I’m sure of it.
No doubt in mind.
There’s ink in the blood of Al Meinerding, Eldon Miller, Margaret Finkenbine, Theresa Schnipke and countless others whose first job, way back when, was delivering newspapers.
Putting that paper in the hands of their customers is as special to them today as it was during their childhood.
When we asked last week for former paper boys and girls to share their memories of delivering newspapers, we heard from a dentist, school superintendent, police inspector, an insurance executive, a banker and teachers. They told us about learning responsibility and people skills, being chased by chickens, delivering papers from the back of a snowmobile, and the rewards from developing business skills.
As one person said, “those were the days.”
Here are some of their stories:
At age 73, Al Meinerding says “this experience was one of the most important of my life.”
Meinerding delivered The Lima News in St. Marys from 1957 to 1964. He built his route from 30 customers to 20o, and in the process, won several contests for new subscriptions. The prizes saw him going on trips with the newspaper chaperones to a Cleveland Browns football game, the Indianapolis 500, a dude ranch in Indiana, and three days in Chicago.
“Since my family never went on any type of vacation, this was a big deal to me,” Meinerding said. “The paper cost 45 cents for a seven-day delivery rate. I took home approximately $20 a week, which was 20% of what my father was netting.”
At Christmas, he received around $100 in tips.
“I felt wealthy,” Meinerding said. “I rode my bicycle almost every day on this route. During really heavy snows, I walked. This wasn’t for wimps and I feel this experience toughened me. I saved every penny I could to use for college. I taught school for 35 years and wish kids today could have this type of experience.”
Eldon Miller, 76, of Lima, couldn’t agree with him more. Miller currently works with trucking students at Apollo Career Center. To this day, Miller said he uses the skills learned as a newspaper carrier to train students.
“The most important thing I learned was how to interact with people, which helped make me successful in life in all of my working years,” Miller said.
Two former paper boys recalled weather events in 1950.
Bill Miller, 84, talked about unknowingly delivering newspapers when a tornado roared down Robb Avenue on Lima’s west side.
“I was on the east side of town and remember how still and silent it was outside while all hell was breaking loose on the west side. No one was outside. No birds were singing, and no dogs were barking. I remember feeling like I was the only one living in the whole world at the time,” Miller said.
Don Stratton didn’t let the 1950 blizzard keep him from delivering a route that stretched 3½ to 4 miles.
“The truck could not get through. A neighbor knocked on the door and said that he had a sled and would help me get the papers. We walked about 10 blocks to The Lima News on East High Street, and then completed the route, pulling the papers on the sled,” Stratton said. “The following winter I was walking the route during cold, snowy weather, and wound up with frostbite on the tops of both of my ears. I still have some occasional skin peeling from that incident.”
The former police inspector added, “I gained a tremendous sense of responsibility by having to be on the job every day, whether I felt like doing it or not.”
Others had memories of doughnuts, a Schwinn bike with saddlebags, a member of the mafia, and a cute girl.
Chris Link, 68, of Delphos, remembers delivering the Delphos Herald on Saturday mornings as a 10-year-old in 1963. “We would then go to Butler’s Bakery and buy a sack of day-old donuts for a dime, get chocolate milk and go across the street to the laundromat to eat the donuts while we folded the papers,” Link said.
Steve Metzger, 70, of Elida, has combined his love for bicycles with his fond memories of delivering The Lima News in Wapakoneta. He’s restored a 1967 Schwinn carrier bike that was similar to the one he had as a youth. He’s even made saddle bags for it.
“It’s more of a heavy-duty bike, even has the heavier spokes,” Metzger said. “I looked around for an old Lima News saddle bag, but never could find one. So I did the next best thing and made one out of a painter’s drop cloth. I’d still like to find an original.”
Mark Honigford, a vice president at Union Bank in Delphos, had a Lima News route in Ottoville with his brothers Duane and Allan. “On Sunday, we would stand outside of Otte’s and bring papers to folks leaving church. The weather was always an adventure. After the Blizzard of 1978, I was picked up by Dale Martin on his snowmobile. He drove me around to complete that route.”
Tim Stolly may be the only carrier to be chased by a flock of chickens. That happened when he tried to collect at the Lima dog pound, where they also raised chickens. “Those chickens would attack anybody that came on the premises,” Stolly recalled. “I still have nightmares of a flock of chickens chasing me as I’m running back to my bike’”
And if he wasn’t outrunning chickens, he was dodging dogs
“I once counted how many dogs lived on Springview Drive. Of the nine total houses, I physically saw 26 dogs,” he said. One of the dogs bit him on the right back pocket, where he was carrying a Lima News bill. “We laughed later when we saw the four holes pierced in the envelope,” he said.
Bob Corson, 90, of Lima, began his paper route in 1942 in his hometown, Endicott, New York. He had a customer named Joseph Barbara who “would open the door with a big cigar in his mouth, say nothing, hand me a dollar bill and close the door.” Later Corson would learn Joseph Barbara was Joe “The Barber” Barbara, a member of the La Cosa Nostra. “A dollar was a huge tip in an era where tips were not the norm.”
In 1947, Jerry Barnes and his brother, Kay, headed to Hires News Agency at 4:30 every morning to pick up 170 newspapers, which arrived by train or bus. “We delivered a variety of papers — the Wall Street Journal, Sporting News, Cleveland Plain Dealer and others — to barber shops, cigar stores, offices, bars, restaurants, and apartments in downtown Lima.
When Dr. David Rolsten, a dentist from Shelby, Ohio, donated $100,000 in March to help fund an endowment at OSU-Lima, he pointed out that being a newspaper carrier for The Lima News taught him the value of dedication and hard work. Rolsten delivered to 130 customers on Prospect and Kibby streets.
“I was such a little scrawny kid that when we would load up the paper bags on Sunday, they were so heavy I had to crawl underneath the things to lift them up.” he said.
It’s been more than 70 years since James Binkley had his paper route. “I made 10 cents per house — about $12 dollars a week — and still remember treating myself to a hamburger every Saturday at a little hamburger stand next to The Lima News office,” he said.
Ronald Moening talked of chasing down some customers who ‘intentionally avoided me” when it came time to pay. Tom Castleman can still recall his route number — A121. Larry Flick, 73, passed both The Lima News and Lima Citizen. And Douglas Salyer remembers getting in trouble after a cute girl moved into a house on his route. “I would stop to talk with her every day, making the papers at the end of my route late.”
Speaking about girls, it wasn’t all boys delivering newspapers.
Theresa Schnipke, superintendent of the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities, shared a 50-customer route with her brother, Kenny J., in Delphos during the mid-1970s. They would race home each day from school and see who could wrap their papers the fastest.
She remembers, “There were so many little rules with this job … don’t hit the front door, but hit the porch … My brother remembers breaking at least one window.”
The elderly customers on her route were special to her.
“They were so kind. I remember years later working at the Delphos Memorial Home (Vancrest now) and taking care of some of those same elderly people that were on my route, which was always a pleasure.”
Kathy Reinhart, now of Russells Point, got her route in 1961 when she was 9 years old, delivering in Laibe’s Trailer Court in Bath Township. She didn’t mind passing papers after school, it was the Saturday and Sunday morning papers — especially during the winter — that were most difficult.
“Those papers had lots of pages and inserts and I had to make many trips to complete. Collecting was also hard, keeping up with people’s schedules,” she said.
Margaret Finkenbine, of Lima, says “to this day, I could take anyone on my route and point out the houses I would deliver to, well, the ones still standing that is. Time moves on.”
Finkenbine grew up in New Bremen, where she delivered the St. Marys Evening Leader to 86 households.
“I introduced myself to each house and asked where they would like their paper placed that first week. The majority of my people — yes, my customers were “my people” — were older and some needed the paper put in higher spots so they didn’t have to bend over to bring it in.”
She took pride in treating her customers right. When she had to train a substitute carrier, she found a friend that did likewise. “I was always grateful for his help and knew everyone was in good hands when I was unable to deliver the paper,” she said.
Friday was her big day.
“I would have to count the cash I had picked up from my customers. This would mean sorting coins and wrapping them and sorting the cash. I would figure out what needed to be paid to the paper and the rest was mine to save or spend. I got really good at stacking and counting coins and paper money. In fact, I still have to have all bills going the same way!”
As for me, I too was a paper carrier for my hometown newspaper in Defiance.
Like Al Meinerding, I also won a couple of trips. One was to Columbus where, just by chance, four of us stayed on the same hotel floor as the Jackson 5. Jermaine and Tito Jackson’s room was across the hall from ours and they invited us into their room to talk, which evidently was against Mama Jackson’s rules. As we were leaving the room, she was walking down the hall with a then 11-year-old Michael Jackson, who had just recorded the hit song, “I’ll be There.” The look on her face as she saw us walk out of that room was the look of a mother one never forgets.
ROSES AND THORNS: The rose garden welcomes the sounds of country music.
Rose: The Allen County Fair announces that not only is the Brad Paisley concert still on for Aug. 21, but the opening act will feature rising country music star MacKenzie Porter.
Rose: To Pam and Todd Quellhorst of Wapakoneta who did the nearly impossible, renovating an old hog barn and turning it into a wedding venue.
Rose: To Greg Bukowski, who was named the Lima region’s representative for the national Jefferson Awards for Public Service.
Rose: Patricia and Gene Noykos, of New Hampshire in Auglaize County, are celebrating 65 years of marriage today.
Thorn: The invasion of the 17-year cicada soon will be coming to a back yard near you.
Thorn: Several cases of the British coronavirus variant have been confirmed in Allen County.
PARTING SHOT: If you don’t discipline yourself, the world will do it for you.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.