Our Northwest

Newspaper shacks gone the way of front-porch delivery

Wednesday, September 21, 2016by  Jon Osterberg
A MyNorthwest.com story asks, whatever became of Seattle’s newspaper shacks?
     If you’re a high-school sophomore or younger, “newspaper shack” might not register with you. But as the article explains, until around the year 2000, The Seattle Times depended on “an army of 3,000 adolescents to deliver the bulk of its product every single day.”
     Times couriers would deliver the newspapers in bundles to wooden shacks each afternoon on weekdays and Saturdays, and on Sunday mornings. Youthful carriers would go there to package their allotment and deliver them.
     The Times was a preferred newspaper employer for youths before March 2000, because until then it was an afternoon publication. Kids who delivered the rival Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a morning paper, had to rise very early and finish delivering by 7 a.m.
     It also was around 2000 that the “paperboy era” faded. Increasingly, adults took on delivery jobs, using cars to travel their routes. Print newspapers dwindled as online editions captured a growing share of the market.
     But back in the day of newspaper shacks, two of my PEMCO colleagues peddled papers.
     Jill was a Times carrier at ages 12 and 13, collecting her bundles each day at the shack next to Maple Leaf Elementary in Wedgewood. She went to the shack at 3:15 p.m. on weekdays, but for the weekend morning editions she was there at 5 a.m.
     Jill was the only girl to deliver from that Wedgewood shack in 1977-78. Most carriers were boys. She delivered her newspapers on foot, walking her route and either pulling a cart or wearing a canvas bag loaded with papers.
     “I enjoyed it,” she said. “I got to pet lots of dogs on my route and never had a bad experience with one.
     “The worst part of the job was collecting,” she recalled. “Sometimes people weren’t home, or they’d have no money and I had to come back later.”
     Sunday mornings were easier. Because the thick Sunday papers were so heavy, Jill’s dad drove her to the 68 homes on her route,
     My colleague Jerry delivered the Everett Herald for five years, from age 10 through 15. His route covered 50 houses in Lake Forest Park on both sides of the King-Snohomish county line.
     Jerry didn’t report to a shack. Instead, carriers’ bundles of the Herald were left inside a metal 55-gallon drum mounted on legs, stationed at a neighborhood street corner. Jerry fetched his bundle at 3:15 p.m. after school each weekday, plus early on Saturday mornings, and he delivered them with his 10-speed bike.
     “I had a rack over the rear wheel, and I threw the carrier bag over the rack,” Jerry said. “In the winter it got dark at 4:30, and I remember dragging my bike through snow to deliver papers.”
     Most carriers didn’t work for five consecutive years, and for his efforts Jerry was named the Herald’s Carrier of the Year at age 15.
     As for his earnings, Jerry saved them to enhance his first car, a 1970 yellow Dodge Challenger he bought at age 16.

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