My route to success
The trip was easy for the first couple of blocks. I'd walk from the sub-station on Otjen Street, north through an alley to East Homer Street and an apartment complex adjacent to the Avalon Theater. West along Homer Street to Howell Avenue and then north to East Wilson Street and then east to Kinnikinnick Avenue. My bags, loaded with 126 Milwaukee Journal newspapers, were slung over my head on either side of my shoulders, which transferred the weight to my back and allowed me to use my hands to keep the bags in place. This prevented them from working around in front of me and hitting my legs as I walked.
I was 10 when I became a paper boy in 1949 in Bay View, Wisconsin.
Residents of Milwaukee quickly learned to survive the harsh winters. The snows came in November and immediately began to accumulate on the frozen ground. Plows pushed the snow into ridges along the streets. All the bicycles were put away.
If the day was warm--above O--walking on snow sounded like walking on cardboard. But if the day was cold, it cracked underfoot.
In the cold, blowing snow, I wore the face mask lovingly knitted by my mother. On some days, the wind chill could be 10 - 20 below zero.
My route was unremarkable in that the homes were quite old and close together. At the corner of East Wilson Street and Kinnikinnick Avenue was the Checkerway Charter Coach company. There the Thurman brothers taught me fuel injection theory and diesel engine repair. Skills I relied upon often during my military career.
Route money was important for daily living; aside from that, mother felt that it would teach me the lessons I needed in life among which included a work ethic, to serve rather than be served, to meet the public and be courteous under adverse conditions, to save and spend money wisely and to complete difficult tasks.
Collection day was Friday and mother knew my route book better than anyone. Mother would count the money and check my recorded amounts in the collection book. Saturday morning I paid my weekly bill--generally I would make $9 - $10 a week including tips. Dad, who worked at Milcor, brought home $40 a week--$50 a week to support a family of eight.
The K&K Federal Savings and Loan offered a special bank which, when full, would buy a $25 U.S. Savings Bond--there was no such thing as spending money or allowance because Dad felt that at some point the money could be used for college tuition. The projectionist at the Avalon Theater had me deliver his paper to the projection booth from where I got to see the movie. Popcorn took a little coordination; however, some always made its way to the booth during the feature.
I still think of the hardship and warmth of my four years as a newspaper carrier. I knew who I was. I learned how to survive in the world and how to help my brothers and sisters grow up.
And how about my father's dream for my college education? Yes, I completed college at the University of Nebraska, Omaha and went on to complete a master of arts degree at Pepperdine University.