It only took me two years to get that paper route and, of course, it was with the morning paper. I had to be up by 5:30 in the morning and have my papers delivered by 7 a.m., and collect 50 cents once a week from my customers. This meant that sometimes I was out until 9, sometimes 10 p.m. collecting because my bill was due by Thursday. The evening paper guys could collect as they delivered in the afternoon so there was no nighttime collecting for the most part.
I started this paper route with 50 customers, which was the standard size of paper routes for most of the morning paper delivery guys. My route encompassed Pyramid Way east and M Street north. George A. Probasco was building houses like crazy and consequently my route grew exponentially as each section of new subdivision was completed and sold. I delivered papers to those houses before there were any lawns, trees, patios or play sets for the kids. There was nothing but a house in those sections when I started peddling papers to those folks. At the end of four years, I had 250 customers. I had more money in my pockets than sense in those days. I somehow managed to not have any complaints during my tenure.
With the growth of my route I was able to save enough money to buy a Mustang four-speed motorcycle. It was a good thing too, because I had to use two sets of paper bags, two loads a day to be able to deliver to my customers. If I had any extras I would trade one paper to the home delivery milk men for a quart of milk. One time I had brought home so much milk that my mom told me not to bring any more home for a while as she didn’t have any more room in the freezer to freeze the milk. (Yes, you can freeze milk and it doesn’t hurt it except that when you thaw it out, you have to shake it up to get it re-homogenized.)
I even worked out a deal with a Reno/Sparks bus driver named Orson. I would hide a paper in the planter at the Greenbrae Shopping Center every day except Sunday and he would give me a ride to Reno anytime I wanted when he was driving. I didn’t want to ride my motorcycle to Reno as I had done that in Sparks once and some idiot had put Coke in my gas tank and I ended up pushing my motorcycle home from the area of 15th and B Streets where the Sparks Theater was located.
On Sundays, I finally got smart and quit throwing out my extra papers and I went down to the John Ascuaga's Nugget and stood in front of the morning newspaper rack and sold my extra papers. Out of the rack they were only 15 cents and I purposely didn’t have any change. In those days, people had silver dollars in their pockets and they would take a paper and tell me to keep the change. I learned the meaning of hustle when it came to making a buck.
The kids who delivered the Sparks Tribune in those days were paid only what they could get if they sold the papers. They didn’t have any routes and didn’t have to collect or pay a bill. I guess the papers were free and if they had enough money to hustle the papers, they would make some money by selling them. I always felt sorry for them as I didn’t know how much demand there was for the Sparks Tribune in those days. I didn’t even know how many days a week the Sparks Tribune was published in those days. I know they didn’t publish on Saturday or Sunday.
The local Reno morning paper was small enough on a daily basis that I could fold the paper square and throw it like a Frisbee with great accuracy. On Sundays, I had to use rubber bands, which I had to pay for. That was another reason to learn how to fold the paper in the square. You didn’t need rubber bands.
I broke my share of glass bottles that were left for the milk man to pick up. I paid for them and chalked it up the cost of doing business, but there’s nothing better than watching a whole bunch of glass milk bottles shatter as the newspaper hits them. The sight is better than watching a strike when you’re bowling. Yeah, I had to pick up the glass as well as pay for the bottles. I figured it was an accident, but since I had to pay for it, I may as well enjoy the ride.
Competition aside, it’s really neat that the Sparks Tribune has survived for 100 years. It’s a great little hometown newspaper and I think in some ways its better than the paper produced in the Biggest Little City in The World to the west of our hometown of Sparks. I’m also very proud for the privilege to write my little columns and in some way promote the growth of the little paper that is a great competitor to the Biggest Little City’s corporate giant morning newspaper. I find the newspaper business exciting, but then I must have printer’s ink in my veins for sure.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.