I walk to work in the morning. Shortly after 5 a.m.
One gets a unique perspective on the world during a solitary walk through the neighborhoods of Oneonta each morning. Everything is quiet and tranquil. I rarely run into anyone. Except for one person who, like clockwork, slowly passes me by like a ship in the dark. And it's a kid.
I guess we call them paper carriers now. It got me thinking recently about my own time as a paperboy when I was 12, in 1961. I had the largest route in Sidney. I loved it all. My brother Jim joined me in my entrepreneurial endeavor soon after I began.
My product was the Binghamton Press. My tools of trade were a pair of wire cutters and an English bike, with saddle baskets over the back wheel.
Initially, I walked the route. I had two large, gray canvas bags that crisscrossed my chest. I arrived before dawn at a private residence where I would let myself in and unpack the papers, which had been dropped off overnight.
That's right. I actually let myself into a home whose owners I had never met and whipped out my wire cutters and started folding the papers to stuff into my bags. While the owners were sleeping upstairs. Try that today!
I was a master of the art of "newspaper folding." The double fold, the tight tuck, the thumb and index crease and then, finally, the victorious knee slap. "Thwack!" In the category of newspaper folding I was definitely medal-worthy.
After a short period of huffing along my two-mile route on foot, looking like a Sherpa guide with a week's worth of supplies strapped to his chest, I succumbed to getting a bike.
I bought it from Dick McCauley at the Sidney Western Auto. I hardly ever rode the bike on the route, but walked it along next me. It was the pack mule, if you will.
The Sidney Hospital was on my route, and Jim and I would raid the vending machines for candy, snacks and hot chocolate before heading out on the final, hilly half of the route. This expenditure usually wiped out any profit we would make for our morning's work.
Collection day was interesting. Do kids still go "collecting"? I guess everybody just prepays by credit cards today. Not in 1961, though. You'd approach and ring the doorbell and shout "collecting!" The door opened a little and a hand would stretch out with a dollar in it. I don't think the paper was much more than that back then. For the whole week.
Christmas season was the best. Despite trudging the bike through snow drifts as tall as me, we were rewarded with gifts, tips and treats along the way. Our customers would hand us envelopes with a couple of bucks in it. Sometimes a little present wrapped in holiday paper.
One paper route memory sticks with me all these years.
I had an older couple on my route, the Laphams, up on Cobbles East. The week before Christmas I'd shove my paper-laden bike through the snowdrifts up their little driveway. Chet Lapham would holler out into the blizzard, "C'mon in, Chuckie, for your present." I leaned my bike against a tree (akin to tying up a horse outside a saloon) and entered the bosomy warmth of their tiny cottage.
There I'd sit at the little kitchen table, and they would feed me. Why? I have no idea. Mrs. Lapham would whip me up a batch of pancakes and eggs as I sat at the table chatting with ol' Chet. After, he would thank me for my service and wave me off into the snowstorm.
I had never met them before I had my paper route, and I never saw them after I ended it in 1964. I can still see them smiling at me out their living room window as I disappeared into the snow. A sweet couple.
At week's end the guy from Binghamton would come to "sort out the money." He and I would sit in my living room as he looked through my record books and tapped furiously at his pocket-adding machine. Finally, he would tell me how much I owed him.
I'd get my mayonnaise jar down from the cupboard and count out his money. The rest was mine. There wasn't much left. Sometimes there was nothing left, and my mother had to make up the shortage.
I blame it all on the hospital vending machines.
"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
I walk to work in the morning. Shortly after 5 a.m.
- Big Chuck
Gilbert Lake a jewel among N.Y. parks
New York does quite a few things right, and misses the mark on things almost as many times. But nobody does a state park quite like New York does.
Baseball cards: Different spokes for different folks
Baseball cards as an investment? Fugetaboutit!
It's just a short drive down my memory lane
Oh, if my old man's car could talk.
Sept. 11 Museum is sobering, inspiring
I visited the September 11, 2001 Memorial Museum in New York City last weekend.
Remembering the singing cowboy
There were not a lot of job openings for a kid of 8 back in 1957. Some of my friends wanted to be firemen and a couple wanted to be professional baseball players. Maybe a cop, a teacher or a soldier or two. And the weird kid up on the corner wanted to be president of the United States some day. Dreamers, all. Thinking way above their heads. Me, I was a realist. I wanted to be a singing cowboy.
- Monday, May 19, 2014
The plain plane truth ruins CNN
Bye-bye CNN. It's been nice to know you.
- Monday, May 5, 2014
Laurens mall was no mere child's play
Shop local. And shop often.
- Monday, April 21, 2014
Woodstock continues to provide memories
I went to Woodstock last weekend. No, not the concert site. The village.
- Monday, April 7, 2014
Let's put a check on 'check engine' light
The absolute worst thing that can befall a driver happened to me on the way to work this morning. The one singular auto event that can send shivers of fear and panic up the spine of even the most seasoned road warrior.
- Monday, March 24, 2014
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks
It has been a while since we opened up the readers' mailbag, so let's see what is in there.
- Monday, March 10, 2014
1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
Well, the 86th Academy Awards are over. And for the record, I did a pretty good job in my Daily Star Oscar picks. I got them all right except one. Cate Blanchett was the spoiler in my clean sweep. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
- Monday, February 24, 2014
There was just no telling about snow days
Winters get harder as we get older. Things change. It snows more. It snows less. It gets colder. It's a lot milder. It all changes as our knees start to creak and the thought of shoveling a foot of snow seems positively daunting.
- Monday, February 10, 2014
And the music goes round and round
The day has finally arrived.
- Monday, January 27, 2014
When did pranks turn into vandalism?
I was a teenage vandal.
- Monday, January 13, 2014
Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
Jan. 7 is always a big celebration day in the D'Imperio family. My twin sisters, Teri and Mary, plus my youngest daughter, Katie, all share it as a birthday. The date, however, is not without a dark significance.
- Monday, December 30, 2013
Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013
The year 2013 is drawing to a close and as it does I would like to give a tip of the hat and a fond goodbye to a group of famous people who left the world stage. Their departures will be noted here in this column although they may have missed a final adios in the major media outlets. Letâ€™s give them their moment in the sun.
- Monday, December 16, 2013
Reunions all the sweeter amid WWII
There is nothing like running into old friends in the most unexpected places. Like on a vacation, or in a mall or even in the supermarket. It is always a time for a â€œHail and how are you?â€� moment.
- Monday, December 2, 2013
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
I haven't gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
- Monday, November 4, 2013
Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
I am going to be a grandfather.
- Gilbert Lake a jewel among N.Y. parks