Personal Histories

Bob Wills History

Scotty's paper Route

I developed my work ethics early in life. Loren Scott, a fellow student at Fortuna Elementary, had a Humboldt Times paper delivery route. He delivered to the north and east sides of town and I relieved him on the days that he wanted to do something other than deliver papers.

So as not to disturb others in my household, I purchased an alarm clock that had the most obnoxious sounding alarm. I eventually developed a great disgust for it. The hateful monstrosity would resonate with a god awful noise at 0500 hours every morning – rain or shine. I would raise from the almost dead, dress my body (in the dark) and go out into the Humboldt morning.

It was a short and fast bike ride from 12th and K Streets to 11th Street in front of the Safeway store. It was during World War II, with gasoline rationing and the lack of cars, it seemed as if vehicles were barred from the streets. Most often, the only vehicular traffic was a Safeway delivery truck from the bay area and the paper delivery from Eureka. The Safeway driver would drop off a few boxes of produce at the entrance to the Safeway store where they would remain until the day employees arrived to open shop. (Indicates what a wee hamlet Fortuna was) He also delivered road reports from the south. He would often be the first to arrive at a tree across the road or detour because of slides.

Arriving at 11th Street was only the beginning of the day. The papers, rippling with the good news and ads of the day, needed to be rolled and readied for chucking. And, of course, if it was raining, they needed to be secreted in wrappings so as not to soak up too much rain and fog.

After the preparing, I would once again mount up my trusty bike and, with the paper tote sack firmly attached to the handlebars, head for the streets. And, all the time, hopefully I could remember the customers and addresses. Some were easy to remember because Scotty had developed a special relationship with them. No paper tossing at those locations. Meaning, of course, they had containers where papers could be placed. They were VIP's because they tipped him on pay up days.

Some of the winter mornings were rather chilly, specifically at the top end of Home Avenue. If there was frost within sixty miles, it would be there. The experience taught me to work no matter what. I was out in all kinds of weather and I was often wet and cold, but I did it because I told Scotty that I would.

I never was informed as what happened to that repugnant clock. Later in life, I realized it had been a partnership of dependencies. It relied on me to function and I relied on it to perform the nearly impossible - wake me up. It's doubtful that a more modern clock with its toots and ding dings, and other subtle emanations would have performed as well. Most of them, if not all, are equipped with “Don't” buttons. “I don't want to get up yet; so I will press this little snooze switch.” It was several years before I could look an alarm clock in the eye, and to hear the alarm would drive me to sheer panic. Unknown to me, it programmed me for life; I still assume that I have to get out of bed at 0500 hours every morning.


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