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The Paper Route: Part One

ClaremoreAt the ripe old age of 10, I strode into the Claremore office of the Tulsa World and declared myself ready to be a paper boy. Cecil Chenoweth, the gruff but kindly agent, never thought it would work but, to his credit, he gave me a small route covering all of Will Rogers Blvd. and four streets in old town Claremore. As it happened, my brother Larry (age 7), later became my partner, a business relationship that has now lasted more than fifty years.

We learned some important things working and collecting that route. Some people pay their bills, others don’t. The Tulsa papers for our route often weighed more than we did, which caused some awkward and sometimes very painful collisions with the ground. I still remember sitting on the ground in front of Love sheet metal, surrounded by a huge pile of newspaper spread all over after a major collision with a curb. Those streets had grand old houses, some of which still held the original rich occupants while others had been broken up into as many as six small apartments.  We  learned that often poor people are nicer and more generous than rich people. We learned that the Belvidere with its many apartments at that time was a very spooky place. But most of all, we learned that a seven day a week job was seven days every week. Rain, snow, and cold didn’t matter. Mom and Dad helped, of course, particularly on those dark, cold Sunday mornings when the big papers weighed heavy, but they never did the job for us.

Responsibility is difficult, even for ten-year-old paperboys.

Now I realize that in many ways that route covering almost three years was a lot of work for my folks. How much easier it would have been to slip us a few bucks to buy what we wanted. What a gift of responsibility teaching they had given us.

But the rewards were great.  Every month, I was paid the princely sum of ten dollars, sometimes a little more, which for a ten-year-old in those days was the wealth of the kingdom.

Mom helped us check up after collecting. Most went to savings, but Mom allowed me the luxury of buying one toy model car each month.

A car nut from the beginning, I knew just what I wanted. The Ben Franklin 5-10 cent store on Will Rogers Blvd. had the latest collection of that year’s toy model cars. Which car would I get this month? A Continental? A Thunderbird?

Many days after the route, I slipped into the store to ponder the decision I would make at the end of the month. The owner of the store, Mr. Haddad, I think had a theory that every customer was a potential shoplifter. No matter where I was in the store, he followed me (and everyone else ) around,  lifting himself up on the balls of his feet to be ever vigilant.

The day finally came. My route was all collected so I excitedly went to Mr. Haddad’s to get my toy car.

After getting home that evening and “checking up” my paper route collections, we found something terribly wrong. Our checkup was long $1.50, just the amount of that toy car.

Now I would never have stolen anything in a million years, but it was obvious I had been so excited about my new toy car, I had just waltzed out the front door carrying it and had forgotten to pay! And I had forgotten to pay at, of all places, Mr. Haddad’s store, where I was ever suspected of being of the criminal element!

What a revolting development that was! More later.

-by Robby Melton

rob melton


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