My first real job was delivering newspapers. It was the summer of 1948, and I wanted to get a job and earn money so I could buy some of the things I thought I needed. My Mom suggested that I go to the Gazette and talk to her friend, Elsie Harrison, about being a paper boy. I hurried to the Gazette that very day and found Elsie. The first thing Elsie asked was if I was 12 years old yet. I told her that I would be 12 the last week of August. She said that would be perfect as one of her paper boys would be starting high school and would be quitting the paper to play freshman football. She said that on my 12th birthday, I should go sign up and get my Social Security card and then she could put me to work. On the magic day, Mom took me down, and I got the Social Security card (which I still have). A few days after celebrating my 12th birthday and obtaining my Social Security card, I officially became a carrier for the Augusta Daily Gazette- a paper boy. If I remember correctly, my pay was $2.10 per week. Considering it now, I’m surprised that a small city of 5,000 could support a daily newspaper. The paper was owned by the four people who worked there. Mike Cipher ran the press. His brother, Paul Cipher ran the linotype machine. Elsie Harrison took care of the administrative stuff, and Bertha Shore did the reporting and news gathering, and wrote a daily column. Berts’ column, which she wrote under the pen name “Ima Washout,” was a front-page feature that contained jokes, quips, and tidbits of local news she picked up on her rounds downtown each day. The paper was published six days a week and contained 4 pages every day but Thursday when it went to six pages to carry the grocery ads for the week.
We paperboys arrived at press time each day. After the papers came off the press, they had to be folded down to ¼ of their original size. Mike taught each of us paperboys to run the folding machine. We took turns, each of us running the machine for a few days before turning it over to the next guy. After the papers came off the folding machine, we counted out what we needed for our routes and carried them out front. We sat down on the sidewalk, and leaned against the store front and folder papers into the proper configuration for throwing. The store to the north was Scholfield Hatchery, and we always had to look in the window to see if there were any baby chicks to look at. After our papers were folded and loaded into our canvas newspaper bags, we mounted our bicycles and were ready to deliver.
My paper route started at the corner of State Street and High Street and ended at the entrance to Garvin Park. I don’t remember many names but will enter what I can. The first customers I can name on the West side of State Street were Doctor Jim Alley, the dentist, and his wife, Nan. Farther up the street, on the northeast corner of State and 12th was the original Kiker’s Grocery Store. I gave the paper to Mr. or Mrs. Kiker or their son, Bob. Sometimes, I found it necessary to take a break and have a package of Twinkies or a Netti Chocolate Soda. This store was too small and was always crowded and busy. It was only a short time before the Kikers moved the location a block to the north and built a new store on the southwest corner of State and Ada.
I continued delivering papers to where State Street terminated in a T junction with Kelly Road. Almost every home got a Gazette. There was only one house across from the end of State, and I believe it belonged to the Foster Falwell. I turned east and delivered up Kelly Road to Dearborn. I turned South on Dearborn and delivered down to Ada. Then, I delivered Ada all the way back to State Street. The only names I remember on Ada are Millison, Mullins, and Schraq. I went across State and delivered Ada to Henry. I delivered the east side of Henry, north to Kelly, and then jogged a few yards west and turned north on Washington Lane. There were no homes on the east side of Washington Lane which ran from Kelly up to the entrances to Garvin Park. There were no homes on the east side of Washington Lane. That side was just a worn out pasture. The lots on the west side of Washington Lane were pretty much built up, all the way from Kelly up to the entrance to the park. Lloyd Ludlum, who was a couple of years older than me, lived in one of the first two or three houses. Up near the to of the hill was a street that went west into the Park Place subdivision. The David Allison family lived on the northwest corner. Going on up the last block of Washington Lane, one home belonged to Gus Gustafson and his wife. Gus was the high school principal. I believe the last house on the street belonged to the Puckett family. There weren’t many homes in the Park Place Subdivision yet. I remember Harold Bedell, Erbie Watson, and Semisch.
After delivering Park Place, I traveled back down to Kelly, jogged a half block to the east, and started down Henry Street. I think Henry had only been open for 3 or 4 years or so. The homes were new, and the street was paved with concrete. There was a vacant lot on the SW corner of Henry and Ada. One day, Boler Wilson moved a big house onto it. If I remember correctly, my dad, Al Thomas, who was a brick and block layer, built the foundation for it. I think that was the new home of Art Ballinger and his wife. A little farther down Henry was the Proctor home. That was Warren and his wife, their daughter, Ann, who was my classmate, and their son, Robert. The Proctors had a sailboat parked in their side yard that I think was built by Warren. One summer day, Ann invited some of us to go with them to Santa Fe Lake for a swimming and sail boating day.
The last customer on my paper route and on Henry Street was A.V. Small and his wife, Jesse. The Smalls operated the AVS Honey business out of their basement and hired a bunch of kids every summer to help them.
I must have covered at least two miles on my paper route and enjoyed every minute of it. The people were all nice, and it felt good to be out in the fresh air-no matter what the weather was. I delivered the Gazette for a year, and then was able to get a Wichita Beacon route which paid a lot more.