LITTLE BUSINESSMEN


Children sold paper news sheets in colonial times, and even larger numbers became newspaper handlers with the advent of the penny paper in 1833. By 1962, there were 600,000 “paperboys”, thanks in part to exemptions from Depression-era child labor laws for youths if they were at least 12 years of age. The labor laws also exempted youths involved in acting, baby sitting, farm work, a family business, and making Christmas wreaths. The laws apparently still required a work permit in 1943, as I was asked to present one to a new employer in my first job as a soda jerk. I was 15 instead of 16 with no permit, but I kept showing up and eventually turned 16 never having had anything showing I was old enough to work.

In 1833 New York urchins roamed the crowded bustling streets of the city hawking the Sun newspaper. They took over the coffee houses and taverns shouting and waving the newspaper for one cent. The “newsey” became a common American icon. You can see that their costume of knickers and the cute caps, eventually became quite chic! I may still have one buried deep within my closet.

Newspaper boys in Jersey City

Selling penny papers continued into the 20th century, when the shift to home delivery system increased. Nearly every boy had a paper route by the time he was 12 years old. Even my great grandfather had a route which he accomplished riding his pony and small trap. By the time children entered middle school, they acquired two or three jobs based on their paper route experience. The first year-round job was augmented by seasonal work—picking berries, mowing lawns, harvesting apples, hauling coal, shoveling snow, all sandwiched between daily home chores, and all depending upon where one lived. Great grandfather expanded his paper delivery service by working at an ice cream shop. By the time he was 16 years old, he owned the shop, and ready to entrust it to a subordinate, he went on to being a contractor and hotel owner in both New Hampshire and Florida, where he was the first to offer tennis courts, golf and swimming poolsat his resorts. Just goes to show what a lucrative business the newspaper can be. Ask Mr. Rupert Murdock.

We checked out a new sports venue and the manager came up asking if we remembered him, which with our failing memories we didn’t, until he reminded us that he had been our paperboy! Nice guy, but he’d better get back on his bike as he has a few extra pounds since we knew him.

We get our news now in more ways than we can absorb—TV, three newspapers, and of course our trusty computers wherein we see emblazoned across the top the list of everything we might want or need to know—mail, news, sports, finance, weather, entertainment, health, ad infinitum. Of course, none of these carriers of information ever promised GOOD news, so they can’t be accused of reneging on a promise not given.

SHE’S LOOKING A BIT DISHEVELED


Mrs. LauderbackThe old girl isn’t the same anymore. She looks smaller somehow. They gave her a coat of dismal green paint after the fire, and now she looks like any ordinary old house, with her former pristine glory but a memory. They say the fire started in the attic, which makes me sadder than ever, because that was my home for five years.

Across the Bay from San Francisco, many of the lovely old Victorian homes in Alameda were built by the sea captains of the 19th century. Built by my great-grandfather in the latter part of the 19th century, our house has been turned into apartments now. My mother and I lived in the attic apartment during the final two years of the War, and it is where Dr. Advice and I began our married life.

My Great Aunt Helen inherited the house in due course and lived on the ground floor, turning the second floor into two apartments. My cousin lived in one and my high school English teacher in the other. We lived up another flight in the attic apartment.

Our three small rooms had many irritating but unique qualities including a kitchen with a downhill slanting floor where our first Thanksgiving guests were treated to the sight of the turkey which flew out of the oven and found its way into the living room. Another weakness came on laundry days. Down three flights of stairs in the basement an old fashioned metal washboard did the job nicely after a bit of elbow grease.

I commandeered the garret under the eaves with its one hanging light bulb as my studio, and it was where I painted my first commission portrait while in high school. My payment was a small glass bell. Even though it’s a nice bell, I’m glad the price went up through the years; I can only use so many bells. I’m afraid it wasn’t a very good portrait, but painting away in this dim confined space I felt like a real “starving” artist.

Driving by the old place occasionally, I wonder who owns it now, and what other people have roamed through it in the past 65 years. Do they wonder about us? How I would love to buy it and restore it to what it once was. I’d level off the kitchen floor in the attic and put a washing machine in the basement, but the first thing I would do is get rid of that hideous green paint!

“Mrs. Lauderback” sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen