I dedicate this column to my mom, Gladys Marlene Horton Parker, who believed in me and taught me so much. She passed away 11 years ago on Sept. 27, 2009. She loved my columns and I sure miss her and Dad.
I’ve heard it said more than once that newspaper people have ink in their blood.
Even though I’m thankful that there is no actual ink in my blood, I do have a passion for community newspaper and journalism work.
It all started in the early 1970s. I was 12 and had just started my seventh grade year at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in Tulsa, home of the Rebels.
Some of my friends had newspaper routes. I wanted one, too!
Tulsa had two newspaper at the time – the Tulsa World (morning) and Tulsa Tribune (evening). Both newsrooms were housed and printed in the same downtown Tulsa building.
The papers were run through a joint operating agreement with Newspaper Printing Corporation. It was NPC’s job to distribute the news, keep subscription numbers up and newspapers in circulation all across Tulsa, the surrounding area and state.
For some reason, I wanted a morning newspaper route and mom didn’t want me out delivering newspapers at the crack of dawn by myself. So, she joined me in the business and we took on two morning paper routes on Sept. 1, 1972.
In the early going, we walked our routes, later riding our bicycles. I had a nice gold Schwinn Stingray with a large newspaper basket hitched to the front. My Aunt Alice bought the basket for me. After some use the front basket braces broke, so I took my bike to Mr. James, a neighborhood bicycle fix it man, and he welded steel bars and shored up the basket.
That was a great bicycle. I rode it to school one spring day and didn’t lock it and someone took the opportunity to steal it. I replaced it with another Schwinn, but it was never the same.
Anyway, when it rained and even snowed, we carried an ample supply of plastic bread sacks to cover the newspaper for our customers. Mom bought the bags at the local second day-old bread store a couple miles from our home. We prided ourselves in porching the paper at every home.
In September 1973, we added a third morning route and one year later, we added an evening route. By that time, we were delivering around 400 papers a day and many more on Sunday mornings.
My dad helped on Sunday mornings and my brother, Tom, also pitched in and helped deliver papers when needed. We were even featured one year in the Tulsa World newspaper as the family that delivers together.
It was all hands-on work. We did everything from delivering the papers to collecting the subscription money, keeping track of vacation holds and the business end of having a paper route.
It’s the only job that I worked to deliver the paper then had to work to get paid, referring to customer collections. I spent many weekends and school nights collecting paper route money. Some customers would save and wash the bags and rubber bands and when I stopped to collect, they gave them to me.
I remember one situation when I was out collecting and the family invited me in for supper. The man of the house was a Tulsa firefighter, so he knew his way around the kitchen, since he also cooked at the station.
There were no cell phones back in the day, so I couldn’t call my parents. I sat down at the table and enjoyed a fried chicken meal. It was getting dark when I left and I was riding my bicycle home while Mom and Dad where out looking for me. Needless to say, they weren’t too happy with me, but the chicken was great.
Another time, in January 1977, it started snowing in Tulsa on Saturday evening. By noon on Sunday, there was a foot of snow on the ground. It was so cold and windy that I walked one block and delivered papers while my mom walked the next block. We got in the truck that my dad was driving to warm up before heading out again. That was one of the worst snowstorms I witnessed in Tulsa.
We used to get a lot of ice storms in Tulsa and no snow. And I can remember many summer mornings with the temps in the high 80s with high humidity.
The money I earned paid for my school clothes, gas for my car and many other items a teenager would want.
I opted out of newspaper delivering in July 1977, the summer before my senior year in high school. Mom continued throwing the other two routes for two more years. She used the money to make the land payment on the family farm they bought in 1974.
Throwing newspapers was a great learning experience and played a big role in my future journalism career. I will forever be grateful to my parents for their dedication to raising their family and teaching their boys that hard work pays off and that reading the Good Book is the best life.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.