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Paperboy  1937-1942

Wellston, St. Louis County, Missouri

  The small gray box 'barely visible', sticking out to the left of the Streetcar is Abe Balk’s Newspaper Stand.  This story is not about Abe’s Newspaper stand.

 

   If you bought a Newspaper in Wellston at the Wellston Terminal and the Hodiamont Streetcar tracks, you knew Abe Balk. Abe had the busiest news stand in St. Louis County. Everyone said Hello to Abe.  Abe was from Russia, He immigrated with his mother and sister in 1914 and they joined his father who arrived first. About 1915 his younger brother Dave was born in St. Louis.    

  If you SOLD Newspapers in Wellston you had to know both Abe and Dave Balk, as Dave had the distribution for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,  Globe Democrat and the Star Times.   In our area of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.  Dave was the  Man!

 

  Dave Balk had always sold and distributed newspapers. As a Distributor, he ran all the Newspaper boys with discipline.  Most of us liked him as he was fair and settled many a squabble over "territorial" rights. 

We delivered papers to homes on streets in our assigned routes.  Different worlds separated by Streetcar tracks that ran North and South parallel  to the City limits of St. Louis and the Town of Wellston. Our little routes were on assigned streets.

  One thing for sure, stay off of Easton Avenue and away from the Stores, as that was Abe Balk’s Territory.   Always keep one eye open for the R----y brother’s. the were the “Bullies”.

   Next,  do not go on someone else's route, unless they failed to show up and Abe said cover the route.

 

You could buy or trade the previous newsboy for his route and his customers with Dave’s approval.  However, I did not need do this as my route was owned by my brother Lee, before him by brother Al and before him our brother Ray.  Dave already knew me as my brother’s used to drag me in to help out from time to time.  I knew Dave from 1937 to 1942.   

 

The R----y brother's route was East of mine, East of the Hodiamont Avenue, they seemed to think it was the Hodiamont Streetcar tracks.   As I "Google Earth" the nearly empty urban area today, I see that our disagreements were over just about 270 feet of street overlap on each of the five streets of my regular route.  The R----y  brothers were eight and ten years older than me, which was a tremendous difference when I was ten to eleven. Outsized and outnumbered, I learned to let them have that less than football length of each street between Cockrill and Hodiamont Avenue.   My brothers helped when I told them that my wagon was dumped and they ruined some papers, or that they stole some of my papers, while I was delivering the paper to a door, or busy collecting from a regular customer.  Brothers were not always around, so I avoided my enemies when I could, and kept a few good throwing rocks in my pockets in case I needed them.  A roll of pennies in the fist helped once or twice also. 

 

The Sunday papers sold for ten cents.. Dave would give us what we needed for our regular customers, plus extra for those we could sell by yelling our heads off as we covered our route.   We then spent an hour or so “Stuffing” the early printed paper that came without the News into the still warm FIVE STAR news part of the Sunday edition.  After the papers were stuffed we would “roll and tie” the papers that we would later deliver to the door, or throw if they had a dog we did not get along with.   It would be just getting daylight now, about 6:30 or 7:00 AM on a Sunday.

 

Sometimes we had so many papers we would push one wagon and pull another.... That was tough, as I weighed less than 100 pounds and my route was up and down hills..  When we checked in for our Tally with Dave, we turned in our papers, (clean and not wet, not read or soiled) and paid Dave eight cents for each paper sold.  So, for working from about 5:00 in the Morning on a Sunday until about Noon, I could make two or three dollars including tips, if any.  Half of that went to my Mom. Pitching in for expenses at home was something we did.  We did not think about it, we just did it.  These days Pearl would be called a parent without a partner, raising five kids.  I was the youngest and we all brought home the bacon, one strip at a time.

 

Rain, snow, or nice weather, 52 Sundays in a row deliver the papers, or you lose the route.  The Sunday sound from the Newsboys was often “Sunday morning Post and Globe Paper”  , sounded like  “UNday  ORNing,  OST  and Globe AYPER  ERS  AHH”  The sound traveled further and it was easier to say.  Not much sleeping went on when we all hit the streets at once, with the steel wheels of the two wheel carts we called wagons and the screaming paperboys trying to get customers to the doors.  Some “customers” paid monthly, and some of them, did not pay at all...that’s a tough lesson in business for an eleven year old.
 

At age seven through ten, I would accompany brothers Al or Lee …get up early, help stuff papers, tie them, deliver up the steps to the porches.  I usually considered it fun and they would give me a quarter or fifty cents a day.

My brothers moved on to jobs setting pins in the Wellston Bowling Alley.  I would follow them there for more employment enlightenment and adventures. I was about twelve when I started setting pins.

 

Our Mom kept track of us, not just asking about school, but also what did we do at work.  She was always interested in what we did ... also how we were treated as well as, did we give a fair day's work to our boss.   Daily debriefing for sure.

 

3/3/2007    

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