I delivered a paper route when I was 12. My career as a delivery boy didn’t last long, as there was always too many more fun opportunities at hand. The $6 per week I earned delivering roughly 52 copies of The Daily Times each day wasn’t enough to sacrifice fishing in Tony Tank, baseball games in the school yard at Pinehurst Elementary, basketball games in the lot at St. Francis de Sales, football games in the huge yard in front of Oak Hill Townhouses, or – especially – riding bicycles and goofing off.
The daily was an evening paper then. When I arrived home from school at 3:20 p.m., the pile was there, Monday through Friday. There was no Saturday edition in those days; the paper had other folks who delivered on Sundays. I would fold, and sometimes rubber-band (as a contractor, the newspaper charged me $1 for about 1,000 rubber-bands) the 50-plus editions, load them in my green and gray Daily Times canvas shoulder bag, and set out on foot from Beauchamp Street.
The route the “newspaper people” gave me was known as North Camden/Riverside. I’d begin at the newly constructed Riverfront Homes, the Wicomico County elderly housing complex where 10-12 papers would go immediately, lightening the bag quickly. Then it was down Winder Street, to Oak Hill Avenue, past the synagogue and Catholic rectory. Heading north, I’d hit both sides of Camden, circle back south and do the Newton/Light/Smith streets trek, hitting the cross-street houses on Hazel, Ohio, North and Middle boulevards, and then the north side of South Boulevard.
Then it was onto the state streets: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Virginia and Vermont, before hitting the final few homes along Riverside Drive. Back then, carrier service had many expectations, including porch delivery and specific placement spots. Customers would make clear where they wanted their newspapers – I had to remember all of that, and was quite happy to do so.
I loved the big old houses, especially on Newton and Camden. I loved the personalities I would see each day: old Dr. Weaver on Camden, the nuns who lived about the classrooms at St. Francis, a colorful man named Austin Moore, who lived on Newton. I see housewives in their house coats, fathers of the house coming home from a day at work, dogs running wherever they pleased, cats chasing squirrels and kids on bicycles.
Laundry hung on clotheslines behind nearly every home. No one had air-condition then, and when the windows were open you could hear family conversations (not always pleasant), smell floor wax being applied, hear pianos being practiced, hear telephones ringing and TV sets blaring. I couldn’t just walk by each house that was getting the paper, I had to approach it and place the paper in the expected spot. Walking into people’s yards and up to their porches, either back or front, just isn’t done these days.
The houses, neighborhood and people all left a lifetime impression, but what stuck with me the most – and what ultimately shaped my life – was how people reacted to receiving that day’s Daily Times.
They loved it. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, to open and begin reading and looking at the photos. That newspaper was vital in their world. My giving it to them was a highlight of their day.
The headlines were often pretty grim. Things happening in Vietnam and civil unrest in America’s cities were often the front-page topics. The local news typically involved Salisbury City Council doings (reported by the great Mike Meise); Police Beat news from the region wasn’t exactly each edition’s bread, but it was definitely its butter. The Deaths & Funerals columns, masterfully and sensitively written by Kitty Althouse (Meise’s sister), were must-read material.
North Camden, of course, might physically resemble its old self, but it’s a much-changed neighborhood now. Like North Camden, the newspaper business is a lot different and the content of newspapers is much different. Physically, newspapers are still words and photos on newsprint, but too often what counts for news now is vastly different.
With the creation of Salisbury Independent, our hope each week is to build a newspaper that elicits the same reaction that 20-page afternoon daily did 40 years ago. We want the Independent to truly be the community’s newspaper, to generate the same feel, to unite community causes, to put the public “in the know” when it comes to the occurrences that truly matter.
Please let me know what you’d like to see in your community newspaper. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, especially in a world in which the news profession is changing so quickly. If Salisbury Independent is to serve Salisbury and Wicomico County, I need to hear from you.
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Contact him at GBassett@newszap.com or drop him a note at PO Box 1385, Salisbury, Md. 21802.
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org