Monday, January 31, 2011

The Paperboy

Yesterday's mention of Niswander's Newstand set my mind wandering on my run this morning.  When I had a paper route, Niswander's was where the Greyhound Bus dropped my newspapers.  The driver would flip open the baggage bay and toss wire-wrapped bundles of Toledo Blades onto the sidewalk.  I'd search for the bundle with my name on it, twist the wire off, roll up each paper and slip a rubber band around it.  Meanwhile, the guy with the gray cap would pop inside to see if any passengers were waiting.  He'd be long gone by the time I'd filled my bicycle basket and spun off to make about 30 customers happy.  Friends envied my $3.50 weekly take, back when 60 cents bought a baker's dozen of doughnuts, more if you kept the clerk talking and she lost count.

A friend, I don't remember who, introduced me to sin at Niswander's.  He insisted they made the best lemon and cherry cokes.  After months, maybe years, of claiming bundles of newspapers out front without sitting inside, he coaxed me to the fountain counter.  To me, this was about as decadent as entering Joe's Bar down the block.  We didn't have pop (soda) at our house, except on Independence Day, when Dad took our orders and brought each of us our own 10-ounce bottle from the A&P.  I felt independent that day at Niswander's, looking around hoping someone would see me.

After weeks of rumors and uncertainty, sometime in the mid-1960s, the baggage bay of the Greyhound Bus came to town empty.  "Toledo Blade on Strike" I think was the Lima News headline.  I returned home empty-handed, with mixed feelings about my first forced vacation.

A few years later, this member of Retail Clerks International found himself involved in another strike, at the local Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co.  I collected a small part-time employee's stipend and occasionally marched a sign along the edge of the store's parking lot.  No scab here, I felt responsible, having filed and won a grievance complaint at age 16.

"I guess you won't be striking around here any time soon," says Virginia.

Pretty rare here, in a right-to-work state.

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