, we were out there. It was part of our becoming adults. We grew up faster than they do today.”
Georgette, now 87, would later lie about her age to get herself a job in the local dime store. Margaret, a couple years younger, has had links to the newspaper her whole life – her own children have delivered the Sun Journal in Lisbon. Her husband and his brothers had paper routes in Lewiston.
“We’re a paper route family,” Margaret says.
Charlie Tetreault in Lewiston — special delivery: cats
“Used to pick up a stack on Lisbon Street by Tire Warehouse on my bike with the route bag tied to the front of my handle bars. One time I found a litter of kittens under an old rusty vehicle and placed them in my Sun Journal route bag to bring home! Sadly, we had to bring them all to the adoption center.”
This photo shows Rick Denison, now of Leon, Mexico, delivering the Advertiser-Democrat in Oxford Hills in 1966. Submitted photo
Rick Denison in Norway — driven by baseball (and Dad, occasionally)
The Advertiser Democrat in 1966 ran a photo of one of its newspaper carriers. Rick Denison, then 12 years old, is shown smiling broadly in spite of what appears to be a very heavy newspaper bag hanging over his shoulder. What kept him at it? Baseball, mostly.
“I had the longest Advertiser route in Norway – more than 100 papers – with customers all along Main Street and stretching to the uncharted rural outposts of Elm and Radcliffe streets and Nevers Avenue,” says Denison, now 65 and living in Leon, Mexico. “At the end of the day I’d return to the Advertiser office, where Marion Quinn would count my revenues from the traditional green Norway National Bank coin bag and dole out my share, which sometimes reached $3. I’d save up to splurge on neatsfoot oil for my baseball glove. Occasionally in the summer, people on the street would buy copies (from him) and I’d have to return to the office to get more in order to complete the route.
“There was nothing really unusual about my route,” Denison says, “except maybe that most winter Thursdays, instead of riding my hulking, balloon-tired, cast-iron bike with a front basket AND panniers (probably 60 pounds fully loaded), I strapped my bag to an old Speedaway sled from Paris Manufacturing and pulled it along the icy sidewalks. Shout-outs to my sister Sue Denison and (friend) Dave Billings who subbed for me when I was sick or otherwise unavailable. In the summer of 1967, when the Red Sox had everyone in New England excited about baseball again, I could literally follow the games through open windows all along the route. I also had a Portland Sunday Telegram route for a few years in the area of Whitman, Deering and Danforth streets. On really crummy Sundays, my father would take me around in the family car. Thanks, Dad!”
Roger Castonguay in Lewiston — pitching papers and woo
“I delivered the Lewiston Evening Journal for four years. I had a girlfriend who lived halfway through my route, so everyone after her house received the paper late.”
Amber Beckwith in Gardiner — a work ethic that started at 4:30 a.m.
“I had a paper route for four years from sixth to ninth grade in Windy Acers of West Gardiner. I had anywhere from 30 to 50 customers. I would get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and my mom would drive me. Depending on the weather we might get up earlier because if it snowed, it could take hours. I remember I would wear full-on winter suits, which are hard to move in. All the customers wanted their newspaper at their doors. My mom had a Cavalier so you can imagine we didn’t drive into many driveways during the winter. It was quite a workout, but I was little, so it didn’t bother me. The customers treated me like family and I enjoyed making my own money. I’m 32 now and I still run into some of my customers. My parents gave me a strong work ethic and understanding of money at an early age. I’m forever grateful for that!”
Douglas Maifeld in Rumford — delivering around the world
“I started delivering papers back in 1974 in Anchorage, Alaska, at the age of 9. My father was stationed at Elmendorf AFB and I would deliver to residents at Fort Richardson Army Base next door. I delivered the Anchorage Daily Times Monday through Saturday by myself, but my father had to help with the Sunday paper as they were so big. I usually would stop at one of the first apartment buildings and read the sports page to check on the baseball box scores, checking on my Cincinnati Reds. I had to deliver the papers really early (4-5 a.m.) and did it before school. Once, after reading the box scores, I fell asleep and had a nice elderly lady ask if I should be in school. I swear it was the fastest I ever delivered papers.
“I had great customers and got nice tips especially at Christmas time. I would keep a little of the money for odds and ends, but put the rest in the bank. In 1977, my father got stationed at Moody AFB in Valdosta, Georgia, where I delivered the Valdosta Daily Times and was able to do the route on my bicycle. This was a lot faster and more enjoyable then walking apartment to apartment. The act of collecting for the paper wasn’t as enjoyable as in Alaska. It seemed I had to go back several times attempting to collect money. We were here less than two years before (we were) off to the next base.
“My last experience of delivering papers was in 1979 into the early ’80s when my father was stationed in Germany at Hahn AFB and I delivered the Stars and Stripes to military families. I continued to enjoy my experience, but still hated collecting the money. I was now into my senior year in high school when my father got stationed back in the states. I didn’t deliver anymore and was able to use a lot of the money I had saved delivering papers for 7-8 years and used it to help pay for my college education at the University of Cincinnati studying law enforcement. I am currently a sergeant with the Rumford Police Department and set to retire full time sometime in 2020. It was a different time in the ’70s and early ’80s, and today a 9- or 10-year- old wouldn’t likely deliver papers by themselves, and definitely not at 4 or 5 in the morning. It taught me a lot of responsibility and the value of money. It was a rewarding experience.”
Don Therrien in Sabattus — a bad experience all around
“Working your butt off all week getting up at 4:30 on cold rainy snowy days. Being excited on collection day to finally get paid for what you thought was going to be a tremendous amount. Oh, was I so wrong. Remembering one customer that will only tip me a dime and then complain her paper wasn’t exactly the way she wanted it in the door. Good times, not.”
Rick Bruneau in Lewiston — ‘Loved it . . . never regretted the hard work’
“I do remember my days as a paperboy. I did have some fun, until they (Sun Journal) came out with the new 10-pound Sunday paper. I had 121 customers and did not like the Sunday paper when it came out. When I first started there was no huge Sunday paper. I delivered to Grimmel’s Garage on Lisbon street up to what was the old Pizza Hut, Androscoggin Avenue to Bartlett Street and all side streets in between, and Sandhill Road. I used my red wagon in the spring (through) fall weather and my sled in the snow. I would get up at 3 a.m. to get all deliveries done before going to Martel School. I think I did the paper route for about three years then started working at a gas station across the street from the Burger King on Lisbon Street. This was back in 1980 – about ’83. I think the best memories were how quiet it was that early in the morning, and when the sun came up it was so warm and bright on cloudless mornings. I didn’t mind all the flights of stairs in the apartment buildings; those customers always left me good tips. I always tried to get all my customers to become PIA (paid in advance) so I wouldn’t have to try collecting from them in the afternoon, especially during the summertime. I left Lewiston in 1991, joined the Army, and now live in western Massachusetts, Monson, with my wife and three kids.”
“Loved it,” Bruneau says of his boyhood paper route. “Never regretted the hard work, even for a 10-year-old kid. It was a good experience into the working world with real responsibilities. I bought my first bicycle with my paper route money. I was so proud to say I bought it with my own money. The Lewiston Sun and Journal was a great organization to work for. I still read it and follow on Facebook today.”
Tina Roy in Auburn — good money and good times
“I did the route on Winter Street in Auburn. I delivered papers to about 54 people. The paper was cheap back then, so I made a lot of money (to me) back then. Got good tips. This was back in maybe 1970, I think. My two older brothers had it before me, so it was kind of a family thing. I made a lot of money and enjoyed it. I enjoyed going to Lewiston to pay my bill on Saturday and stopping at the 5 and 10 cent store. Always went to the soda fountain there and got a soda or float. Also bought me a bike at Peck’s (department store) and they let us do a weekly payment plan.”
Gary Lionel Brousseau in Lewiston — three life lessons learned
“It is with honor that I recall a few realities nurtured during my days as a paperboy, distributing the Lewiston Evening Journal on an upper Main Street route while in high school. There are three memories that recall the character-building experience that having such a route provided. And to this day, I can say that what I thought and felt at the time bears witness to the value such a business brought to my life.
“The summer of 1966 started like all others, with a break from school in June. But unlike others, in July, I took a paper route bequeathed by an older friend who was giving it up to take another job. I remember my father, a fireman, talking with the friend’s father, a policeman. As I was considering what the responsibility a paper route entailed, our fathers talked seriously about the details of the route, and my friend assured me there was money to be made. That prospect alone engaged my thoughts. But then, I also got to thinking how this “job” was the beginning of my life as a person, working for a living. It seemed a long haul as I projected into the future. What made the job possible was knowing that I knew the route, I knew almost all my neighbors, and my bike and I were best of friends. There was no looking back. That was lesson number one.
“The second lesson came from proof that this route was a moneymaker. I kept a book on all my ‘clients,’ and recorded payments to me with every Friday distribution and collection. I had neighbors who pretty much kept up, adding a tip so that there was the added thrill of a bonus. And every Saturday morning, I went to the Sun Journal office, by City Hall, to deposit the monies collected from the previous night, handed them to a Mr. Roger Forgues, and collected payment for the previous week’s efforts. The ‘book,’ which I believed was given by the main office, also recorded any delinquent payments. And with each payout, I received my due in forms of cash and a $25 US Savings Bonds, which I purchased from my earnings automatically. The bond was an unexpected benefit as it taught me to allocate money for savings, and it taught me to defer the instant pleasure that cash certainly generated. Thirty years later, the stack of bonds I held, eight inches high, was a valuable asset because of their maturity. My godson’s birth was covered. Lesson learned!
“And another lesson came from becoming so familiar with my neighbors. With some I became friendly, with some I tolerated dirty jokes in half English/half foreign languages. I laughed at the appropriate moment, so I could wiggle free. And I faked it only if necessary. And I learned to drink hard cider, as some neighbors felt it was their duty to loosen me up. It was my early teens, and as I was not so inclined, having taken my father’s advice on alcohol, I was only duped by the “cider” content, which eventually became something (and some people) to avoid. Ironically, the couple (encouraging him to drink the hard cider) eventually were ticketed as DUI more than once, a sad reminder of my father’s warnings. I learned a lot about people, and as the (neighborhood) was known as a “fly-by-night” residential setting, I learned there was more to see beyond my route.
“Within a few years, I gave my younger brother the route, when an injury laid me up for the summer. It was my summer of ‘Dark Shadows’ (the TV series). But it was also the beginning of many fond reminiscences.
“I was the lucky boy who got to ‘pass papers.’”
Adam Mccrater in Sabattus — the value of work
“(I was) 12 when I started. Delivered to Oak Hill Trailer Park. Made about $165 a week and during Christmas would make over $400. They all tipped well.”
Laurent F. Gilbert Sr. in sunny California — from L-A to L.A.
“When I was in the 7th and 8th grade in Temple City, California, I delivered the evening Los Angeles Herald Examiner. I loved my paper route. I would fold my papers in three and place a rubber band around them. I would stand them all up in my double canvas bags and drape them on a rack on the back of my bike. In California, we would ride our bikes and reach back in our bag and pull out a newspaper and basically throw it in a yard or on a driveway. Once in a while, throwing a newspaper which landed on the roof of a house, we would have to go to a newspaper sale machine and purchase a newspaper and deliver it to the driveway where the paper we threw landed on the roof.
“The one nice thing about the route was if we signed up X number of new subscribers, our route manager would bring us to a Dodger game at Dodger Stadium. We would be out in left field and we watched all of our baseball heroes such as Stan ‘The Man’ Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals for one. Those were wonderful days. It taught us a lot: responsibility, dependability and a way of trying to earn money by working hard at a very young age. My older brother by 8 years, Maurice Gilbert, delivered the French newspaper Le Messager in Lewiston long before we moved to California, when he turned 18 years old and I was 10 years old.”
Lisa Sawyer in Lewiston — lessons for a balanced life
“Sabattus Street around North Temple Street and South Temple Street. And my dad worked for Sun Journal – Vaughn Sawyer – so being late was not an option! A double basket on the back of my 10-speed bike. . . . When the advertisements and coupons were in the paper the back part of my bike was so heavy my front wheel would come off the ground until I got on my bike. The first 10 papers were touch and go if I was going to flip my bike or not – fun times! But it taught me a lot.”
Michael Cook in Rumford — three routes and more
“I had three paper routes! I delivered the GRIT paper for three years, The Rumford Falls times for five years and the Lewiston Daily Sun for four years. I also raked leaves, shoveled snow, stocked shelves at Perry’s Variety on Congress street in Rumford. I was a busy young man. That early work ethic fueled me to the success I enjoy today.”
Ed Perry in Rumford — good memories and a 10-speed
“Had about 120 customers plus the green footbridge going to the mill. Saved my money to buy a Grants 10-speed bike – great memories.
“Foch, Dill, Eustis, Cassell, Irwin streets. The pickup point was that gas station that is now the new Dominos, I believe. I remember having to run and ‘tuck and roll’ over snowbanks on big snow mornings. Then go to school.”
Vicki Camire in Lewiston — the very early days of newspapers
“I had Route 28-A from fifth grade until I was a senior in high school. Got several babysitting jobs from my route customers. I also inserted – we did that by hand back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in high school – in the early-morning hours before delivering my route. I worked in the circulation department after school and summers for four years until graduation, then left to find my first full-time job.”
Chris Fuller in Winthrop — his ‘go fund me’
“I delivered the KJ and Maine Sunday Telegram from 6th grade through my senior year in high school. I saw a lot. Between catching customers in their boxer shorts, being chased by dogs, delivering in nor’easters. I delivered door to door. It was my ‘go fund me.’ It allowed me to go to summer basketball camps. It taught me how to hold a job.”
Jen Simpson in Lewiston — ‘It was an adventure’
“I delivered the paper from Cram Avenue area all the way up to the corner of Randall Road and Sabattus Street. I was young and delivered the afternoon paper. I did the route by myself at maybe age 10. It seemed like it took forever, and in the winter I would have to put the papers on my sled and have to pull them. Every once and a while I would end up with an extra paper and, by Jesus, someone would call and say ‘Hey, I didn’t get my paper.’ . . . Aw man, did that suck to have to go all the way out to bring back them their one paper. I loved the small amount of money I made, but having to collect money from people for the paper seems so funny now. I always had this one guy who never remembered to leave the payment, and when I would have to knock and ask – I was so freaked out. Lucky for me I was always safe, but it was an adventure.”
Jimmy Berube in Lewiston — nine morning routes and the Journal
“First job after I quit school during sophomore year. Delivered for years, even during the ice storm of ’98 and when Oakledge Estates on Randall Road was just getting built. I believe we had nine routes with my Dad plus delivered the Journal in the afternoons.”
Laurier Marcoux in Lewiston — snowbanks and blizzards
“My Sun paper route was East Avenue from Sabattus Street to Fairlawn Street and all of Fairlawn. This was in 1967. I remember huddling in the entrance to an apartment building on the corner of East and Sabattus on brutally cold mornings waiting for my papers. Also after an overnight blizzard having to throw myself over huge snowbanks to get to my customers. X-mas tips were great!”
Robert Turgeon in Auburn — holy holidays!
“Days leading up to a holiday were the worst – bag weight doubled with all the adverts. And how come it was always the guy on the 4th floor with a subscription?”
Eric Mortensen in Lewiston — ‘The job.’
“I did it for five years. I remember that $30 per week 35 years ago. It was the job.”
Ed Enos — neither snow nor rain nor blizzard . . .
“My best memory was the Blizzard of ’78. I got my papers out before the storm really got crazy. Didn’t get any papers to deliver for a couple of days. As I delivered the next available, people were impressed because they were finding their previous paper as they shoveled out. Got good tips that week!”
David Kidder in Mechanic Falls — model memories
“Delivered the Sun. Picked up my papers from the drugstore then (1960s). My classmate Gaylon Harriman (now deceased) also had a morning route like me. Got up early and walked through a lot of snow to do it. As a reward for getting new customers we got an AMT model car kit. Fond memories!”
Julie Demers in Lewiston — Sun and Journal routes
“I had two different paper routes in Lewiston when I was a kid. My first one was on Webber Avenue from Lisbon to Pleasant in the afternoon. The other one I had a couple years later was on Androscoggin Avenue and all the little streets in there and that was in the morning.”
Denise Tolini Mathieu in Lewiston — show me the money, not!
“I had a morning route, 84 papers! I didn’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn to deliver them, but I hated hated going to collect money!”
Dorothy Gosselin in Sabattus — the beginning of a career
“I remember delivering the newspaper in Sabattus. I was probably 8 years old and did intown. Would pick up papers at Main Street Market. There were four of us – my three brothers and I. I did around Dog Alley and up Elm Street. The boys did the outlying areas. I would also sub for John Wright for the Journal. Mr. Maroon was also our contact person. In 2007, I started working at the Sun Journal. Ended in 2018. The Costellos were great to work for.”
Dave Marquis in Lewiston — 7-year-old Sunday specialist
“I was 7 years old when I first got my paper route. I delivered the Portland Sunday Telegram in Tall Pines in Lewiston. Once a week. I think I did it for five years. The Sun Journal was two newspapers at the time: the Lewiston Sun and the Lewiston Evening Journal. There was no Sunday addition from the Sun or Evening Journal. The Sun was delivered by an older kid across the street from me – Eric Carbonneau. With the number of customers I had in the housing development, I had no need to go anywhere but there. Neither rain, snow or dark of morning kept me from my rounds, so people got their Sunday (Telegram) paper on time every Sunday.
In the summer we would drive home from camp to deliver – I think my brother and sister hated me for that. I remember one morning going to the car real quick to turn on the radio. I turned on the key and the car started. It was in gear and took off. Thankfully, it stalled. I learned a few new words that day from Mom. Good thing Dad wasn’t there, as the beat-down would have hurt till this day, I think. I remember Eric going on vacation a couple of times and I had to get up a 4 a.m. on a school day to deliver his route – I HATED that route!
For the 20 years I’ve lived in my home it has been delivered by adults who I’m sure have larger routes. Some have been phenomenal at their jobs (my present one is). Some have been lazy and shown no customer service skills at all – I found my paper with my snowblower once because they threw it in the snowbank the plow left after a storm. I hold my delivery person to a high standard, as I used to carry 80-some-odd papers and got it there every day, on foot, in any weather. So when my paper is left on the porch or sidewalk, it pisses me off, as I’m paying for door delivery, period. At 56, owner of a small construction company, I still work outdoors and have little tolerance for not getting my paper on time unless there is two feet of snow on the ground. I learned a great deal about customer service coming home soaking wet or while freezing my ass off in the winters. I hope to not lose the delivery person I have now.”
- FIFA World Cup 2018: Well done, Rishitej! India is proud of you – Bengaluru boy becomes India’s 1st official match ball carrier
- Driving Through Flames, Breathing Through Blankets: 9 Tales From Californians Who Fled the Wildfires
- The Epic Hunt for a Lost World War II Aircraft Carrier
- The quaint tale of an artist and a stranded submariner taking tea in Old Portsmouth
- A Plague Tale: Innocence is shaping up to be a gripping, heartbreaking and disease-ridden drama
- The Tale of 'The Spy and the Traitor'
- Landing in the wrong place
- Summer arts preview: Top 5 theater picks
- Navy morphs California surfer into Vietnam hero