Sunday, August 16, 2009

How I Became a "Lincoln Star" Paperboy

I delivered the Lincoln Star newspaper in Seward every morning from 1961 until 1965. For me, that was from the age of 9 to 13, or from fourth to eighth grade. Being a morning paperboy was a major part of my experience of growing up in Seward. I still remember my old paper route 44 years later, and I have retraced it whenever I have returned to Seward for visits.

I was recruited in 1961 by my classmate Ken Uhlig, who already had a paper route. Ken came to my house one day during the summer after we had finished third grade because he wanted me to take over his route so that he could transfer to a route closer to his home. He told me that I could earn ten dollars a month if I took over his route. This seemed like a huge amount of money to me, so I was eager to begin immediately.

Ken and I then discussed the opportunity with my parents. They thought it was basically a good idea, but they wanted more information. Arrangements were made, and a couple weeks later a Lincoln Star delivery manager traveled from Lincoln to Seward to visit our home for a couple of hours one evening. He interviewed my parents and me and explained the job. He then left me some printed materials to read.

As I recall, the Lincoln Star company had a rule that paperboys should be at least nine years old, so I had to wait until my birthday, November 6. However, I think that the rule was not enforced strictly. I remember that the delivery manager visited our home again several weeks after the first visit in order to complete the recruitment procedures, and I began delivering newspapers after that second visit.

One of the printed materials that the delivery manager gave me during the first visit was the The Newspaper Carrier's Handbook, which I studied thoroughly during the weeks between those two visits. My brother Steve Sylwester later became a paperboy too, and so he received this same handbook and has kept it all these years. When Steve told me he had this handbook, I was delighted because I still had a vivid mental image of it. When Steve then e-mailed me the scans, I recognized all the pages because I had read them thoroughly and repeatedly as a boy. I have uploaded the scans of all the pages into this Flickr set.

The delivery manager emphasized during both visits that I should try to sell more subscriptions to people on my route. Let's suppose, he explained, that a paperboy has a route delivering 25 newspapers, which takes him about one hour. The paperboy would earn about 30 cents an hour in that situation. If, however, the paperboy were able to sell 25 more subscriptions and thus increase his daily delivery to 50 newspapers, then he would double his earnings to about 60 cents an hour. Delivering 50 newspapers does not take significantly more time for the paperboy than delivering 25 newspapers, because they all would be along the same route that he travels anyway. This logic was clear to me, and so I studied the manual thoroughly because I was eager to double my earnings from $10 to $20 a month.

The The Newspaper Carrier's Handbook explained that this job would give me business experience that I could develop positively throughout my life.

Newspapers Carrier Handbook - pages 04-05 Click here to see the above two pages fully in larger sizes.)

In the photograph on the left page, we see the young paperboy dressed in a suit and tie, fantasizing about becoming a successful businessman as an adult.

The following pages depicted the paperboy scouting for prospects on his route and then approaching those prospects to sell subscriptions.

Newspapers Carrier Handbook - pages 18-19 Click here to see the above two pages fully in larger sizes.

Newspapers Carrier Handbook - pages 20-21 Click here to see the above two pages fully in larger sizes.

Newspapers Carrier Handbook - pages 22-23 Click here to see the above two pages fully in larger sizes.

Newspapers Carrier Handbook - pages 28-29 Click here to see the above two pages fully in larger sizes.

Soon after the second visit of the delivery manager, I became a paperboy. I accompanied Ken Uhlig on the route for about a week in order to familiarize myself with it, and from then on I delivered the route by myself.

Of course, I also was given a Route List, which stated the name and address of each customer and whether the customer wanted daily and/or Sunday deliveries. Below is a Route List that my brother Steve has saved from his own route.

Star Carriers Route List (2)

Click here to see the full list in larger sizes.

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