Boston published three morning newspapers in 1960; the Boston Globe, the Record American, and the Herald Traveler. My family moved from Falmouth Foresides, Maine to a a suburb south of Boston. The Neponset River separated the city from the town. Our neighborhood had been constructed on an abandoned army base. Several hundred newly-constructed split-level houses crowded half-are plots along of seven streets. Our ranch house was on Harborview Road. If I climbed the tallest tree in the woods behind our backyard, I could see Boston Harbor. No ships were visible from this distance.
The nearest store was two miles away and my father saw an opportunity to teach the work ethic to his oldest sons. The Maine native called the local news distributor to set up a newspaper route for us. The three papers arrived at 6am. My brother and I folded the newspapers to stuff into the canvas carry bags. Each morning of the week my father cooked us breakfast. Fried eggs and toast. I had the closest route. My brother had the farthest. We rode around the quiet neighborhood on our Raleigh 3-speeds.
Rain, sleet or snow.We were more dependable than the Post Office.
The newspapers arrived at the front door for the man of the house to read about Vietnam, the Red Sox, and JFK. My brother and I were the best informed students at Our Lady of the Foothills. We supported the Globe. The Record American was not a broadsheet. The Herald-Traveler supported Goldwater. Their politics sold papers and I earned about $10 a week. A movie ticket cost a half a dollar. Albums were around $3. Levis at Walker’s Western Gear in Boston sold at $6. Delivering papers was easy money. The older women in the neighborhood sometimes answered the door in their lingerie. A few of the men naked. Their exhibitionism led to big tips and I learned to keep my mouth shut about their cheap thrills. My desire was to hold hands with Kyla Rolla. The brunette was the prettiest girl on the route. She was my age.12.
Her mother was a divorcee.
Kyla was the smartest girl at Our Lady of the Foothills. I was her rival and she traced figure-8s on my back during spelling bees. The letters stuck in my mouth. She knew that I had a stutter, but I accepted her cheating with expectation and dreamed about becoming a news reporter.
Just like Clark Kent for the Daily Planet.He loved Lois Lane more than Superman.Same as my love for Kyla.In 1964 the news distributor changed the pay-out per paper. My salary dropped down a little, but worst was that two new boys were throwing the bundles of papers out of the truck. Mark Tully and his friend Joe Scanlon were the town bullies. Each had been kept back a year for a combination of bad grades and worst behavior. After school they waited for me in the Town Field. Crossing it was the shortest way home."Hey, paper boy." They beat me up in front of my schoolmates and best friend. At least Kyla never saw my disgrace. She had afternoon dancing lessons in Mattapan Square. Everyone else watched my humiliation as if it were a TV show. No one ever interfered to stop the two bullies.
Better me than them was the thinking.My days started out with Mark chucking my newspapers in puddles and the garbage. My older brother complained to the distributor, who fired Mark from his job. The beatings worsened with his dismissal. In the Spring of 1965 I grew a few inches. Mark and Joe had the odds of two against one. My fighting skills were basic. I suffered in silence. Finks or snitches were hated by the young.
One day Mark and Joe shanghaied me to row a boat under a bridge over the Neponset River. Right next to the Walter Baker Chocolate Factory. It was spring. The river was running high. The air was drenched in sweetness. Mark and Joe had kidnapped Kyla and her friend. The two bullies told the girls to take off their shirts. We were all 13.
No longer kids.
Cars rolled overhead on the steel bridge. The girls’ fingers fumbled with the buttons. I told them to stop. Mark and Joe ordered me to shut up. I hit Mark in the head with an oar. He went overboard. Joe got it in the stomach. The water wasn’t deep, but they couldn’t swim. I didn’t care if they lived or died, as I rowed to safety.
Kyla and her friend were grateful. She kissed me on the cheek. We became boyfriend and girlfriend later that year. Mark and Joe were arrested for stealing a car. They entered it in a demolition derby. The police arrested them after they totaled the station wagon. A judge sentenced them to two years at Billerica Reform School. I delivered newspapers until I was 14. Kyla and I broke up in senior year of high school. To this day I don’t know why.I never became a reporter. Mostly because I realized that no one can be Superman.
Not even Clark Kent.
Then again he was never a paper boy.