Newspaper delivery becomes a longtime family affair

ESCANABA – I’ve been doing time on Sheridan Road for a lot of years.

My whole family has now, that I come to think about it. I know every crack in the sidewalk, most of the businesses, and many of the families two generations back or more, on the north side of town.

I owe a lot of that familiarity to the Escanaba Daily Press. I was a paper carrier way back in the 1970’s. (I was the northtown paper girl and now I write a weekly column for the Press).

My folks were faithful subscribers back then and the number one customers on my route. Dad would read the paper front page to every last ad in the back, when he came home at three ‘o clock from working at Harnischfeger.

Mom got it after that.

The Escanaba Daily Press was a hand-me-down like a nice pair of mittens in my family. My much older brother (two years) Mark took on the responsibility of route 356 back in the early 1970’s. (Mark works at the city water department/weather station and he is often quoted in the paper) He got it from his pal and our neighbor, Tom Sabor. (Tom is currently our Delta County Treasurer and his name is often in the press today).

In the olden days, route 356 covered Sheridan Road, North 16th. Street and Stephenson Ave. from 13th. Ave. North all the way to the ore docks. We had 92 customers. Mark delivered half of the papers and I did the other half.

As soon as we got home from school or as soon as we got back from our afternoon swim, if it was summertime, on the route we went. We got exercise, we got to know our neighbors (and their dogs) and we got paid for it. There were always some favorite customers that left a candy or apple treat out for the paper boy or girl. On Saturday mornings when I delivered to the bar, I got a Kit Kat candy bar as my tip. And the Christmas tips were a wonderful fringe benefit, too.

When Mark quit the paper route, (he got a job at the Stonehouse) he bought a gift for each of his siblings. For me he bought an awesome 70’s ish green cat knick-knack. I named it “Pressy” and it still sits in the front of my home today.

With Mark retired from the route, it was younger brother Mike’s turn to take over. Mike was like a walking calculator, he knew exactly how much money he had in his collection bag even before he got home and counted it. Back then the carriers were responsible for collecting the payment from the customers when they went door-to-door. Mike the Walking Calculator is now a computer programmer.

After high school, I went to work and the paper route was handed down to David and Lori. Lori has a trophy in her bedroom from being the Paper Carrier of the Month back in the 1980’s.

Next the route went over to my cousin’s house across the alley. The Verbrigghe cousins delivered papers for years. My cousin Joe was by far the best looking paper boy route 356 ever had. He was a cute kid with strawberry blonde hair and he peddled his papers with “Bear,” his loyal collie-type dog. They looked like a pair out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Next in line to inherit the route were my brother David’s kids (now the route was in the second generation). From Simon to Maggie to Todd, from 60 customers to 40, from hardcopy to online, a lot has changed over the years. But sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.

Now my son Bob has taken over the Daily Press route. So, we are still doing time on Sheridan Road and we hope to deliver some good news in the Press and in my column.

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of North Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.