Celebrating 115 years: Memories of a paper boy

Longtime Fernie resident Joe Macosko worked several part-time jobs as a teenager, including paper carrier for The Free Press.

Longtime Fernie resident Joe Macosko worked as a paper carrier for The Free Press from 1964 to 1967.

Longtime Fernie resident Joe Macosko worked as a paper carrier for The Free Press from 1964 to 1967.

Longtime Fernie resident Joe Macosko worked several part-time jobs as a teenager, including paper carrier for The Free Press. He began the job in his early teens in 1964 and kept his route until 1967.

Back when Joe was supplying newspapers to the community, the job was much more interactive than it is today. Rather than dropping the paper on a front door stop, Joe stopped at each house to collect his payment, and more often that not, to have a chat.

“I think The Free Press came out every Wednesday and it was seven cents,” said Joe. “Everybody I delivered papers to had a coal or wood stove, or a warm morning heater. There was always a kettle with boiling water on it for tea or coffee when visitors showed up.”

He went on to say, “If people weren’t home, they all had a secret hiding place where they kept my money and the paper stayed dry, usually somewhere on the porch or patio. I was never shorted for payment. In fact, most people waited for the paper and got upset if it was late.”

The constant struggle for Joe, and it still remains for paper carriers today, was Fernie’s fickle weather.

“It was a chore trying to keep the papers dry from our rainy and snowy weather. Sidewalks or paths to some houses were high and deep and some shoveled paths were like a narrow wall of snow.” Joe explained. “When I delivered papers in the summer I was done early because I had a good CCM bicycle. Winter took a lot longer because I had to take the long way around.

“My route was down Second Avenue to the golf course and I cut across the fields to Mrs. Batchet’s house, where the Best Western is today. In the winter there was too much snow in the fields so I had to go around.”

It wasn’t always an easy job, but Joe recalls extra tips and treats around the holidays that made it worth it.

“Special occasions were my favourite memories – Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I received lots of pastries, cooking, smoked fish, and everybody made home-made sausages,” he remarked. “The most special was the extra garlic sausage. It was made to keep the flu bug away and it worked. Believe me, it kept everybody away.”

In 1967 the price of the paper rose, eventually prompting Joe to end his time with The Free Press. “When the paper went to 10 cents, lots of my customers cancelled. Some people moved away, some passed on, and the few I had left were blocks apart. That was when I stopped delivering.”

It has been a long time since Joe worked for The Free Press, but he still makes a point to pick up a copy every week.

“It has changed, yes,” commented Joe. “There’s more competition around and not as many stories on the front page, but I still read the paper.”