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My First Bicycle…It’s An Elgin…

Story ID:8955
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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My First Bicycle…It’s An Elgin…
By Chuck Dishno

I was about 12 years old and in the seventh grade, when a man representing the Herald and News, a Klamath Falls newspaper visited us boys in the seventh and eighth grades. He was looking to establish a home delivery route and was recruiting a paper boy.

He only needed one since Bly was a town of less than 400 people. The route would cover Bly from one end to the other, a distance of about a mile. The man said he was looking for a hard working boy with a bicycle, willing to make home deliveries 6 evening a week. The Herald and News didn’t have a Sunday edition at that time. The boy would be trained on how to recruit new customers, then collect for the service at the end of the month. He would then take his commission out of the proceeds, and then send the balance to the newspaper office in Klamath Falls. This was an opportunity for an enterprising boy to make 20 to 30 dollars a month.

Apparently the thought of recruiting 40 or 50 new customers, picking up the papers when the Red Ball Stage dropped them off about 4pm, folding them, walking or riding over a mile in all kinds of weather didn’t appeal to anyone there. But I was a glutton for punishment and was the only one to raise his hand.

The poor old newspaper man was clearly disappointed, especially when he took a good look at me. I was a scrawny 12 year old and I don’t think I was what he was looking for. He was a nice guy though and when he couldn’t get anyone else interested he sat me down and explained procedure.

The first thing he asked me was if I had a bicycle. I said that I didn’t actually own one but a boarder we had living with us would let me use his until I could buy my own. The man thought that arrangement would be OK but needed my Mom’s approval. I knew Mom would give her OK since she always told me I would have to make my own way through life. What I didn’t tell the man was even though, I had access to a bicycle, I had never ridden one.

As soon as he left, I decided it was time I learned to ride. The boarder was gone for the rest of the week, so I propped the bike against my Pop’s old Pontiac and pushed off. Needless to say, my first attempt wasn’t a thing of beauty but by the time I made it down to town, a distance of about 4 blocks, I was getting the hang of the balancing act. On the way back I crashed a couple of times but by the end of the week I felt like I could ride as good as anyone.

The man came back the next week with the recruiting packet and some good news. He told me that the Herald and News had just started a paperboy contest and the one who brought in the most new customers in the next 30 days would get Hallicrafters AM and 5 band short wave radio as first prize. He felt that I was sure to win since this was a new route in virgin territory; I was bound to pick up at least 30 new subscriptions. He also said that the winner would get his picture in the paper. I was really excited and ready to go that evening.

I will have to admit that I was a very shy person, but the thought of making some money and the possibility of buying a brand new bicycle gave me the courage to proceed. Luck seemed to be with me or maybe it was my charming personality but by the end of the evening I had about 10 new subscribers. I was really excited at reaching almost half of my goal for the week. Over the next week or so I had signed up almost 50 people.

The next week my first batch of papers arrived on the Red Ball Stage and I was off on my new venture, albeit a bit shaky trying to balance the bicycle while trying to throw with some degree of accuracy.
By the end of my first month I had made my collections, and had made a profit of about $25.00 and had won the contest. A few days later the newspaper man came to Bly with my new radio and a photographer to take a picture of me with my newspaper bag over my shoulder.

All that month I had been drooling over the Sears and Roebuck catalog at the various bicycles for sale. For one thing I didn’t know how much money I would have to spend and if I wanted to spend it all at one time on a bike. At this point my reasoning kicked it. I knew that if I kept up the route and continued to gain subscribers I would have a steady income each month, besides I really wanted the best bicycle I could get, if for no other reason, to show off to those boys who had turned down the opportunity.

My mind was made up and I selected the most expensive and beautiful model in the catalog. It was a balloon tire Elgin and came complete with steer horn handlebars, basket, tank with a push button horn in it, generator for headlights and taillights. It also had a rack over the rear fender, a great place to drape my paper bags or give a buddy a ride. It was loaded with chrome and the colors were blue and white…Beautiful!

I couldn’t wait any longer so I picked up the telephone and called Sears in Klamath Falls. They assured me that they had the bike in stock and it would be delivered the next day on the Red Ball Stage. Those were the days when your word was your bond and I agreed to send them the $18.75 by return mail. That was a lot of money in those days but worth every penny.

The next day my bike arrived on schedule along with my daily load of papers. It was crated and needed to be assembled so I had to wait until I had made my deliveries. I think I made record time on that day’s delivery and as soon as I got back home, I spent the next couple of hours assembling my new mode of transportation. It was dark out but that was even better as I could ride downtown with me headlight and tail light blazing. Naturally all the boys wanted to take it for a spin but I refused, saying that they could have done the same as I did if they weren’t so lazy. I did give in a few days later; after all I am not a total jerk.

I kept that paper route for over 3 years, making my deliveries on my bicycle in good weather but when the roads became slick with snow and ice I would hook my sled to my dog’s collar and to my knowledge I never missed a delivery.

Now when I see kids riding their bicycles, jump off and let them crash to the ground, I feel sorry for them because they apparently don’t know the value and good feeling for something they actually had to earn for themselves and not rely on Poppa to pay the bill.

This story took place 65 years ago and now as I am in the queue for my entrance through those Pearly Gates, I am hoping that if they have a Heavenly newspaper, I qualify for a delivery route. Maybe I can find an old Elgin in a Heavenly yard sale, but if not am sure my faithful old dog, Wags, will be there ready to be harnessed up.