In the Essex area where I was born, as soon as a youngster became a teenager there came the first opportunity to apply for a paid part-time job delivering the morning newspapers. This was a job that was very much in demand and not easy to come by; a vacancy would be very much by ‘word of mouth’, and not advertised elsewhere. There were two local newsagents about a mile from where I lived named ‘Adcock’s’ and ‘ Harrington’s, and there existed a fierce rivalry between the opposing paperboys. I say boys, because I can’t remember any papergirls during the early 1960s.
On my first morning working for Adcock’s I was shown the area where I would be required to deliver the newspapers, magazines and comics by another boy who was only a year older than me. I smile when I think about being an apprentice to someone not so much older than myself. As with most jobs, you start at the bottom; in the case of a paper round the least desirable route was delivering to the more remote village outskirts where some individual properties could be half a mile or more up an unmade, pot-holed muddy track. The housing estate routes were the best because it was easier running from house to house by the most direct route, even if that meant trampling over the boundary flowerbeds, or getting stuck in a hedge. Being a new boy at that time I could look forward to the most difficult route.
I used to set out at 5.30.am for the mile-long cycle ride from my home to the newsagents in Wickford, a relatively small town at the time which had the benefit of a mainline railway station just 30 miles from London. There were approximately 60 homes to visit on my morning delivery round spread out over a distance of about 4 miles. There were frequent winter showers and I remember delivering up roads that were no more than rubble and mud. It was hard work when the snow became compacted between the tyre and the mudguard, making pedalling almost impossible. The mudguards didn’t stay on my bike for long after that; better to have the wet and muddy spray line up the middle of my back than drag a heavy canvas sack and bike around for miles.
Many of the newspapers during the 1960s have long since ceased publication. Who remembers The Daily Herald, The Daily Sketch, News Chronicle and even The Children’s Newspaper? The Sun newspaper did not exist so the most popular tabloid was The Daily Mirror. I can recall which days were heavy and light. I didn’t like Wednesdays because the popular women’s magazines, such as Woman and Woman’s Own, were out for delivery and added to the weight of the other papers considerably. Thursday was not a good day either, as The Southend Standard was a popular local newspaper that almost every household had, as well as their ‘daily’. I didn’t like Sunday newpapers either (moan, moan, moan! All those extra thick and heavy papers like the Sunday Times used to double the weight of my paper bag. There were occasions when I would have to make an extra trip back to the newsagents because I couldn’t carry them all, even though I considered myself to be fit and strong at the time. I suppose there were plus days when there were comics to be delivered and the chance to a quick glance through the Beano, Dandy,Topper, Victor and Hotspur to name just a few. Of course, these were days when I could also be late for school.
Although the house number or name for delivery was scribbled on each paper by the newsagent, a round was soon learnt off-by-heart without looking for the pencilled address. This usually worked OK, until…because I hadn’t taken notice and had been day-dreaming, something went wrong in the sequence. Oh no, someone has gone on holiday and cancelled their papers. All very well when the paper could be retrieved out of the letter box, otherwise there would be irate customers with the wrong paper or no paper at all. The fact I remember this so well goes to prove that I made the same mistake on more than one occasion!
Depending on the weather and the particular day of the week, my paper round could take almost two hours to complete, and it was seven days a week. What with the extra heavy newspapers on a Sunday and the fact that it was a traditional lie-in day, even for young lads, the newsagent had taken these facts into account. For Monday to Saturday, the pay was 10 shillings, but as an incentive Sunday was 4 shillings. (A wage of 14 shillings in 1963 is equivalent to about £16.50p in 2019).
Finally, sometimes there were regular ‘interesting’ magazines to deliver – Weekend, Titbits and Reveille come to mind. Oh, and there was one other, Parade it was called. I think it was about military marching bands?