genehornOK, folks, let’s get nostalgic!

What was your first job? How long ago? How long did it last? Did it require training? What did it pay? Was it a good experience? How did it impact your life?

Why do I ask?

Memories of my first job were relived recently with a subscription renewal notice for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I reminisced how, 75 years ago, I launched my career in the field of journalism, starting at the very bottom of the news business – a “paper boy” for the Milwaukee Sentinel.

My, oh, my, how times have changed.

The semi-annual bill for daily and Sunday delivery of the Journal Sentinel is $179.89.

That’s about $30 a month for six months, or $6.92 a week for 26 weeks (90 cents per daily and $1.50 for a Sunday edition).

Recalling the cost in 1941, I almost laughed out loud – 3 cents per daily and 10 cents for a Sunday paper – a grand total of 28 cents a week.

In those days, the Sentinel and Journal were separate entities: the Sentinel was published for morning delivery; the Journal for afternoon delivery.

A seventh grader at the time, my route included 50 dailies and 70 Sunday editions as some customers were Sunday-only subscribers.

Early morning delivery was a challenge – rising at 4 a.m., walking or riding my bike to the pickup station, completing delivery before 7 o’clock.

Fortunately, the route of about six square blocks was close to my Cudahy home. Most customers preferred delivery between a storm/screen door. I did my best to keep them happy.

In those days, delivery was only half the job. The other part was collecting, generally on Friday or Saturday when someone was expected to be at home. Most customers answered on the first stop. For some, a second or third visit was necessary. Most paid regularly.

Some slackers deferred payment — even for a 10-cent Sunday paper. Usual excuses for delaying payment were: short of cash, late paycheck, out of town, forgot it was Friday.

Nonpayers after two-three weeks delivery were discontinued. The loss was mine.

But faithful customers often brought a smile to my face – offering 30 cents and “keep the change.” A two-cent tip. Wow!

If my memory hasn’t failed me, I recall my share of each weekly delivery was one cent per daily, and three cents for the Sunday paper – for a grand total of $5-$6 a week.

Today’s carriers, mostly adults who make deliveries by car or van, can earn $175-$250 a week (and no collecting), according to Journal Sentinel help wanted listings.

Daily deliveries were on foot or by bike, but heavier Sunday editions required walking with a coaster wagon or by sled in winter. After a year of “working” in those early morning hours, I needed a change.

I left the Sentinel and acquired a larger Journal afternoon route. Located more than a mile from home, it included 70 dailies and 100 Sundays. Delivery and collecting took longer, but with the larger route, the pay was better.

One afternoon at the beginning of my route, a customer’s daughter, with her dog on a leash, was waiting curbside. As I rode by and handed her the newspaper, the dog leaped out and nipped my leg.

It was a minor scratch, but I stopped and the girl informed her mother. They asked if I was OK. I assured them I was fine and rode off to finish the route. There were no after-effects.

I kept the Journal route through eighth grade and into my freshman year in high school.

My newspaper “career” was interrupted when, in high school, I got an after-school and Saturday job at Gimbel’s downtown department store for 45 cents an hour. After high school graduation, I worked at a shoe company until I was drafted into the Army in 1951.

Returning two years later with GI Bill benefits, I resumed my newspaper career, enrolling in the College of Journalism at Marquette University. In my junior year, I returned to the Milwaukee Sentinel for a part time job on the Sunday radio/TV section.

After graduating from MU in 1953, I continued at the Sentinel as a reporter. Five  years later, I left the Sentinel for a public relations job. Subsequently, the Journal acquired the Sentinel and at first, both newspapers operated independently. Eventually, they merged.

I joined the Catholic Herald staff in 1960. When I retired in 1998, I viewed my journalism career complete, but in 2003, I was asked to contribute to this section. Each column is a challenge, but it’s been fun.

So, here we are in 2016. A career that began as a 12-year-old “paper boy” for the Sentinel and Journal continues to influence my life today.

I still receive the daily and Sunday Journal Sentinel for local, national and international news, and the Catholic Herald for church news. It seems I’ve come full circle: from carrier to subscriber, from payee to payer.

The moral of the story: once a news person, always a news person.

How did your first job influence your life?

(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)