A boy of twelve or thirteen stands balancing a bicycle.
Marc Maurer in 1962.

Sunday Papers

by Matt Maurer

From the Editor: I was going through the mail one day last May with my secretary when we came upon a brief letter from a man in Indiana. He explained that he was sending me a short piece about starting a paper route with his brother in 1962 or -3 when they were kids. He explained that his brother was blind and that, aside from the humor of the story, he thought it demonstrated the determination of a blind boy.

I turned to the article with curiosity and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. In passing I wondered whether the blind boy had grown up to become a member of the NFB, so I asked my secretary to read me the name of the writer. It was Maurer. At least that cleared up the question of whether the boy had grown up to be a Federationist. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of President Maurer as a boy. Here it is:

My brother and I knew very little about newspapers when we got our first paper route. I was only eight or nine, so the newspaper meant little to me beyond the Sunday funnies. He was twelve or thirteen, and, since he was blind, he had little to do with the newspaper either. Besides, we were far too busy to fool around reading the news. We had snow forts to build at the gas station on the corner in the winter and fox holes to dig behind the garage in the summer. We had important business like fishing golf balls out of the pond at the golf course and discovering what was inside. Yes, we had serious tasks to complete like designing and building giant rubber-band guns. Who had time to pay attention to the news? All we knew was that there was money to be made.

We got a morning route, and it took us a couple of hours each day to complete. We had to go down to the newspaper office, get the papers, walk to our route, deliver to each house, and walk home. We had to rise in the wee hours of the morning to get the job done.

As I recall, we started the paper route on a Monday. I was the eyes of the team, and my brother was the brawn. Together we figured out the various problems that presented themselves. The first problem was finding the houses. All we had was a set of cards with names and addresses. Those first few days the job took us a long time, and a few houses got missed, but by the end of the week we had paper delivery down like clockwork.

On Friday night the paper boys collected for the week, and on Saturday morning they took their money down to the newspaper office and settled up. The profit margin was narrow, but we had so little money that the meager profit was a fortune to us. I probably spent mine on pop and fried pies—food of the gods!

Our relative success during the week did not prepare us for the difficulties of the Sunday paper. Compared to the rest of the week, Sunday was a completely different animal. First of all, the papers were much bigger, big enough that the average kid could not carry them all from the newspaper office. I guess that is why they delivered the Sunday paper right to our route. Another difference was the customers. Not everybody who got the daily paper also got the Sunday one, and a few people took only the Sunday paper. With all these changes, we faced our first Sunday with more confusion than we had felt during the entire prior week. We were not sure where the papers were going to be dropped. We had a guess, but when we got to that corner, nothing was there. We wandered around a while, and finally we found a pile of Sunday papers.

We started loading them into our bag, but to our surprise, there were not enough papers for everyone. We seemed to have only about two thirds of the necessary number. Not having paid much attention to newspapers in the past, we sat on the curb and examined the bundle. There was an awful lot of paper there, but there definitely were not enough papers for each of our customers to get one. So we made a decision that seemed brilliant to our young minds. We reassembled the various sections and gave each customer their fair share. It might have been easier if there had been fewer papers. In that case somebody would have gotten the front section, and somebody else would have gotten the back. However, since we had approximately two thirds the number of papers we needed, something much more complex was necessary. A total reassembly was required. My biggest worry was that not every house would get the funnies. The rest of the paper seemed more or less irrelevant to me, but in my heart I knew that every house should get the funnies. Alas, that was impossible, so we had to proceed with a less than perfect plan.

After the arduous task of reassembling the papers, we delivered them. On our way home we were feeling clever and smug. We had overcome our first big challenge. We were to deliver a paper to each and every customer, and we had accomplished that task. These grand feelings quickly evaporated, however, when we passed the corner where we had originally found our papers. There, sitting on that corner, was a pristine stack of papers— the remaining third of our allotment. It quickly dawned on us that we had done the wrong thing. At that point there was nothing to do but take the remaining papers and go home. All that Sunday we got calls from angry or confused customers who were missing the TV section or the front page or the sports section. To my great surprise, not a single customer complained about missing the funnies. Our father spent his Sunday answering the phone and helping us deliver sections of the paper.

I am pleased to report that the Sunday confusion was not enough to get us fired, and we went on to deliver papers for years, or at least my brother did. I got sick of it after a year or so and faded into the background, but my brother kept the route until we started our lawn mowing business. But that is another story.