The Baytown Sun, back in the old days, set a strict rule for newspaper carriers, better known as “paper boys.” Ride a bike or walk, circulation managers ordered, but don’t even think about throwing the rolled-up newspapers from a rolled-down car window, with mommy or daddy at the wheel. No moving vehicles allowed.
A rule didn’t exist, however, regarding bringing the news on horseback. Somehow that subject never came up – that is, not until one day, back in the late 1960s, Dean Vaag decided not to walk his paper route when his bike broke down. He had a better idea: Ride a horse.
Dean went straight to a friend’s riding stable on North Main and slapped a saddle on a horse named Jack.
Horseback riding happened to be one of Dean’s favorite past-times, but working his paper route on horseback was no recreational matter. He wouldn’t be riding the range over Glen Arbor Addition, delivering 130 papers, just for the fun of it. He had a job to do, making sure Baytown Sun customers on Grantham Street and Lloyd Lane received their papers and on time.
You’d think the sight of a paper boy riding a horse would draw double-takes from onlookers but it didn’t. No one, to Dean’s surprise, said a word. Not even a “Yee haw!”
Of course, this mode of transportation was only temporary. Dean got his bike fixed, and Jack returned to the stable, leaving his temporary job as a paper boy’s chauffeur.
Who knew that one day paper boys would be replaced by grown-ups in cars. The switch-over occurred at The Sun when it changed from an afternoon to morning publication. Early a.m. schedules hardly fit into schoolboys’ schedules.
Paper boys, in my day, were like mail carriers. We knew them by name and even where they lived. When I was growing up on Maryland Street, our Houston Chronicle carrier was Kosse Johnson, who lived a few houses up the street from us. He finally had to give up his paper route, which conflicted with football practice. Allen Cannon, our Baytown Sun carrier, also lived on Maryland Street but not on the same block. Years to come, Allen would serve as a city councilman and mayor of Baytown, and Kosse would make headlines as an All-American football star at Rice.
After Skeeter and I married and moved to the Lakewood subdivision, the neighborhood Baytown Sun paper boy was Bill Broyles Jr., who lived on Burnet Drive. Bill became the founding editor of Texas Monthly and a successful screenplay writer.
During my childhood in Old Baytown, I had to step over Baytown Sun canvass bags, bikes and newly rolled newspapers on the extra-long Louisiana Street sidewalk. Sun paper boys gathered there every afternoon to roll newspapers for their routes. Pedestrians had zig-zag around them because they wouldn’t budge. It was easier, in fact, to walk in the street or meander through Bergeron Park than to cope with the unmovable paper boys.
One more thing. I haven’t mentioned the fact there were no paper girls. (Girls couldn’t play Little League either.)
is a retired managing editor of The Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Wanda Orton.