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Sunnyside Paper Boys

by Richard Diem

          Get a job, yes, I could barely wait until I was twelve years old, and then I could go to the Long Island Star Journal office on 49th Street near Skillman Avenue and start earning some money for myself, well not all of it exactly because I always had to contribute a little something to the household. “What about tips?”  “What tips, mom?”  I delivered for at least three years on the route on 40th Street and 39th Place and built it up to well over 100 customers. 

          The best I remember was when my boss, Mr. Mack put up a big chart for the Daytona Beach, Florida contest and tracked it with stars next to our name for each new order we got. Knocking on doors and, “Come on help me please win a contest.”  Wow, 75 orders needed, and I was out every night discovering all the many apartment houses in Sunnyside, and people did open doors then. “Come on, please, you only have to take it for thirteen weeks, help me win a trip to Florida.”  Well, lucky me, I did win, and with other paper boys from Queens, we had a fun week with just one supervisor who we rarely saw.  Were we rowdy?  Well, I think the hotel was glad to see us go.

          It was around this time when I was promoted to be the Sunday Station Master.  The job was to get up early Sunday morning and open up the office to set up all the routes.  Then after everybody picked up their papers, I would do my own.  I had a big cart with a cover that my stepfather built from an old carriage for my heavy Sunday papers.  On most other days I used my bike.  At the same time I had weekend jobs at Whelan’s, and then, Worth Drug Store. This was followed by McCrory’s and Woolworth’s 5 &10 cent stores on Greenpoint Avenue. I had a lot of truly good job memories and I surely always had a job with some ice cream money in my pocket. I bought a lot of ice cream quarts from Seltzers candy store on 40th Street.

The Young Station Master

a poem by Richard Diem

Through shadows he rode

In the still of the night

As if he had wings

To fly from his fright

Three a.m. Sunday morning

No people were out

Except the few drunkards

Who staggered about

He sneaked out the window

Not making a peep

To set up the routes

While mom thinks he’s asleep

He raced through the night

On his bike pedaling fast

His heart beating loudly

As each street he passed

Faster and faster

Feeling the strain

Of visions before him

Like Ichabod Crane

Now at the office

Papers piled by the door

Need the touch of his hand

As each Sunday before

Now safely inside

He relished the scene

This boy is in charge

And only fourteen

All routes would be ready

Before the sunrise

The young Station Master

Grown up and streetwise.

Ichabod Crane.JPG

When I moved to Sunnyside around 1943, I entered P.S. 150.   Right away, in my first class room, there were no available seats, “Move over if you would Joel,” and I squeezed in, so Joel and I shared a seat of beginning and lasting friendship.  I went on to J.H.S. 125 and then Long Island City High School.  I graduated in 1954 at 17, and enlisted in the USMC for three years.  Since retiring I have worked as a caregiver for mostly men with Alzheimer’s.

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