Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Old Newsboys- please, a favor and burn barrels

I worked so hard to keep my corner tidy. I worked so hard I nearly got arrested.

I used to sell newspapers like the "Old Newsboys". Once a year, they would come out and sell the Globe-Democrat, at the time it was just around going under. They sold it as that name for years after they folded.

Once a year in the fall, the corner got taken over by old folks for a day during the week and they sold copies of this charitable fundraiser edition. It was very cute. All these old guys, moms, dads and a few kids took over the corner for a day selling papers.

And once a year, the newspaper stand got trashed. They moved the box around, overfilled the burn barrel with garbage and unsold copies and generally uncleaned grounds around my box. I would have to pick up every week, but this was way way more clutter than usual.

I was slightly annoyed, but I knew it was a charitable cause and at least some old guys and their kids got to know what it was like to stand out all day selling papers on the corner.

So I will ask all the "Old Newsboys" to try to keep the areas around the newspaper stands free of clutter. And I will ask all good Americans to consider picking up a paper on the street corner.

But how did I nearly get arrested by trying to keep my corner tidy?

I moved over to Geyer where the stand was higher circulation and closer to home. I was able to hitch a ride with the news truck and get a free ride. I remember waiting on my porch and then running along the side of it and jumping into the moving truck. I thought that was way too much fun. Mike, my boss at the Post could of stopped I am sure. But he didn't. Time was money. I would help him unload papers at Walgreens, National, grocery stores, other news stands and the gas stations on the way to my stand. This was way too much fun. I was required to carry a knife in the sixth grade so I could cut open the bundles of newspapers. I thought that was cool. And my stand was now on a traffic island which was extra cool.

At my stand, Mike would toss the papers at me from the truck. Multiple bundles of twenty to forty comics and ad circulars, ten to twenty covers and ten to twenty classifieds of the three star Sundays would hit me in the chest and I would stack them next to my box. So much fun. And then he was gone.

It was the middle of the summer on one of these afternoons and I noticed at the beginning of my six hour shift that the trash can was overflowing from the burn barrel. And what was I to do? How was I to get rid of the trash?

I lit up the barrel. I knew that would solve the problem. Sometimes people would come up and complain to me that the barrel was on fire. But not usually. But I usually only lit it up in the bitter cold. Nobody complained when I was out there in sub zero temperatures and I had that barrel at full tilt with wood I brought from home.

But it was summer. And that barrel was burning. A couple of cops showed up. I told them what my boss told me. "I got a permit!" My boss had the permit. Or that is what he told me. It was funny, for all my years at the different stands, the only time I had personally interacted with cops was to give them a free paper. I knew they were keeping an eye on me, which was good, but we never had much conversation other than me saying thank you after giving them a paper. They talked to my boss all the time. They got along real well with Mike, so I knew it was okay. He knew all the cops. There are even more stories about that, but that is for another post.

The cops told me I couldn't light my barrel up, but I knew that wasn't true, for I had lit up that barrel for years to keep warm and no one stopped me. Now that I was trying to keep my corner tidy I was getting trouble from the police. I agreed to put the fire out, but it was too late. I got a ticket. I started to put out the fire myself anyway, and it was pretty much out, but then a big fire truck showed up. The big Kirkwood fire truck. It was so embarrassing. And bad for business. I pleaded with the fire department to go away. I was losing business every minute I was there. I sold a paper about every three minutes. The truck scared away a ton of business. And it looked so bad. I lost about thirty sales all said and done.

I did manage to sell about 3/4 of my usual sale, but I was down a lot and I had a ticket. At the end of the night when Mike from the Post came to collect I told him about what happened. I was annoyed. He laughed. He tore up the ticket and threw the small pieces of paper into the air of the cab of the truck.

"You light up that barrel anytime you want."

I smiled. I knew it was okay. Mike was solid.

I learned a few things that day. I learned about cops. I learned about people. I learned about business. I also learned to not light up my burn barrel unless it was cold out. It was better to have an overflowing burn barrel than to have business interrupted by the authorities.


Blogger gerwitz said...

Awesome story. Do 6th graders still man stands in Kirkwood?

8:04 AM  
Blogger Steven Fitzpatrick Smith said...

I am fairly certain they do not sell the three stars on Saturday nights anymore. I don't usually run in the K-town area on Saturdays, but the metal box stands are no longer on Geyer or the other stand on Sappington. I think the Sunday might still be sold at Saint Petes Church. I did that one too in the morning and early afternon. For some reason it was easier to get kids to do that one even though it was lower circulation.

Tis funny, for I see guys selling the paper at Tower Grove and Arsenal, and over at Arsenal and Grand. That is definitely not the same. The Stein crew has been in the newspaper business in one form or another over the years. Currently Molly and Tom sell the three star on Saturday nights at Saint Pius, but the circulation is way, way, way low there.

But there is/was a kid over at Saint Joan of Arc on Sundays. His mother often was at the stand with him which was unusual, but what was really strange was that she was wearing Muslim head gear. The one step down from a burka headwrap thing. That in front of a church was pretty amusing. God bless America.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Linking your posts with random trivia: Georgia Frontiere was First Lady of Old Newsboys Day in 2000.
- Anonymous Number One

4:23 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Here is the letter I wrote to the Post-Dispatch:

Dear Editor,

For as long as I have lived in St. Louis, I can recall the volunteers for Old Newsboys Day standing outside at intersections and one thing is always true: the weather is absolutely terrible. The volunteers are putting themselves at risk to the cars and the elements, and there is a risk for the drivers to have people walking between the lanes on a dark gray rainy morning. The cause may be just, but please pick a different time of year to hold this charity event.

John Ginsburg
St. Louis

4:17 PM  

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