Newspaper Carrier Day Is Fast Approaching

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The nation next week will largely ignore National Newspaper Carrier Day, which takes place on Sept. 4. As print circulation of newspapers plummet, the number of hardworking folks who get up at 2 a.m. to make sure the remaining loyal subscribers to a daily newspaper have a copy lying in the driveway, when they arise, is also decreasing. I still subscribe to the local newspaper and have an excellent carrier. She places our paper on top of the brick mailbox each morning to make sure it doesn’t get wet when the sprinklers come on, or an early morning thunderstorm sweeps through. Bless her.

The first paperboy, according to various websites, was 10-year-old Barney Flaherty. He was hired by Benjamin Day, publisher of the New York Sun on Sept. 4, 1833 to hawk papers on a street corner. Young Flaherty had answered an ad in the Sun: “A number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper. A liberal discount is allowed to those who buy to sell again.” Flaherty’s age wasn’t held against him, and thus the tradition of paperboys — and girls — hawking papers began.

The Newspaper Carrier Hall of Fame was created in 1960 by a national circulation managers organization to honor former carriers who went on to more notable achievements. The roster includes Martin Luther King, Jr., John Wayne, Walt Disney, William O. Douglas and Harry S. Truman. The list is dominated by men, with a scattering of women included. That is likely a reflection of the times. Actual paperboys began going away in the 1970s because of liability fears and other factors, such as the demise of afternoon newspapers. Naturally, not many parents were willing to let their child be working outside delivering morning editions of newspapers in the dark.

As I have often noted, I began my work career as a paperboy at 13 for the Longview afternoon paper. Over the years, I have met many people whose faces light up when I mention that. Without exception they all recall their experiences delivering newspapers with great fondness. For most, it was their first paying job as well.

For Newt Wallace, who died in 2018 at 98, being a paperboy was both his first and last job. He acquired his first paper route in 1931 while growing up in Muskogee, Okla., and in a 2013 New York Times article recalled walking the streets that year, shouting “Extra, extra, read all about it!”

After a stint in the military during World War II, Wallace bought the weekly Winters Express in Northern California in 1946. He turned the paper’s operation over to his son in 1983. However, Wallace continued delivering papers around town while wearing a canvas satchel filled with newspapers. I still have one somewhere. Wallace swapped three papers each week at the Buckhorn Saloon for an Olympia beer.

Wallace attributed beer, cheap scotch, fried foods and cigars for his longevity. He delivered the paper around town until he turned 95. I would have liked to have met that fellow, who made Ripley’s Believe It or Not as “The World’s Oldest Paperboy.”

The best carrier I ever knew worked for many years at the Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches. She delivered the then-afternoon paper out of a Volkswagen Beetle, tossing papers out of both sides of her tiny car with a cigarette jammed between her lips. She could flip a paper out the window while shifting into third gear and never miss the asphalt. She should be in the Newspaper Carrier Hall of Fame.


In the course of researching this piece, I realized I had missed National Dog Day, celebrated on Aug. 26. No wonder our mutts seemed miffed on Monday. This oversight is understandable, since there are at least 1,500 “days” to note. On the same day some of us honor newspaper carriers, it is also Macadamia Nut Day, Wildlife Day and Global Talent Acquisition Day.

Who knew?

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