The announcement this week that the afternoon Fort Wayne News Sentinel was going completely digital hit me like the rolled-up newspaper I never threw. You see, I had a paper route in Angola in the late 1960s. When seventh grade classes were done for the day, I’d stop outside the news stand/book store, fold about forty papers in thirds, and tuck and load them in my bike basket. Then I carefully crossed the highway to the other part of town.
My route took me past the old brick post office with CCC murals on the inside, maneuvering around sidewalk corners and familiar yards. It was a neighborhood we’d lived in earlier, and I was glad to revisit some of the streets I used to walk to school. I even delivered a paper to our old house which my sixth grade teacher had bought.
But I didn’t throw it. Putting down the kickstand at each house on my subscriber list, I walked up to it and placed each paper inside the door or on the top step. I wouldn’t have been able to trust my aim from a distance, anyway.
My legs had to pump hard uphill on the block beyond the elementary school. The area wasn’t developed then, but there were a few new ranch style homes at the top. I knew the families who lived in them; it was strange to be a service worker who came up to the door, especially when I collected money for the week. I felt like someone else. Forty cents earned them a little date-stamped ticket which I deperforated as I was handed my quarter, dime and nickel.
I liked coasting down that hill afterward because I could see the layout of the city blocks below, a patchwork of Cape Cod and frame houses with grass of varying heights.
One two-story house was a bit different than the rest. I only saw its resident once or twice, as she clothespinned an envelope of forty pennies to the mailbox for me on Fridays. Beside the door was a handprinted sign, Ironing. She was a tiny lady with upswept hair, little glasses and an ancient housedress. I wondered if she even got forty cents for her work. Probably not.
If it were a hot day, on my way back I’d stop at the news stand for a Yoo Hoo chocolate drink, feeling important that I could decide how to spend my own money.
There is still a morning Fort Wayne newspaper, whose editorial page is the opposing political side of the one I used to deliver. We subscribe to it. It comes by car delivery while it is still dark. I do hope there are enough people to sustain it, who still enjoy the crackle of large pages with their coffee and who budget more time to digest the news than is allowed by electronic media. The daily afternoon paper boy or girl in small towns is becoming a thing of the past. Though I may not have thought so at the time, I am glad to have had the experience.