By Tom Gilfoy
It was raining and I was sitting on the wet sidewalk folding my newspapers. A big bundle of papers had just been dropped off for me at the corner of Foothill and Mt Gleason. Now it was my responsibility to fold them, put them in the bag on my bike’s back rack and make my deliveries. My dad had always told me if it rained hard enough he would drive me around on my paper route, but I knew the drizzle going on now would never qualify. In fact, according to him, it never did rain that hard.
Oh well, at least the rain settled the dust on the dirt roads The year was 1944, and at that time most of the roads in Sunland north of Hillrose were still dirt. That made this area the toughest part of my route. The only good thing was that by the time I reached the worst of these streets my load was lighter as most of my papers had been thrown. But even so, there was so much deep sand along Wentworth and the lower part of Oro Vista that there was no way I could get through without getting off my bike and pushing.
As I descended from Mt Gleason, my route took me back and forth on nearly all the streets in Sunland until I reached Sunland Park. Even though it’s been more than 70 years since I threw my last paper, I’ll bet I could still pick out many of my customers’ houses. Some, of course, you remember more than others, particularly those who gave you a bad time when you went around ringing doorbells making your monthly collections.
Trying to make those collections was the worst part of the job. The paper I delivered was the now defunct Los Angeles Daily News, which had a policy of paying its newspaper boys out of the last money they collected. Sometimes this meant you had to keep going back to the same deadbeat customer three or four or times before you finally collected all the money the paper owed you. This, of course, provided a very strong incentive to keep going back, but I always thought it was unfair to take advantage of 12-year-old kids this way. Still do. And that’s probably why I still carry a grudge against the Daily News’ publisher, Manchester Boddy. After all, policy comes down from the top, doesn’t it? I came close to forgiving Mr. Boddy when I learned later in life he was the original developer of one of my favorite places in the world: Descanso Gardens. But even that doesn’t earn him complete redemption.
Boddy’s Daily News was an afternoon paper, which, in its heyday, was a real competitor to the morning LA Times. This competition continued until The Times started its own afternoon paper, The Mirror, which became so popular that Boddy saw the handwriting on the wall and sold his paper before he was put out of business. Soon thereafter he sold Descanso Gardens to Los Angeles County and moved to San Diego County where he spent his remaining years living modestly in relative obscurity. Many people felt sorry for him because of the way he was forced out of business, but I was not among them –– the unfair advantage his newspaper took of its newspaper boys having been burned in my memory forever.
EPILOGUE: After reading this story, Tom’s brother Dick wrote him, “I don’t know what you’re griping about, whenever I helped you with your paper route you made me collect my pay from those you couldn’t collect from, the worst of the worst.”
Reach Tom Gilfoy at: firstname.lastname@example.org