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Along Twin Ponds Road

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By Ray Willis

Trudging through 4 or more feet of snow in less than 20-degree weather and/or sweating profusely in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees were just part of the many experiences that this newspaper boy and his helpers, two younger brothers and a sister, underwent in our quest to get our newspapers delivered.

I started delivering the Hartford Times when I was 8 years old.   We were living in a section of Southington, Conn., about 25 miles south of Hartford.  Most of the neighborhood thought the paper wouldn’t do them much good with the focus of its news so far away.

In another year or so I was also delivering the Meriden Journal and the New Haven Register, which also had a Sunday edition.  My customers increased in number rapidly, especially with Meriden being our neighboring town.

I delivered these papers daily on foot without fail, no matter what the weather was nor how much homework or studying I had to do.   That old Pony Express slogan always rang through my mind: “The mail must go through!” The papers must be delivered! My father made sure of that.

I was so excited by my friendly, caring customers. What a wonderful, lasting impression they left on me! This was a generation of families appreciative, and excited and happy, after having had their husbands and fathers returned home safely to them, alive, within the past 5 years from the military and World War II.

The wives usually answered the door on Saturday mornings when I made my collections. They were almost always as pleasant as could be. Most were able to pay the weekly charge. Of course, a few were unable to pay regularly, just didn’t like paying one more bill or simply were not home.

How I hated going back a second time to collect the money, but my father insisted that I do it the very next day. Sunday! I hated to bother people on Sunday, even way back then.

Can you imagine paying 40 cents a week for a daily newspaper, including the Sunday edition?  The New Haven Register then cost 4 cents per day for the daily and 16 cents for Sunday’s special edition.

After 2 years of delivering the newspapers alone my brothers, Don, now  8, and Ken 6, began helping me out. I don’t remember how willing they were. We were now also delivering the Hartford Courant, a morning paper and the Southington News, a weekly.  We had easily over 50 customers and delivered 100 or more papers as several families ordered more than one paper from us.

The money was piling in, to my father, that is. The older we became the more we were concerned with not receiving what we felt we certainly had earned and surely deserved. My father appeased us then with a raise of another quarter a week. I don’t ever remember receiving more than $5 a week.

In 1951, my sister, Claire, all of 5, was also recruited into helping us. My father had by now established separate routes for the deliveries shared by all of us. We would alternate partners and routes, and different teams would be formed.

Claire and I worked together and the “Claray Trail” was officially established.  One snowy winter we actually shoveled away a path, a shortcut, through the deep snow that would make delivery of most of our papers easier and more fun. The trail was long and constructed with much love and toil.

My siblings and I became a miserable and disillusioned lot as time went by because my father hoarded all of the money. He told us that he had opened savings accounts in each of our names and that when we turned 18 we could have our due.

I delivered newspapers right up until the time I joined the Coast Guard at age 18. I found that no such savings account in my name had ever existed. We did, however, learn and achieve a work ethic that would benefit each of us during our working years.

God bless you.