"What's Happened to the Newsboy?"

May 13, 2022 - When I was growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s in San Augustine, Texas, I can recall only two newspapers, the San Augustine Tribune, and the Beaumont Enterprise that were common to us. As far as I can recall, the Tribune was never delivered by newsboys. The Enterprise was usually delivered by an adult in an automobile.

In the big cities newsboys were commonly used by news papers to deliver their papers in neighborhoods. It would appear that these newsboys are no longer being used by the few remaining large newspapers across the nation.

Some of you younger readers might not have ever heard the term “newsboy” before. If not, let me explain what I mean. A “paperboy” or “newsboy” was often an older boy who distributed printed newspapers to homes on a regular route, usually by bicycle.

The duties of a newsboy usually included counting and separating papers, rolling papers, and inserting them in newspaper bags during inclement weather, and collecting payments from customers monthly. Thirty years ago, newspapers in the suburbs were delivered by boys on bicycles. Rain or shine, the newsboy would drag into this house the heavy bundle of newspapers dumped on his driveway, stuff the papers and inserts into individual plastic bags, and load them into his delivery bag. Then off he would go on his bicycle.

The routes were close to his home, right in the neighborhood. Almost every family in the neighborhood subscribed to the local newspaper. Some even took a local paper and a big city paper. It was usually easy for him to remember his route – just throw a paper on every doorstep.

Newspapers had strict rules in those days. First, the paper had to be placed next to the door with the name of the paper right side up. That rule was somewhat relaxed in later years. Second, a rule warned against throwing the paper into the bushes or on top of the house. On top of the house? Yes, some boys had better aim than others. Once a month the paperboy would go door-to-door to collect the money for the subscription to the paper. Many customers would pay for the paper and, in addition, give the paperboy a generous tip. 

Sounds like a great job, but there were some challenges. Prior to major holidays such as Christmas or Easter, thick bundles of ads had to be inserted into the papers. This extra weight made it almost impossible for the paperboy to deliver the papers on a bicycle. Sometimes the paperboy had to deliver only part of the route, return home for more papers, deliver them, and repeat the process until all papers were gone.

Weather could be a bitter enemy, especially in the winter months. Thus, sometimes a paper route was a family project. If the paperboy got sick, another family member had to deliver the papers. Still, having a paper route was a good job for a boy aged nine to fifteen.

One never sees a paperboy any more. What has happened to them? The newspapers that remain are delivered by adults who throw the papers out of the windows of their cars. No one even tries to get the newspaper next to the door with the name of the paper right side up. In our neck of the woods, the Beaumont Enterprise is no longer available. However, the San Augustine Tribune is faithfully delivered to our post office boxes weekly. There are no newsboys to deliver them to our homes, but that’s okay.