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Prime Time: Jobs in youth left interesting memories

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
Prime Time: Jobs in youth left interesting memories
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Talking about paper routes and getting a bike reminds me of collecting and Allenbaugh's.

We paperboys met at the paper shack in the alley behind Craig's Pool Hall. We went into the rear door of Craig's only when it was bitterly cold and when the paper truck from Minneapolis was late due to snow. In 1949 and 1950, the Minneapolis Star was printed at its headquarter in Minneapolis. Then paper trucks would deliver the papers throughout Minnesota where we paperboys would pick them up and deliver them.


First, we had to count the number of papers we received to make sure they gave us the correct amount. Then we packed them into our paper bags and off we went in our own directions. I had the west side of Tracy because that is where I lived.

En route, I would always stop at Allenbaugh's Dairy for a triple-decker ice cream cone. Then I would continue onto my route enjoying the cone. One blizzardly, cold day, I came in to get my cone, and Mr. Allenbaugh chuckled. "Even today, Jeb, you're getting your cone!" "Yes, Mr. Allenbaugh," I responded, and away I went enjoying my cone in the middle of a blizzard.

I have always loved walking, so I enjoyed delivering papers. The only thing I did not like was the strap of the bag digging into my shoulder. I would periodically switch sides in order to get a little relief. Halfway through the route, the strap was no longer a problem.

The weight of 60 papers was quite heavy, and on Sundays was really heavy. With the heavy Sunday paper, we boys would wrap the strap around our foreheads with the bag over our back. That seemed to be less painful than on our soft shoulder muscles.

Every two weeks, we visited the homes we delivered to in order to collect. That was quite an experience. Occasionally I would run into somebody who did not want to pay, but I was persistent and they eventually got caught up. The other thing I noticed was the various smells of homes I visited. To this day I can remember some of the homes.

The great experience I had was meeting the many different people on the west side. I was not surprised but reassured with how nice people are. The vast majority of the people were kind and prompt with their payments. They treated me like a young businessman doing my work. I did not have any customers who looked down on me. They were kind and nice, and that was a great treat.

Like the postmen, we delivered papers every day regardless of the weather. During blizzards, I would follow cars going down the street if the plow had not gone through yet. It was a challenge, but I learned that almost every problem has a relatively simple solution. Just don't turn away and quit.

I delivered papers for two years. Then I got into carrying out groceries, which was also fun. Ed and Joyce Perseke ran the Red Owl store in downtown Tracy. They were very nice to my brother Bob and me. One of our friends, Jack, also worked for them one year.

A story about Jack is cute. He was loading shelves, and a lady came up to him and asked where the sanitary napkins were. In those days, the Kotex boxes were wrapped with paper from the meat department. Anything that had anything to do with sex and reproduction was unmentionable in those days. We never saw pregnant women on the streets. I did not realize this until I was in junior high and saw a teacher's wife walking downtown when she was well along. That was the first time I had seen a pregnant woman, other than my mother when she had David.

Jack was confused by the lady's request. He said to the lady: "The napkins are right over here, and I am sure they are sanitary." My brother informed Jack about what the lady was trying to find, and even I was told what was humorous about the situation.

We earned 65 cents an hour. One time Bob got the ordinary rate and I got only 55 cents. I was confused and asked Joyce if there had been a mistake. She explained that business had not been good that Saturday, so she paid me less. I did not argue with her, but I did tell her that I had worked as hard as Bob. She quickly made the correction.

In 10th grade, Bill Knutsen worked at the drug store across the street. On Saturdays, we worked from 8 in the morning until 10 at night. That was the night the farmers came into town, so we remained open to accommodate them.

After work, Bill and I would go over to Connie Grinde's house. I think she worked at Penney's. We three walked to her house. Her mom always had a fresh, frosted cake waiting for us to enjoy as we talked together in the kitchen. Bill and I walked home together. As I said before, walking was the way of life for us in the '50s.

Every Thanksgiving, the lutefisk was shipped into town. Outside of the Red Owl, there were two large wooden barrels filled with lutefisk. Lutefisk was white fish that was soaked in lye - like in the old country. Of course, that was Norway. The barrels stank to high heaven. When somebody wanted some, we lifted the top and pulled out what they wanted and then wrapped it in heavy, red paper from the meat counter.

There were no carts available for carrying out the groceries. We boys often carried a bag in each arm and cradled one in the middle. The customers helped with whatever was left. Warm or cold, we were in our shirtsleeves while we carried the groceries. Why? I don't know. It's just the way we did it. I guess I have not ever been worried about the cold. Maybe that was one of the reasons.

Like somebody says occasionally, "It's all in your head." Whether that is true or not, I don't know. The only weather I hate is when it is hot and humid. Our summers in Tracy were noted for that kind of weather.

We were in the snow belt of Minnesota and in the hot/humid area, too. One of the things I have always liked about "up north" is that it is cooler and not so humid.

Pioneer staff reports