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The Way We Were

Story ID:7491
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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By Chuck Dishno

I am sitting in my car in the Safeway parking lot while my wife, Roz, is doing some grocery shopping. As I sit here and watch people come and go I canít help notice and reflect on how things are now and the way they were when I grew up I in the 1930ís and 40ís.

At that time I lived in the small logging town of Bly, Oregon located in the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon. Bly had a population of about four or five hundred. I now live in Dillon, Montana with a population of about four thousand. The size doesnít make much difference as much as the people and the times.

What prompted me to write this was watching two boys on nice bicycles ride up to the Safeway doors and jump off their bikes, let inertia carry the bikes a few more feet and crash on the cement. The boys never looked back but just kept walking into the store. It was obvious that they never had to buy their own bicycles or anything else for that matter. Their life seems to revolve around rudeness, and disrespect, not only for their own possessions, but others too.

Now, I am the first to admit that I was no angel when I grew up but it certainly was a different era. I recall how much I yearned for a new bicycle. The Sears catalog had one for $18.75 but that was a ton of money in 1945. I was 12 years old and the only way I could make money was to pick dandelions for 5 cents per hundred or to sell beer bottles at 1 cent each. I would never ask my dad for money to buy my bike so it was left to me to earn it myself.

Fortunately, about that time a man representing the Herald & News, the Klamath Falls daily newspaper came to the Bly School and asked if there was anyone who was interested in a paper route. At that time, Bly had no local delivery and anyone wanting the paper had to have it sent from Klamath Falls by U.S. Mail. There didnít seem to be any takers for the job as most of the boys were getting an allowance and didnít want to work that hard.

The man said the papers would be delivered by bus each day about 4pm and the paperboy had to meet the bus then take the papers home and fold them so that they could be thrown with some degree of accuracy.

Since there were no existing subscribers in Bly, it was up to the new paperboy to solicit his own. It sounded like a lot of work but maybe it was an opportunity for me to get the bicycle that I so desperately wanted.

When I volunteered to take the route, the man wasnít too impressed as I was fairly young to take on such a responsibility. The next thing he asked me was if I had a bicycle. I couldnít lie and tell him the reason I wanted the job was to buy one so I said that I had access to one. In fact, I had never ridden a bike but didnít dare tell him that.

My folks, at that time, had a boarder who was a high school student but live on a ranch and couldnít make it to school in the winter so he stayed with us and he had an old beat up bike that he kept at my house. He would go home on the weekends and so I decided I would borrow his bike and teach myself to ride. Of course I didnít tell the newspaper man of my plan. He finally agreed to let me have the job and after giving me some training on folding papers and soliciting customers.

I started that evening and over the weekend I had walked from one end of Bly to the other and solicited about 40 or 50 customers. This really impressed the paper man when I called them in to him on Monday and he told me of an on going contest to see which paper boy could get the most new customers in Klamath County. As the contest had just ending that week I won it hands down.

The first prize was a Hallicrafters AM and 5 band, short wave radio. I was delighted and the next week a photographer from the Herald & News came to Bly and took my picture with the new radio to be printed in the next dayís paper.

My first batch of papers was to arrive in a few days and I still didnít know how to ride a bicycle. Our boarder had gone home for the weekend so without telling him of my plans, I leaned the bike up against my Dadís car, got on and pushed myself off down the driveway. Needless to say, I wobbled and weaved all the way down the street, a distance of about 3 blocks, and by the time I reached the grocery store on the corner I had semi-mastered the art of bicycle riding. The next week was spent in practicing and by the time my first load of papers arrived I was very proficient at riding and throwing papers.

I had to borrow the boarderís bike, with his permission, for the next month until I could collect from my customers and hopefully make enough to send for my own bike.

At the end of the month, I made my collections and found that I had made a grand total of $21.00 profit. Since this was enough to pay for a new Sears Elgin bicycle, I called the Sears store in Klamath Falls and placed the order to be delivered the next day on the Red Ball Stage Line, $18.75, COD.

My bicycle arrived along with my daily papers and I took time to assemble it so that I could make my deliveries in grand style. What a bike it was! It had a horn, headlight, taillight and even tassels for the handlebar grips. I was the envy of all the kids in school and I had earned it all by myself.

I kept that paper route for about 3 years and not once in all the years that I owned that beautiful bicycle did I ever abuse it like those kids did in front of the Safeway store. It makes a real difference when you have to earn the money and pay for your own bike. This is something that our kids of today donít learn. They seem to think that this is a throwaway world. Maybe if we insisted that they earn their possessions they would take better care of them.

We really were different in those days. World War II had just ended and times were hard but we made do with what we had. Unlike these modern times where kids have anything they want and have no respect for it because they have nothing invested it except a little whining to their parents. All they want to do is stay in the house and play their video games and watch the garbage on their TV channels. When I grew up the last thing we wanted to do was to stay indoors.

To be continued,soon, with the Seasons of Bly, not what you might thinkÖ