What ever became of the paper boy? My biking career started as a paper boy. I was generally a total bookworm, my parents had to drag me kicking a screaming to any athletic event. I was forced to join a little league team, right field of course. Fortunately for me during the entire season only one fly came my way. I sort of threw myself at it and managed to throw it to one of my nearer partners in the outfield, who saw that it got back into the infield (my throwing range was about 40 feet). I think I had a batting average of zero (did have one mercy walk though). But I had a bike and could ride it. The paper boy biz was good for me in many ways. I learned useful skills such as the manly art of paper folding, forming the paper into an aerodynamic projectile that you could heave at the customer's house. It gave a sense of responsibilty -- I was the one who got up at six AM to make sure that the Sunday paper was there for your morning coffee. I learned sales skills, as all paper boys were required to go door to door trying to peddle papers. This was called "canvassing" and our reward for a successful night of "canvassing" was that Mr. Rico, the paperboymeister, would take us over to White Castle where we would stuff those little two inch hamburger wafers into us. I remember, my usual order was seven, and if I got one without the pickle, I was crushed.
At our house in the suburbs, we have a paper man, who drives around in his papermobile. I must admit, delivering papers in New York City where millions of people are crammed into a small area made paper delivery by bike more feasible. My route consisted of about 10 blocks total. One of my paperboy colleagues had a primo route, which consisted largely of one apartment building. One visit to that and his deliveries were half over.
My paperbicycle was a masterpiece in functional design. It sported a single speed coaster brake drive train. I've recently thought that this would be ideal for winter commuting. No derailleur to get mucked up or freeze, no brake pads to get eroded by sand, etc. Apparently I'm not alone in this idea, since I've recently seen ads for new old bikes of this ilk for the retro crowd. Unfortunately, the price of one of these beauties, which is tricked out with hi-tech goodies, would probably have outfitted a whole fleet of paper boys in the old days.
My bike had a huge wire frame basket mounted on the handlebars that held the papers. This way the papers were strategically located within easy reach, where they could be heaved at the target house without dismounting or even slowing down too much. My route was about sixty customers, but the high rollers in the biz had up to 100. Hauling around a payload of Sunday papers was quite a feat in defying center of gravity. It was roughly equivalent to going loaded touring with all your gear in your handlebar bag.
It wasn't too hard to learn the art of paper delivery. The basic technique was to ride by the house and fling the paper at the porch. Thus the importance of the paper folding ritual for proper aerodynamics. Still I discovered early on that I could never make a career in the service industry. Several of my customers had the temerity to suggest that I actually get off my bike, walk up their steps and place their paper in a protected spot when it rained. I of course thought this was far above and beyond the call of duty, and my tips suffered accordingly.