By Jerzy Morkis
Do you get this paper delivered, or did you pick it up from the shop?
...you would be introduced to some of your customers’ more ‘interesting’ reading predilections
In the vein of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is a question more pertinent to these columns: “Which came first, the decline in newspaper sales or decline in newspaper deliveries?”
The experts tell us sales have dropped because of the multifarious ways in which news can now be delivered, newspaper proprietors losing touch with communities, the surge in social media etc.
Delivery is undoubtedly the key and crucial to that was the newspaper boy – ‘was’ being the operative word... and ‘boy’’, as at this pivotal moment in time girls were few and far between at the paper round assembly tables – a Sir Tim Hunt haven perhaps?
Of course the digital age means instant news, 24/7, via the TV, radio, iPad, smartphone etc but the supremacy of those media is in the breaking, rolling news.
It has usurped the security of getting out of bed and finding your newspaper reassuringly peeking out of the letterbox. The outside world you invited in as a daily portion was there and waiting to be unfolded and explored at leisure over your cornflakes.
Not any more; the remaining paper boys are only starting their rounds by the time most of us leave for work. And as for holidays, well your traditional evening papers are hitting the streets before your ‘morning’ paper arrives.
Rolling back the pages of time, when I was the bringer of news, our rounds were supposed to be finished by 7am on weekdays. That included the day the local paper came out and your bag was actually double the size since everyone got one.
Add to that Woman and Woman’s Own magazines, the Radio and TV Times (if I recall the days correctly) and you had to haul your bag out the shop and hoist it on to the handlebars of your bike then push your bumper burden round the doors until it became more manageable.
But the faster you were on your round generally, the greater the perks. Being ahead of schedule gave you the opportunity to read the comics you were delivering.
And in those days you also were responsible for delivering the ‘monthlies’ before they became ‘collection only’.
So in among Tapestry Illustrated, Knitting Now and Stamp Collector you would be introduced to some of your customers’ more ‘interesting’ reading predilections..
There was the disturbing (for an adolescent anyway) Health & Efficiency when folk who looked like your granny were pictured in black and white playing volleyball naked, or your grandad grinning nervously over the barbecue while absolutely starkers.
But there was also Club International and Penthouse where Naughty Nell from Norfolk bared all and told of her sexploits, though none, unfortunately, featuring teenage newspaperboys.
So as well as bringing the community the news, there was a wee battalion of lads up to date on the headlines, the antics of the Bash Street Kids et al, the latest recipes, patterns and diets, and, of course, the mysterious secrets of the female form.
So get your choice of reading delivered. It’s good for newspapers... and, if you also choose from the top shelf, it can be enjoyably educational for teenagers.