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written by Norm:
Norm Blackburn
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Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Norm at
alohanrm@comcast.net
When I was a young boy, I did what most young boys with a bicycle did. I got a paper route. I lived in an upper middle class neighborhood in North Hollywood, California. Two doors down lived Bing Crosbyís in-laws and Bingís twin boys would often visit. In the next block the man who owned the Kerr Glass Jar Company. But I digress.

Living on a 25-cent weekly allowance was pretty hard what with all the Marvel Comics and Tootsie Rolls to buy. Girls didnít come into my life until later so I didnít have too many expenses. I think the paper route paid me about three dollars a month plus tips. Funny how people were always not at home on collection day.

My father worked at NBC so we were one of the first homes in the neighborhood to get a TV. It was small, with a seven-inch screen and only black and white, of course. Well, the TV came in very handy because I would invite the boys over to watch the after-school shows if they would help me fold newspapers. We had a big box of rubber bands and folded and banded the papers in no time. My mother would bring in cookies and milk while we folded and watched Hopalong Cassidy or The Lone Ranger or some other thrilling program.

The paper was the Valley Times. I read it because it published the Cub Scout news and the baseball results. This was long before major league baseball came to Los Angeles. I followed the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angles. Once in a while my dad would take me to the Gilmore Stadium to see the Stars. My favorite player was Al Lupian. He played first base and left field. But I digress again.

The Valley Times had a special Thursday shopper edition, which was all ads. It had to be delivered to every home on my route. Once in a while when they didnít sell enough ads, the paper was only a few pages thick. It was very hard to throw on the porches. My solution was to fold several papers together to give it enough heft to throw.

This was great until someone complained that they got three papers and only wanted one. The district manager for paper distribution came to our house and told my mother if I didnít throw only one paper at a time he would fire me. I was mortified. To get fired from my first job would be embarrassing to me, my family, to my school and probably to Al Lupian and to the Cub Scouts. So sometimes I had to get off my bike and walk up to every house and put the free paper on the porch. It was a lot of work. When it rained, as it seldom did in Southern California, I had to wrap each paper in a plastic sheet and tuck in the ends. They didnít have bags in those olden times. But that wasnít too bad because if it rained hard I had rainy day session at school and came home early. They could let us out early because we didnít have a playground session. No Red Rover or dodge ball.

My uncle worked as a pressman at a plant that printed the papers. He would come to our house and I noticed that he always had black ink under his fingernails. He told me he wore a paper hat that he made out of newspaper and he would lift the heavy curved plates onto the presses and then clean them later. He never did give me a paper hat. I would have worn it when I peddled my bike on the route.

The reason Iím telling you about the paper is that I am distressed that so many of the current great newspapers are going out of business or are on the brink of bankruptcy. The Rocky Mountain News and the Philadelphia Inquirer and maybe the San Francisco Chronicle are all gone or about to be. Even my local daily, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, has cut back coverage and pages. The Monday edition is so small no one could throw it on a porch, which isnít an issue because whoever delivers my paper can hardly get it across the sidewalk and if the paper is wet or doesnít get to us they do not re-deliver. They give you a day credit but you have to drive to the drugstore to get todayís paper.

The daily paper to most people over 18 is how we get our local news, including the Cub Scout events. We can keep track of who in our community gets promoted or dies or gets married or even gets robbed. We have a good sports section, which on most days is larger than the business section although I donít get much on the LA Dodgers or my alma mater, USC. I pay 50 cents an issue, which is a pretty good bargain but apparently not enough to sustain the costs of publishing.

So what to do about the newspaper industry that is so important to our daily life? How about a bailout? If we can give AIG and GM and Chrysler and the big banks billions of our dollars, how about giving the newspapers a few million? Chump change. The feds leak that much on the way to the mailbox. The congress puts more than that in earmarks and pork. Just think of all the delivery personís jobs they can save. After all, they still must buy Tootsie Rolls and comic books.

If you agree, write a letter to your editor.
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