Ancestors, Legends & Time

The life of a Daily Sentinel paper boy

Picture of Jeanne Newby

Jeanne Newby

May 29, 2024

Jerry Meslin, from the Class of ’56, shared a memory with us. Let’s take a trip into the life of a paper boy around 1950 or 1951 throwing the Webb City Daily Sentinel.

Paper Boy…daily paper delivery each week – Monday through Saturday. No paper on Sundays or Holidays. Paid for holidays. Delivery was after school and noon on Saturdays… no matter the weather.

I started delivering the Webb City Daily Sentinel in the seventh grade. I threw around 60 papers, Monday through Saturday, for $1.50 a week. We had to fold, knot, and throw from a bicycle using a cloth bag my mother had sewn. I also threw the weekly Wise Buyer on Thursday evenings. There were probably 200 to 300 papers and I was paid an additional $1.60. A total of $3.10 a week, I was rich. My mother made me another bag for the Wise Buyer route due to the number of papers. Both routes were in the north end; Roane east to Devon and Daugherty. No machine folded the papers, just the paper boy.

Close to Christmas, some of the people would give a paper boy a gift. We boys became very good at throwing the paper close to the door of each house. Paper boys knew almost everyone on their route. We knew that dogs not chained or inside of a fence would chase us. We would use a water pistol mixed with ammonia and shoot the dog in the eye to stop them from chasing us. That dog would not bother you anymore. In those days, there were no gears on bicycles and larger tires.

Paper boys got to know the workers at the Webb City Sentinel office on the east side of Main Street. Hal Wise was the owner; Archie and John were Linotype operators. In those days, there were no computers, all work was done by hand to put out a daily Sentinel and weekly Wise Buyer. Bill set the type, prepared frames holding the type, and operated the printing press in the basement. Charley sold ads, Jack helped fold the Wise Buyers for delivery. There was no air conditioning then.

In the ninth grade, I got the “big route;” south and west… south of Broadway Street to the end of town and west of Roane Street to edge of town. 400 papers, hand folded and knotted. I would sit on the right front fender of Dad’s car, and he would drive me on that route. It paid $2 or $3 a week. I was rich with my $1.60 from the Wise Buyer added in; $3.60 or $4.60 a week. The Sentinel daily copy was 10 cents each. The paper boys were paid on Saturday at noon and we went to the bakery across the street at 10 ½ S. Main to buy warm bread for 5 cents. We would eat it all without butter.

In the 10th grade, I quit throwing papers and went to work inside the office. Archie was replaced by Morris as the Linotype operator, The other workers were the same except young Charles folded, rolled with wide wrapper with addresses and took them to the post office for mail delivery. I set type and printed forms; swept the floors; helped prepare frames to run papers; did maintenance on the large printing press; melted lead for Linotypes and used in paper; proofread lines for paper before printing; cleaned spacers for Linotype in graphite; and loaded the truck with large sheets for the newspaper. No two-wheel dolly was available to move boxes, all hand-carried by two of us. I liked working there.

I have wanted to write this memory for years. So I finally decided to do so. I hope some of the other carriers who worked there when I did get to read this and share the memory. I do enjoy reading the Sentinel and staying up to date on the activities of my hometown where I grew up and graduated from the old three-story Webb City High School. We had a good class of kids. I recall things by looking at my King Jack of 1956 – best class!

Thank you, Jerry for sharing your memory and taking the rest of us with you on your journey down memory lane.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.