From paper boy to pin boy

Hamilton Ten-Pin Bowling contributor Jim Margueratt shares his memories of being a Hamilton paper boy, on the road to pin boy at Queenston Bowl…

Bowling_ball_and_pinsThe post office motto was through rain, snow, sleet, freezing weather, wind, etc., the mail will get delivered. The same also applied to the faithful paper boy or girl. Before I was a pin boy at Queenston Bowl on Queenston Rd., I was a Hamilton Spectator paper boy on streets Walter, Tolton, Main, Julian (now Jessica) and Ivan (now Isabelle). Since The Spec was an afternoon paper way back then, six days a week after school a trip was made to the garage behind Marion’s variety store at Parkdale and Queenston to pick up the papers. The odd time the paper was late, so we waited, hoping it would arrive soon so we could go home for supper and homework from W.H. Ballard, Viscount Montgomery or Delta schools.

The Spec was seldom late and when it arrived papers were loaded into a large white canvas bag, with a flap in case of rain, and off we would go on bikes, wagons or on foot. When crummy weather came into play, mom or dad would jump in the car and off we would go. Back then The Spec. was not as large as today’s editions as most days there were less than 30 pages. I am not sure of the weekly cost, but I am sure it was less than the daily cost today.

Collection day was usually Friday or Saturday because there was no school the next day. Once a year we would be supplied with brown forms with 52 weeks marked off for the customer. With a supplied paper punch, each week would be punched when the customer paid. The worst part of this was when subscribers were a few weeks late, and you had to try and collected the previous weeks amount. Some customers were really upset that we had let the cost pile up – sometimes for several weeks – when it was not our fault as most times they were not home. Most did pay every week or every two weeks. On rare occasions an extra Saturday afternoon visit was required to collect payment.

On my route there were two small apartment buildings where I could deliver several papers at once and which served as a rain shelter if needed. Most houses had mail boxes which held more than mail, including The Spec. The other times the paper was left between the doors or delivered in person if the residents were home. The odd time customers would leave their payment in the box. That was perfect except when the money in the box was not what was owing and you had to explain to the customer that more money was still owed. Then there was the times when you would arrive home with extra papers and you had to figure out who you missed. That was usually solved by a phone call from an irate customer asking “where’s my paper?” Since most customers lived close by a short extra trip was required to deliver the paper.

The hardest part of being a paper boy was when you had to find a replacement during vacation time every summer. That’s when you found out who your true friends were. If you were sick for a day or two, mom or dad or another family member carried the papers for you. Arriving home from a nice relaxing vacation, however, often meant that waiting for you were messages from customers complaining that they had been missed by the “sub.”

Another problem was that several times a year during holidays such as Easter, Christmas, etc., customers wanted to pay for only five papers that week instead of the normal six. That did not happen very often. And Christmas usually saw a tip or “goodies” for us.

Back then a feature in The Spec was called “Your Spectator Carrier” with a photo and 20 or 30 words about the person. Once a year I remember The Spec held an appreciation night for the carriers at the Tivoli theatre on James St. N., where a movie was watched and prizes were awarded.

I am not sure how many years I was a paper boy, but it brought in spending money until I walked the two blocks to Queenston Bowl and started my pin-boy career.

READ MORE: Down Queenston Bowl’s Memory Lanes

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