Friday, October 03, 2014

buttonholed by history

Treasure troves abound when moving house.

Take this button.  Darrel found it in one of his boxes during the move to their new home in Bend.

When he showed it to me, it may have as well been part of someone else's life.  But it wasn't.  It was a shared memento from our youth.

Against the wishes of our father, both of us became paperboys for The Oregonian -- the state's newspaper of record.  That is, if you were a Republican.  Democrat's read The Oregon Journal.

Dad was a Democrat, at the time.  But that was not his objection.  He fully understood, as Herbert Hoover pointed out in the recruitment brochure, that being a newsboy was a short course in business management.

And that was the problem.  He said he could drive us to houses in Coquille where newspaper subscribers still owed him money from his days of delivering newspapers.  Probably for The World.

But we disregarded his advice.  I must have been 11 when I got my first route.  Darrel got a neighboring route the next year when he was 10.  I remember delivering newspapers for the 1960 election.  When Marilyn Monroe died.  And during the Cuban missile crisis.

The high point of our entrepreneurial days, though, came in 1962 and 1963.  In 1962, we earned enough credits, by signing up new subscribers, to win a trip to the World's Fair in Seattle -- along with a side trip to Victoria.  For some reason, I recall only the Victoria trip.  And the ferry ride there -- over some of the same waters I would sail each summer in coming years.

Without the button that Darrel found, I could only vaguely remember the trip we won to Disneyland the next year.  Apparently, it included a trip to Marineland, as well.  But there is nothing in my memory bank on that visit.

As Darrel and I started talking about the trip, the detritus of memory started floating to the surface.  The hotel rooms were crowded.  Two or three boys to a bed.  I remember pulling a temporary cap off of a tooth (probably with a piece of candy), and sticking it back on with airplane glue.

And, just like the trip to Seattle and Victoria the year before, our supervision was minimal.  At 12 and 14, we wandered the streets of Los Angeles and the parks at Disneyland and Marineland.  We may have been suburban boys, but our adult supervisors allowed us to develop our own street sense in a new world.

Darrel did a bit of research on 1963 prices.  A child admission to Disneyland was $1.20.  A booklet of tickets for ten rides was $3.25.  For fifteen rides, $4.50.  Of course, a monthly subscription to the newspaper was only $1.95 back then -- if I remember correctly.

I think that trip was my last hurrah as a newsie.  I was on the cusp of becoming a shagger.  The kid who rode around in a truck and ran to the newspaper coin boxes and newsstands with the latest editions -- both in the early morning and late afternoon.

My Dad was correct about one thing.  There are still people who owe me money for delivering their newspaper.  Of course, most of them are dead.  But I did learn a lot about what business is all about.

As for Disneyland, let me leave you with this link.  The filmed memories of this family in 1963 look a lot like Disneyland today.  Maybe that is why the place continues to be popular.  We never quite escape across its borders -- no matter our age.

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