Monday, September 18, 2017

When boys worked

One of the diamonds in the rough in my father's journey with death a little over four years ago was the time I spent in conversations with him about his yesteryear memories growing up in Sacramento.  His mind was still sharp and his memory still excellent.  In today’s Pierini Fitness blogflection, I’ll share one account of his when he was a young boy growing up in Sacramento.   I believe all middle-aged men will relate to his experience.

As a young boy growing up in Sacramento in the 1930's, my Dad began his working "career" in 1938 at age 12 as a morning newspaper carrier for the now-defunct Sacramento Union. It was hard work, early every morning 7 days a week come rain or shine, delivering 100 newspapers on a Skid Row route on K Street between Front Street on the west and 6th Street on the east.

Many of his customers were people residing in some of the seedier hotels in an area known as Skid Row.  Therefore, he had to get off his bicycle often and hike up flights of stairs delivering newspapers to those residing on upper floors.

His typical work day began by waking up at 4:00 a.m. and leaving the family midtown Sacramento home on 24th and D Streets shortly thereafter. He rode his bicycle about a mile to 20th and M Streets where he picked up his newspapers.

All the newspaper boys met there to fold their newspapers and then load them on carrier bags sitting on top of their bicycle handlebars.  My Dad would then pedal his bicycle a little over one mile away to his Skid Row route. 

If everything went according to plan, he’d start tossing newspapers to customers around 5:30 a.m. and his entire route took slightly over one hour to complete.  He’d normally be done one hour later. 

The work was hard, the pay modest and, like a businessman, he had to do his own collections.  And like a businessman, he had some bad debts.  This is because some customers would sometimes move and stiff him.  If he had a good collection month, he’d make about $15 a month. 

He used his money to keep his bicycle - "business vehicle" - in tip top operating condition. He’d also use some of his earnings to fuel his young boy growing body.

All that early morning hard work gave him a big appetite so he’d sometimes stop for a bite to eat on the way home. The original Jim Denny's on 16th Street between I and J Streets was one of his favorite stops.  It was a small restaurant with no more than a dozen seats, always full so he’d have to stand and eat most of the time. Since Jim Denny’s was 24 hours a day, he could get an early morning warm hamburger for the whopping price of a nickel. Inflation existed then like now and soon thereafter that burger doubled in price to a dime.

Another favorite of his was Star Lunch, a Greek Restaurant on K Street between 4th and 5th Streets, where he could buy a delicious hot dog for 15 cents. If he was extra hungry, he’d buy two "dogs" for a quarter or "two bits".

If doughnuts were his favor, he’d stop at U.S. Bakery on H Street between 21st and 22nd Streets. It was owned by the Zanze Family and their warm early morning doughnuts were among Sacramento's best. There my Dad would sometimes barter, exchanging an extra leftover newspaper for a couple freshly-made doughnuts.

After these early morning appetizers, he’d return home, eat breakfast and get ready for school which then was James Marshall Elementary School at 28th and G Street.

He continued this newspaper boy job while attending Sutter Junior High School but years later when attending Sacramento High School, he changed jobs and started delivering newspapers for the Sacramento Bee.

The Sacramento Bee was an afternoon newspaper and this newspaper job was an easier route with better pay. His route was 50 newspapers delivered to homes on G Street between 28th Street on the west and Alhambra Boulevard on the east.

My Dad said about half of his friends worked like he did as a young boy growing up. That was then and this is now. Those were the good olden days in Sacramento when boys worked.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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