Celebrating newspaper carriers
Omer Ahern of Plymouth practices his form for throwing a newspaper for height during the competition Tuesday in honor of National Newspaper Carriers Day. To mark the event, former newspaper carriers from across Central New Hampshire competed for distance, accuracy and height throwing newspapers. (Paula Tracy/Union Leader)
“My parents didn't give me a dime,” he said.
Instead, he handled home delivery of afternoon newspapers in the Boston suburbs and made it into an art form, first using his sister's bicycle with a huge front basket, then figuring out ways to handle more papers as the business developed.
“The biggest problem was the railroad tracks,” he said. “I had to get over them with the papers,” and one particular Sunday, it did not go well. They all fell out.
“It was a good thing it wasn't a busy day for the railroad,” he said.
Ralph Larson of Hebron said he could make $15 a week delivering papers in the early 1950s.
“Kids don't get that chance anymore. Now they deliver them in cars,” early in the morning, and neighborhood routes are seemingly a thing of the past.
But Tuesday, on National Newspaper Carrier Day, the two men were among the veteran carriers who made it out for a few stories, fellowship and a strong arm competition that involved throwing newspapers at the Plymouth Regional Senior Center.
Carriers, seniors and a few political candidates got into the action, throwing the newspapers for distance, accuracy and height in three separate competitions.
Larson was able to lob a tightly rolled New Hampshire Union Leader 22 feet across the floor of the former railroad station, which was not at all bad for a guy who had just had surgery Friday. He said at his newspaper career's height, he delivered 105 papers a day on his 3-mile route from 1947 to 1951.
Bill Sharp of Lebanon had a dominant throw of 47 feet, besting the competition. In 1955, he delivered for what is now the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle Tribune.
“We used to have to toss it up three floors and have it land on the balcony of some apartments,” he said.
He also did well with the height competition, using string between two flag poles that was raised progressively to winnow down the competition.
The event was organized by Bob Decker, assistant director of the senior center who wore a newspaper hat on his head.
Decker tossed the Bangor (Maine) Daily News from 1958 to 1961 and said he was a pretty big deal around that town, winning contests for his role in the newspaper world.
Decker contacted Al Desruisseaux, single copy manager of the New Hampshire Union Leader, who donated 50 newspapers to be used in the competition.
On display was an 1892 newspaper, which went un-tossed during the competition. Competitors got to take home their throwing objects to read, in some cases after having to collect its pieces on the floor after a toss.
Desruisseaux noted that one thing which has changed from the days of past is that newspapers are delivered in plastic now to protect it from the elements. Desruisseaux would not allow competitors to throw papers using the plastic, noting the point was to go old school.
Stephen said it used to be that you had to place the paper between a house's two front doors in bad weather, and the image of perfect throws from bikes onto people's driveways and walkways “was only in the movies.”
Newspaper Carrier Day is celebrated each Sept. 4. It is held on the anniversary of the hiring of the first carrier, Barney Flaherty, age 10, who got the job for the New York Sun in 1833.
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Paula Tracy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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