By Arthur H. Gunther III
When I was
21 and had not yet set the sail of life’s direction, perhaps even adrift
for a time in calm waters but in a dinghy with rapids in view, I took a
part-time job as a “flyboy,” the person who catches newspapers as they
come off the fly or end point of the press. It wasn’t a difficult thing,
but you had to pay attention, and that was just right for the young
fellow I was.
There were two flyboys, one on either side of the
conveyor, and “Chet” would grab 25 or 50 papers, and then I would get
the next batch. On most days, the count was 50 for The Journal-News, a
daily in Rockland County, N.Y., light enough for one person to lift and
then swing around and deposit on a handcart. On the heavier advertising
days of Wednesday, maybe Thursday, too, the count was 25 because of the
thicker papers. After the handcarts were filled, others would take the
papers to be bundled at wrapping stations. The bundles would go to
carriers for delivery to newsboys.
Eventually, early on in what
would become my 42-year newspaper career, and just before I became a
copy boy and spent the rest of my time in the newsroom, I also ran the
bundling machine, delivered papers to the boys and girls who were our
afternoon team and even hand-delivered to homes and business.
(One day, when I was a copy boy and had managed to get a story and
photograph printed as an enterprise effort — which is how you then rose
in the news business — I wrote the story, engraved the photo, delivered
my copy to Composing to be set in type, went to Circulation, bundled
papers, took the bundles and delivered them, a great experience. In a
small way, I handled the “baby” — the story and photo, the publication,
the delivery — from beginning to end, a privilege.)
As a flyboy,
and more important as someone trying to find himself, which we all must
do, the gods paired me with Chet, who had been installation manager for
the New York Telephone Co. in Rockland but who, according to old
company rules, had to retire at 65. Yet he felt young, had a family in
Nyack and wanted to work. So he took a humbling, part-time job, this man
of great experience who directed so many. The contrast between him and
me could not have been greater.
Chet was a kindly sort, a gifted
asset for his co-worker, and he offered life encouragement as well as a
work ethic and both modesty and confidence. There could have been no
better schooling for me at that point. Together with “Art,” another
Telephone company retiree from Nyack who worked various jobs in
Circulation, these two gave me a chance at aspiration.
A gift for which I am continually grateful.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at email@example.com.