In exchange for their efforts, the newspapers paid their employees, literally, pennies.
The Cleveland News I delivered six days a week cost seven cents. When I collected the money each Saturday, that came to 42 cents per customer, of which I got to keep 12 pennies. Although some customers rounded it up to 45 cents, so I wound up with 15 pennies.
But people back then weren’t all that concerned about minimum wages, child labor laws or things like that. Most child-raising authorities agreed that sending little boys out to work would instill in them a sense of responsibility, teach them the value of work and lay the foundation for sound business practices. Apparently Warren Buffett absorbed a lot more of those lessons than I did.
The years I spent as a paperboy were not without their rewards, though. One year, I received a certificate of appreciation for trudging through a blizzard that produced knee-high snowfalls; which were waist-high for an 8-year-old. Two years later, I signed up enough new subscribers to earn a trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Some day I may gather my grandchildren around my rocking chair and tell them all about how grandpa had to trudge through the snow every afternoon to deliver his newspapers. And at some point, I’m sure, one of them will look at me with wonder in his or her eyes and ask: “Grandpa, what’s a newspaper?”
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