Death Of The Paperboy

I’d waited a long time, but then the phone call came in January. There was a job for me. It was 1975 and I was about to embark on a career as a paperboy.  Despite wages of just 70p a week for working seven days (still only around £6.50 in today’s money) competition for jobs  was fierce. The only way you got a call was  if someone left school and got a full time job, or was taken on by a competing newsagent who wasn’t quite so tight-fisted.

Fast forward to last Saturday morning, and my mum received a letter from the newsagent with her regular morning newspaper. They were unable to recruit paper boys or girls,  it said, and the delivery service was to cease forthwith. I spoke to the newsagent who confirmed the problem – he couldn’t get anyone to do the job. The £15-£25 a week it now pays, literally isn’t worth getting out of bed for. And that’s in a working class area of south Yorkshire, not some leafy Surrey suburb.

So what are we to make of that?

Well there are any number of possible conclusions, for example…

– Young people are no longer interested in money and the material possessions that it can buy.

– Young people are now forgoing short term gain to concentrate on studying for their long term future.

– Young people would rather devote their spare time to charitable works rather than personal gain.

– Young people have secured other employment which pays better.

When you’ve stopped laughing at these suggestions, I’ll give you another one which I think carries a bit more weight – kids are a lot better off in 2016 than they were in 1975. They no longer need the money that a paper round can bring, and aren’t prepared to sacrifice  a lay-in for it.

Take a look at the stuff which the average 15 year old owns and it’s easy to see how £20 a week doesn’t look like a lot of money. When your iPhone cost £600, your iPad cost about the same and you have a £1,500 laptop in your bedroom,  a 6.00am start to shove The Sun through someone’s letter box for three quid a day lacks allure.

Although I think a paper round provides valuable life-lessons and a useful first step on the road to work, I can live with all of this. It’s called progress.  Things have got better. But what I struggle with is the  barrage of negativity from politicians, social activists and the media  claiming  we have a significant proportion of the population  living in poverty and things are somehow much worse than they have been in the past.

I don’t think there’s any congruence between a world in which there’s genuine poverty, and one in which you can’t get schoolchildren to deliver newspapers for £20 a week.  By any rational measure, we are all better off than at any time in history.

Now I make no comment as to whether we are happier, more fulfilled or more satisfied with what we have (although the answer seems obvious) but as a society, we’re certainly richer in every tangible sense.  I think it’s time that those in positions of power and influence, openly acknowledged the fact, and focussed their efforts on encouraging people to appreciate and enjoy what we all  have, rather than nurturing a feeling of bitterness and resentment which is both unjustified, and which ultimately does nobody any good.

I’m aware that all this might seem at odds with what we do here at Streetwise. After all, most people read our blogs, newsletters and other publications because they want to move forward with their lives, and financial success is a big part of that. But it really isn’t at odds at all.

What the politicians, media and activists are saying is “The situation is bad and getting worse, it’s not your fault, someone should do something about it.” We’re saying something very different – “Things are better than they’ve ever been, but if you want to rise above the crowd, it’s down to you to make it happen. Here are some ways you can do it.”

I know that most people reading this want to go that extra mile, to rise above the mundane and the average, and to be the best they can be. But what about  everyone else? Well in a world where you can’t get a schoolchild to push a newspaper through your door for £20 a week, things must be pretty dammed comfortable.

26 thoughts on “Death Of The Paperboy

    1. terry

      I had a paper shop for 20 or so years. Personaly i think the problem is the parents have to much disposable income,so the children ( as i call them ) have money given to them for doing nothing. Would you get out of bed 6 days a week if your parents gave you money for nothing. Its called progress as you have sent this email it is so easy to do nothing, only ned to tap a few tabs and its done why would they want to work i think it is our fault we lead by example.
      I am not moaning it is just an observation.

  1. ronnie

    Agree the Lefties love to say were all living in poverty load of bollox really compared to the 30s Era .there are a couple on benefits near me claiming DLA Blue Badge etc ,i see them moaning about cuts to this and cuts to that ,then i see them both in Tescos choosing the finest Wine and stocking up on Cigs ,there is no real poverty now despite what the Lefties predictably spout !!

  2. June

    You are so right, John. We had snow last Saturday and the newsagent had to go out himself on Sunday morning to deliver the papers – and it took him ages. Pity you aren’t in a position to implement this but we all know how being positive is a lot better than negativity. Counting blessings is out of fashion, sadly.

    1. Piete

      I don’t think so, I count my blessings every day, I’m 70 now have done all paperboy stuff and stood outside lion’s in Hammersmith waiting in a queue of men to be selected for a days labour on a Saturday and doing an apprenticeship mid week for £3.50. I’ve always worked, but now I’m on DLA and don’t give a toss what anyone thinks. I’ve paid my dues all my life.
      Life is what you make of it, and if you don’t then someone else will.

  3. Valerie

    Agree with all you say.
    There are those who expect everything to be done for them, everything is someone else’s fault.
    Pity people don’t appreciate what they have.

  4. Muzaffar Ali

    Hi John

    Too right mate, agree with everything you said.

    The politicians and the media of course have their own agenda and say things for their own sake rather than for ours.

    If they keep hammering this negative message time and again, they know we will start believing their nonsense (Psychologically true). However, you have not suggested any way out of this gismo. How do we tell our youngsters that they are very fortunate compared to us and that they should appreciate what they have. Further, that they should play their part in society in the hope that they can leave it in a tidier condition than they found it.

    Thanks mate and keep up the good works.

  5. Russell Draper

    I Live in Dagenham Essex a true working class area, i have quite a few teenage nephews living near by,and i can confirm they are pampered by their parents,WORK is a four lettered word.their day doesn`t
    start till PM, i shake my head every time i see them.Lucky for them im not their parent.

  6. Bill

    I do agree with you that we are better off now than ever before, which I am sure is a factor. However, there is sadly another reason for young people not delivering newspapers early in the morning for £20 or any other figure you can name that still creates a market for delivery by the newsagent. This is the increased awareness of dangers to girls and young boys to a lesser extent. If I had a daughter now I would not let her out on her own in the early morning in the dark to deliver papers into possibly secluded houses for any money and I am sure others would agree with me. Are the dangers worse now than 40 years ago? Given the recent trials of crimes committed 40 years ago possibly not, but the awareness is much higher. There is also more car ownership now than before and more men with no regard for others, especially women. Knowing this if I let her do the job and something happened I would never forgive myself. Being better off than before I would probably pay her not to do it!

  7. Arnold Dearing

    As a 1950s paperboy in Yeadon I know all about the discomforts of winter rounds and I hated Thursdays as that was the day the bag weighed twice as much as it was MAGAZINE day, everything from Womens Own to Motor Sport.
    Whether my paper round gave me any lessons or not I’m not sure. It did however give me a lifelong hatred of cold weather !
    I’m 74 now and have fathered 5 children, the youngest is only 6. All 5 have had different academic levels and gone to different schools. When I compare my 18 years old daughter with the older (grown up) children there is one massive difference. This is the quite enormous pressures put on them at school. It is non-stop testing and checking and everyone telling them they must pass this and achieve that.
    I for instance was a bit of a failure despite getting a Governors scholarship to a minor public school (parents couldn’t have paid) and all we ever had to bother about was doing our GCEs – 5 will do said the masters, go to Leeds University and get a comfy job in a solicitors office somewhere.
    There really was no pressure because the Governments of the day let the schools get on with teaching without much interference.
    So kids nowadays may well welcome £20 a week, my daughter certainly would, but getting up at 6,00 am doing a paper round of 1.5 – 2 hours, then eating then rushing off to school is not good because of the pressures on them to succeed. I know my daughter and her friends are studying to midnight and beyond, do some before a snatched breakfast and then compare notes on the school bus. It woukd be next to impossible to do a morning job.
    Here endeth the rant.

  8. ken wood

    I know times have changed a lot I am now 77 and had my name down for a paper round right up to leaving school and never got one but I do have a great-grandson of 15 who has and also does washing up in a pub at weekend. I think it is a lot to do with parenting, making sure they get off their backsides to help pay for what they want, also many schools now start earlier, my youngest grand-daughter has to leave home at 7-40 am. to be at school for 8-30 start and with laws stating she cannot start work before 7-00 am. she simply hasn’t got time to do a paper round.

  9. mike

    hi john, i i have read and lkearnt something from most of your publications and this blog is good i was a 40’s kid on the road to life my parents ,we were 3 kids ,2 girls and myself ,my parents would not allow me to do a paper round even at that time a young girl from the road whewre i lived in ardiff was found murdered nt far froim where i lived ,s o dangers wqere around then ,.but i made my own progress ,probably at a better tiume of day delivered groeries.some timesd if ok i woulkd aslso do a buit for the loal buther whatever it was 3d here 6d tyhere but it added up i al;so yled 7or8 miles to a farm who would allow me to help ii am 83 now i also have a blue badge due to a hunk of nhs neglet i am partially disabled ,ny bak is damaged i still try top make a ashilling on line not neessarily to exist ,but to make the irle a little easier .i have paid for what i have and i agree there is too muh pampere and money today i have a grandauyghter at university and she works her butt off with spare time work to help pay her way thewn there is her brother also at university, too bloody idle to look fore any form of employement his student loan will amount to maximum while the granddaughter hopes that she will not build up t oo muh debt , woirk it out where does my respet lie ,hey i have saids e nough for now,i am going bak to the start of your page and have a read of your amazon fba broadast so heers for now to all ,

  10. Bob

    Interesting John – a little simplistic, as your responders have pointed out. Did your daughter do a paper round? If she did, were both you and she happy about it, or, if not, what was the real reason?

    1. John Harrison Post author

      No, my daughter didn’t do a paper round, and for pretty much the reasons I talked about. She doesn’t need the money like I did. That’s my point really. the lack of paperboys suggests that not many people do, and we’re all considerably better off than some would have us believe.

      1. Bob

        Is that the reason they don’t send boys up chimneys any more, they don’t need the money? (Apart from central heating, that is!)
        I think others have already shown there are more reasons than relative wealth.

        1. John Harrison Post author

          Well we decided sending small boys up chimmneys was inhumane quite some time ago. Nobody has applied the same judgement to paper rounds yet, or most other forms of work for that matter. To widen this out a bit, I read recently, that the number of teenagers doing ANY kind of part-time work is in decline. Affluence is the major driving force behind this in my view.

  11. Peter Baker

    Well, me old china, I did a paper round in my youth which started at 6 in the morning ’til about 7.45. The first half hour was manning a stall at the station while the boss did his round, after which I set off with my papers in the carrier of a ‘carrier bike’. The reason for the bike was that I set forth with seven quire of papers, each and every morning. For the ignorant, a quire is twenty six (26) papers, so I had about two hundred (200) to deliver. The first morning I set off with the round detailed in a book. Nothing marked up. Within the week I knew the round – it was in my head. Most of the round I walked, a bike being an encumbrance, which I parked in a front garden. The bike was necessary for the last ten paper deliveries were for flung and I bicycled them. Part of the deal was that on Thursday I delivered the magazines after school and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, after breakfast, I also collected all the money, house to house. Very beneficial it was too. The round paid me £1.50 a week and I usually picked up about the same amount in change while ‘collecting’ the round. An added benefit was that each morning I collected bits of shrapnel along the streets. By the way, this was in Tottenham, North London, 1944 and 1945, until I started work. Actually I started work in the September but retained the round until after Christmas because I knew what would come my way in Christmas tips. Boy, was I rich!!

  12. Dennis McKay

    I think this is a rather hoary chestnut.

    This is the same old story since time immemorial.

    I am now 82 and I can remember my parents telling me that I was far better off
    than they were, for so many reasons.

    When I was a young parent the process was repeated and it will be when the present
    youngsters become parents thank goodness.

    This is not going to change,

    If I had been living 50 years ago, I would have been an exception, everyone was dying at a much lower age.

    I am very happy to be here, I thank god every morning,

    Lets us not live oin the past.

    I still get my paper everyday, alas not from a paperboy, they are too unreliable.

  13. Nick

    Hi John,
    Maybe in the poorer areas where it one would expect there to be more incentive for ‘youngsters’ to deliver papers there are far fewer people who buy papers or have them delivered ?
    BTW, if I were still a teenager and having a “lay-in”, I doubt I’d jump out of bed to deliver papers !

  14. patricia buckeridge

    ALL the comments have some degree of truth in them but I’d hazard that, having too much available/cash/possessions already , obviates the need/wish to rise early, from a warm bed and is the main reason. My 3 sons were not paper boys but all saw the need to work for extra cash when at school and university. I could not afford all that they wished for so they earned it for themselves.
    I’m 89 but at 16 to 18 I gave lessons to children younger than myself , on Sat. mornings, before going off myself to Drama school at 18. 6d. a lesson [old money.]

  15. John

    Back in 1972 my parents bought a newsagents in Shipley, West Yorkshire, in a time when a newsagent was the only place you could buy newspapers and magazines (other than subscription). We lived above the shop my parents, brother and two sisters and in time we all delivered papers for our parents.
    Five pounds, or whatever we got then, went a long way. As your article states £20 does not buy much for gadget obsessed youngsters and parents think nothing about spending much more than that at the nearest fast-food outlet.
    Interestingly my mother still has her paper delivered every morning and she is full of admiration for the young man who does the job.

  16. Stuart

    Young ones aren’t going to get up at six in the morning when they are playing games on their computers until the early hours. My stepson has recently left school. He’s got no job and doesn’t get up till after 12 noon. Because he is up till god knows when on his computer. Before I left school I used to help deliver milk at 6 in the morning. In the cold weather I hated it but my parents expected me to do it. Today’s parents let their kids do what they want.

    The last time I had papers delivered it was by an adult in a car! Even then sometimes I didn’t get one delivered.

  17. RobinC

    Dear John, Good to read your thoughts here and to have this opportunity for us to comment. But you are clearly a bit out of touch. You need to get out more. Or get out of your red Ferrari more at least!

    I live in Ladywood Birmingham, the poorest ward in the Uk (though actually the quality of life is much higher than in much of Loondump where even the regime’s ministers live in air-polluted inner-city terraces). “Benefits Street” is thankfully a full mile from here.

    From my high tower block I have a panoramic view of 3/4 of Birmingham and beyond. Not least on 5th Nov and Ist Jan (and Divali is just as big) I see countless thousands of very fancy fireworks going off simultaneously. But only in the distance. There are no fireworks in this area because people round here cannot afford them.

    Across the road at Tesco there are local people who always go along at the times when the reduced sell-offs are put out (and quickly taken away). I know several people who have lost their longstanding homes because they could not afford to pay their rents after the bedroom tax was imposed with no alternative places available. There are loads of food banks starting up and please rest assured that no-one bothers with food banks unless they are desperate. Many people are being driven to suicide by their lack of money. Not all the young people round here are permanently glued to phones. I know of several youngsters who are studying at university but also have to work many hours as well to pay their way. (By the way, the above should be put in context that I don’t know many local people as I am not a lower-class type person myself, so not greatly into this community.)

    Many people (more widely) have switched to shopping only at Aldi and Lidl because they can no longer afford Tesco. Others here have already presented some reasons for why none will take up paperboy jobs – not allowed before 7 and school times being stupidly made even earlier. Plus many parents are scared to allow their children out due to danger of death-metal cars and the trillions of pedoes now stalking every street at 7am. Furthermore the young are stressed out worked to the bone by schools and worrying where their careers and jobs are going to come from let alone whether they will ever afford a car let alone a house-mortgage.

    These are the reasons for so much hostility to immigration, because the cosy classes of Merkel and Yvette Cooper et all are so nicey welcomey but the immigrants take the homes and jobs of the poor desperate and not of the Islington/Chelsea set.

    So, as I said, rather out of touch.
    Cheers from “the workshop of the world” anyway!

    1. John Harrison Post author

      Many thanks for posting an alternative view. You’re right, a world of “death-metal cars and the trillions of pedoes now stalking every street at 7am” isn’t one I’m familiar with. And I come from Rotherham!


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