I find it amazing that in these modern times that a little snow can bring the whole country to a stand still, especially when you look back at some of the bitter winters we had only a few years ago. Even I can remember having to shovel the snow away form our back door so that I could get out enabling me to do my paper round before going to school. The weather would be so bad that in fact it was quicker to walk round delivering the papers than it was to try and cycle. I remember seeing the milk boys out doing their deliveries and wishing I was doing that instead, but then again at least I was in control of my speed.
As the lads on the milk float had to hang on the back on the flat van on the foot rail, then jump off with the milk, run up the path to deliver it, then run back to catch up with the float. Of course on those early winter mornings they used to slip and slide a lot in order to keep up with the float, and it was quite normal for them to get hurt in the process.
Where as I could carry on with my job at my own pace, which on a good day meant I could cycle round my complete route and finish my round in about an hour. On winter mornings such as them, it would take me twice that time.
This meant having to get up earlier during the winter in order to complete my round before going to school. I often wonder if the youngsters of today could manage to do that, then again the law today as it stands, prevents them form doing that now.
I suppose that could be called progress in way, but then again there something that gave an increase in your character by doing jobs like that. It gave you a sense of pride, especially on pay day, when you collected your pound! Which was the going rate for a paper boy in those days? Even before you started your round you had the task of making the order up, which always had to cross checked by the boss before you left the shop. In fact we used to have a race at that part of the job, as after we had being doing the job for some time, we used to get quicker at making up our orders, so we would have races to find out just who was the fastest. This used to leave any rookie who was just starting in awe, and at times we had to stay behind to help them make up their orders as they would never finish in time for going to school. This routine went on every morning of the week, apart for Sundays, which was a lot harder. The Sunday route was different as we had to collect the money for the Sunday papers as we delivered them. The bill for the week day papers would be paid by the customers in the shop, but on Sundays we had to collect the money for them. This was the point when you had to have a good head for numbers, and be able to carry out the math’s we had learned at school.
Another difference with the Sunday route was that it was a longer than the week day one, as we had more time to do the route. I remember feeling my pockets weighed down with all the money I was carrying, and it jingling in my pocket as I cycled on my round. We used to get good tips on the Sunday round, especially at Christmas time; in fact we used to brag about the biggest tippers, and have another competition to see who got the most money in tips, so it was quite a competitive business being a paper boy in those days.
I can see us now, all wrapped up with our scarves and balaclavas, rushing out of the shop into the bitter cold, jumping on our bikes and betting each other who would be back at the shop first. The cold used to take our breath away as we struggled to cycle against the bitterly cold wind. I had quite a lot of hills on my route, which made life a lot more difficult for me; in fact I had to get off the bicycle and push it up some of the hills especially at the start of my round when the load was heavier.
Another aspect of this character building as I like to call it was being in the scouts, I remember all of my friends at that time were in one of the cadet brigades. The choices were many in those days, we the scouts, the boys’ brigade, air training corps, and army training corps, all of which were fully utilized at that time. In fact I recall leaving the scouts to join the ATC, as they appeared to have more choices in sports, as well as shooting. My best friend at that time was in the ATC and convinced me to join them.
My parents were dead against this, saying that I was breaking my honour to the scout movement; I of course was not interested in that, my main concern was to go shooting and flying with the ATC. So what I did was to change over without them knowing, I used to leave the house in my scout uniform then change into the ATC uniform at my friends house. This worked out very well for me right up until I had to get a parents permission form signed in order for me to go flying in a chipmunk aeroplane. I had already made excuses to attend boxing matches with the ATC by telling my parents that I was doing something with the scouts, but the time had come for to own up.
I remember there being a huge row about it at the time, but my father was the one who came out in my favour; of course being ex RAF himself, it seemed only proper he should do so. I had a great time with the ATC, and travelled all over the country taking part in sporting events, and of course shooting, a sport that I came to be very proficient at, along with boxing. Of course all this ATC stuff did not go down too well with my boss at the paper shop, as he had to endure my absence on many occasions, so in the end I had to give up my job as a paper boy. Yet even today and all through my working life, I remember those days vividly, I suppose it was character building for me at that time, along with the scouts and the ATC, they all played their part in my upbringing, giving me the experience that I believe would do some of today’s youngsters no harm at all.
I still have the few medals I won for shooting and boxing, and every time I look at them I think back to just how much they meant to me at the time.
So getting up really early on those bitterly cold winter mornings during my school days, and delivering papers has held me in good stead all through my working life.
Yet today it only takes a few inches of snow to disrupt normal working life, I wonder just what modern day folk would think of doing a paper round in weather that was a lot worse that the winters we have these days. Maybe I ma being critical, or maybe we are a lot softer in stamina that we were back then.