The end of an era for paper carriers

A rite of passage for many Red Deer baby boomers is about to end. The sun will finally set on the day of the Advocate paper boy (or girl). I had a brief career as an Advocate paper boy back in the late 1960s when I was in junior high.

A rite of passage for many Red Deer baby boomers is about to end. The sun will finally set on the day of the Advocate paper boy (or girl). I had a brief career as an Advocate paper boy back in the late 1960s when I was in junior high.

At the time, I lived in College Park. I thought that we lived so far out of Red Deer that the sun set between us and the city limits. Perception is everything when you are in the early throes of adolescence and hormones have a death grip on your decision processes.

It became more important to have a cash flow, so the idea of a paper route had a natural appeal to me and my brother Jerry. We wanted to have enough money to attend events in Red Deer (like movies and school dances) so we could bask in the glow and illusion of an advanced social life.

It was a see-and-be-seen concept that allowed a couple of painfully shy junior high kids to dabble in an unknown field of interaction with members of the opposite sex. In our minds, city kids were probably having more fun (and opportunities to have fun) because of their city addresses. A world of social choices was literally at their doorsteps. We, on the other hand, lived in the sticks and were isolated from the natural appeal of the big city lights of Red Deer.

College Park was a rural paper route, so the Advocate would add a monthly payment to the actual route. The customer numbers were smaller than city routes, but the distances were much greater, so Jerry and I split the route in half to get it done on time.

The summer part of the paper route was pretty easy because we could do it on our bikes. Part of the route was to a farm that was south of College Park and not far from Ross Street in what is now Rosedale. It was a light workout during the bike part of the paper boy season, but it was a pretty fair hike in the winter.

One incident that comes to mind was a nasty winter blizzard in late January of 1968 that meant that rural students were sent home early to avoid complications.

That part was great, but Jerry and I still had to deliver papers, so I set off on my way to that farm — in a blizzard.

I also had an adopted dog that my older sister had to leave behind before she took a nurse’s job in Vancouver.

The dog was a small untrained ball of fur and stupidity that was a handful to manage under good conditions. It was another in a series of bad youthful decisions to take the dog with me, but this was a different era of traffic flow on what became 30th Avenue. There was almost no traffic on that gravel road.

Nevertheless, I was worried about the dog’s survival instincts, so I stuffed it into my paper bag so it couldn’t run on me. That is when an Advocate photographer came upon me and snapped a picture. He wanted my name for the story and I wouldn’t give it to him. He said that was not a problem because he could get it from the route number, so I said I was Jerry.

The picture appeared in the Advocate on the front page with the caption “With a puppy dog tucked in his sack.” It was the ultimate cute kid story and Jerry had to take some very serious heat at school for a very un-cool (by junior high standards) photo-op.

That was definitely my strongest memory of my paper boy job. It was my first regular job and I appreciated the opportunity provided by the Advocate, Jerry is still a little luke warm about my photo-op in the Advocate that fateful day.

Jim Sutherland is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.