The Toughest Dollar That I Ever Made

I bet we all have war stories regarding having a tough time making a buck or two. I did have some sorry jobs in my life. I don’t mean to disparage anyone, but the worst job I ever had was being a paperboy back in the mid 1960’s. I was 14-years old and in the 8th grade and was so proud when I got a paper route near my neighborhood. You younger people would not know this, but back in those days we walked the routes and had to put the papers on the porch of every home on our route. We even had to roll up the papers and put rubber bands around each one before we dropped it off on the doorstep. My route was a little over 100 homes. At 4:00 AM every morning – and I’m talking about 7-days a week, I’d be in a fog while being drug out of bed by my dad. I’d stagger to the closet and get my clothes on, and then scurry off on my bicycle to the drop-off point where the route manager would leave my papers. Drop off points were always the front porches of someone’s home on a paperboy’s route where the home owner had given permission. Those homes had just one requirement, their front porch overhang would be big enough to keep the rain off of us (on rainy days), while we gathered our papers into canvas satchels that would flip around once we emptied out one side to start on the other. It was an easy job in the summer months because the weather was nice and I could crawl back into bed for a few more hours sleep. But then winter came, and with school going on, I slept through practically all of my classes. And hey, I know that I am a sissy compared to your northern boys who walked your routes in minus -0 degree weather, but in the dead of winter the temperature could get down into the 30’s around these parts and when sleety rain showed up, I was about as miserable as I’ve ever been. It was way worse than later when I was drafted into the Army and went through the sickening heat and humidity of Fort Polk, Louisiana during my basic training.

After delivering the morning paper to over 100 homes a day, seven days a week for a whole month, it was then time to go collect our earnings. The way it worked, I had to go door to door in the early evenings to collect the princely sum of $2.25 per home. And, I had to pay the local newspaper route manager 70% of each $2.25. So, after a month of getting out of bed seven days a week in the middle of the night, sometimes in horribly bone chilling cold or rainy weather – or both, 100 homes on my route means that I earned the princely sum of $67.50 per month. And that was if everybody paid up, and not everybody did.

I kept that job for six months before I quit. My last month on the job was January of 1966. And to this day, the year 1966  was the worst winter on record in Waco, Texas. We even had snow 3-times that year when most years we didn’t have any! Anyway, that last month was cold and nasty just about every morning and in the evenings when I went to collect the money at the end of that month (the weather was still nasty), I collected just enough money to pay the route manager what was due the newspaper company, and then told him I was quitting as of immediately, and got on my bicycle and peddled home as fast as I could. All the rest of the people who were on my route that had not yet paid, got a freebie that month and I didn’t care. And when I got home that night, I looked in my money bag and I still had a dollar left over.

Fast forward fifty-four years. I’m sitting here in my shop doing some paperwork when the mail arrives. One letter looked very interesting. It was my mailing address and instead of being addressed to Steve Fallon, it was addressed to “PIPEDUD” in large block letters. Yes, that’s right, not PIPESTUD, but PIPEDUD. I thought that whoever wrote the letter just misspelled the name. Anyway, I opened the letter and there was a note in it from a customer and a one dollar bill. the note was short and to the point:

Dear PIPEDUD,

“Two weeks ago I got suckered into making my first and what will be my last purchase from your website. I wasted $90 purchasing a tin of Dunhill Nightcap from 1998. Because you wrote some flowery prose in your description about the blend being one of history’s most famous tobaccos, I went ahead and wasted good money by purchasing the tin. When I smoked it last night after dinner it immediately made me nauseous. Five puffs later my dinner was all over my living room floor where I barfed it all up. The sensation of the nicotine rush was so severe that I didn’t even have time to stagger to the bathroom. Enclosed is a one dollar tip for your services. It would have been a penny but I couldn’t find one.”

Happy puffing,

Steve