Paperboy Memories: Mapping my route
Mapping my route
Some childhood memories are strong – almost indelibly etched into an absorbent young brain needing to be filled, and retained forever.
For me, one of those permanent memories is the experience of being a paperboy in the 1950’s for Houghton’s Daily Mining Gazette. For an 11-year old in 1957, the distraction of TV didn’t yet exist in my household, and computers, video games and cellphones were far off in science fiction future, so having my first real job was the huge focus of my life. I worked as a carrier through 1960 – about 4 years total.
I’m writing this from sheer recall, which attests to the strength and vividness of these memories, which survive after more than 60 years of other life experiences. But please forgive any minor inaccuracies or misspellings of names, which likely will occur. I’m thankful to Mike Laurin and Steve Wyble – two other childhood friends who also worked at the Gazette and helped fill in my voids of memory, and to my brother, Bob, who had earlier worked the Gazette’s big route covering East Houghton.
My writings are in installments covering: 1. The Gazette Operation and Production, 2. My ‘Pony Express’ Route – Downtown Houghton, 3. The Paperboy Business Model and 4. Houghton Life In the 50’s (a more general look at those wonderful times).
I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse of the Gazette in much simpler times.
My route back east along the other side of Sheldon began at the Copper Range Laundry for Mr. Warrick, then Howard Bond at Bond’s Menswear, and on to Weber’s Sporting Goods, where Cliff and ‘Rip’ Weber somehow managed to stock their small store with a big variety of sports equipment – at least on a seasonal basis. In winter, it was the go-to place for anything related to hockey, skiing and basketball. Their friendly clerk, Paul Tussing, helped many a kid pick out their first skates.
Above Weber’s were apartments – one housed the Hannon’s, whose son “Chic” ran with my older sister’s crowd at Andy McCormick’s small restaurant with its Teen Center above. Then on to Cuicci’s Market, a great old ‘mom& pop’ convenience store with living quarters behind. Son Pete Cuicci was a stallwart in Houghton High School sports. Cuicci’s upstairs apartments housed a young married Michigan Tech couple, Gary & Barbara Barton, who were always interesting, special customers. Next door, in a nice upstairs apartment, were Clarence & Barbara Morgan, retired Calumet High School teachers who loved to travel and always brought me back exotic souvenirs. These things meant a lot to a kid who could only dream of ever leaving the U.P.
Next door, on the Dodge St. side-hill, was State Farm Agent, Vincent Franciscovich
Continuing east, next stop was Eddie’s Grill, above which lived the Nettell’s (Dick and “Tiny”) whose boys, Ron (“Wimpy”) and Richard (“Duke”), were sports standouts at Houghton High.
Then to the old Cloverland Hotel, which had a small restaurant at street level and 2 floors of old, low-rent hotel rooms above. I never had many customers in that place, which was fine with me, since it was a little dark and creepy. I recall for one room I would slide the paper in under the door through a gap high enough for a tray of food! That building also housed Neil’s Taxi office at street level where a dispatcher would belt out messages to each passing taxi via a loud speaker on the outside. No 2-way radios needed!
Next door was Erickson’s Barbershop, another highlight of my route. Three generations – ‘Grandpa’, Louie and Ronnie staffed the 3 chairs and always pretended to get on my case for running late, and jokingly called me ‘gum shoe’. They were my barbers from the time of my first haircut until I left Houghton at age 22.
Next door was Pearce’s Appliance Store with 2 nice apartments above, where I delivered to Gerry Caspary and wife Holly. Then I crossed over Huron St. to Marty O’Connor’s Insurance and Real Estate Office. Marty was a jovial friend of my parents who always had a good story to tell. You couldn’t be downtown long before running into Marty on the street. He was often called Houghton’s ‘Ambassador’. Upstairs from Marty was Dr. Ad Aldrich, who had the chore of delivering me in 1946.
Next to Marty’s was Dale’s Flower store, run by Mrs. Dale. Then on to Kopp’s Shoe Store, another small woman-run business
Mid-block was one of the Houghton’s most colorful joint, Horseshoe Lunch, a small, no-frills, smoky burger joint with the grill in the front window, which was usually too steamed up to see in or out of. ‘Meatball’ Welsh and his gracious wife ran the place with their loyal waitress, ‘Aggie’. I would often linger here for a moment on cold winter days and enjoy the ‘good ol’ boys’ crowd that wandered in & out – often for just a cup of coffee and the latest gossip. Burgers were 30 cents, hot off the front-window grill.
Just east of the Horseshoe was Nelson’s Restaurant, run by Alex & Hannah Nelson. This was an historic downtown Houghton ‘showplace’ restaurant with beautiful terrazzo tile floors. It had big bakery display cases in front, individual booths in the rear – and even an orchestra balcony – a tribute to the ritzy days of Houghton’s mining days. (How sad that it was later demolished for a new Bob’s Big Boy chain restaurant.)
Next stop was Nantel’s Beauty Parlor, which catered to mostly white-haired women. Ms. Nantell loved to chat me up, but the small salon’s strong aromas of peroxide kept me moving. Past the Dog House Bar was Steck’s Flower Shop , where Fran Steck always needed a paper by his ‘hard’ 5 o’clock closing time.
Finally, on the corner of Isle Royale St. was the James T. Healy Insurance office. The likeable Mr. Healy was always a strong supporter of youth hockey – even after his son’s outgrew the sport. In fact, it was Healy’s Insurance that sponsored the East Houghton pee-wee hockey team that won the national championship in Boston in 1956, with my older brother, Bob, on the squad. Their bus was escorted into town by the Houghton fire truck to a reception at Andy’s restaurant.
Last stop on the “Pony Express Route” was the old Douglas House Hotel. In addition to nice rooms and a fine restaurant and banquet facility, this imposing landmark housed the ‘Dog House’ Bar and the WHDF Radio Station. The main entrance was off the side-hill Isle Royale St.. After delivering to ‘Ludy’ Pastore at the big front desk, I also had to get a paper to the maintenance guy down in the boiler room. This involved taking the only elevator in town to the basement level and entering the bowels of this great structure – a big thrill! With any luck, the other maintenance worker, ‘Frenchie’ would also be around with a new joke or funny story to share.
With that, my downtown route was over. In the course of about an hour every day, I would cover Houghton’s vibrant downtown core, with memorable daily interactions with most of the merchants and local characters of the day. I only wish I could recall all of the people that made that such a rich experience.
In my next installment I’ll share the ‘business’ details of running my paper route – such as money collection, settling my bill with the Gazette, special promotions the Gazette would run – and some business lessons learned.