The Paper Boys of Livingston

Do you know how these famous men got started in life?

*Walt Disney

*H. Ross Perot

*Bob Hope

*Ed Sullivan

*Danny Thomas

*John Wayne

*Bing Crosby

*Jimmy Durante

*Dwight D. Eisenhower

*Herbert Hoover

*Martin Luther King, Jr.

*Harry S. Truman

*Isaac Asimov

*Carl Sandburg

*Tom Brokaw

*Wayne Gretzky

*Jackie Robinson

*Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

They each began their working careers as newspaper delivery boys. Newspaper industry lore says that the first paperboy, Barney Flaherty, was hired in 1833 after answering an advertisement in the New York Sun. From the mid-19th to the early 20th century, newspaper boys were the main distributors of newspapers to the general public. They stood on street corners, walked through neighborhoods, hawking their papers throughout every city. Newsboys in those years tended to be among the poorest classes of society, often seen sleeping on the streets. In July 1899, a large number of New York City newsboys refused to distribute the papers and caused a strike on the Brooklyn Bridge for several days, effectively bringing traffic to a standstill. Several of their rallies drew more than 5,000 newsboys complete with charismatic speeches by strike leader Kid Blink, so named because he was blind in one eye. Many of his sayings were quoted, things like "Me men is nobul." During one rally Blink told strikers, "Friends and feller workers. Dis is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we’se got to stick together like glue ... We know wot we wants and we’ll git it even if we is blind." The strike eventually ended when the publishers agreed to the strikers’ demand to buy back all unsold papers.

A little closer to home, some familiar names of young men growing up around Livingston had jobs as paper boys. I’ll list their names later in this story, but first, a little background on how Kuell Stephens got a job as manager for the five newspaper routes in Livingston in the late 1930's. Kuell was only nine years old when his father passed away, and at that tender age, Kuell took on just about any type of job he could find in order to bring in a few dollars to help his mother with the household expenses. Those jobs included working at local grocery stores and drug stores. When the opportunity arose to take the manager position of the newspaper routes in Livingston, he added that job to a list of others he had undertaken. At that time, there were two newspapers delivered to Livingston by bus. Both newspapers were printed by the Newspaper Printing Corporation in Nashville. The morning paper was the Nashville Tennessean and was known to favor the Democratic party. The other paper, The Banner, was delivered in the afternoon, and leaned toward the Republican party. Most subscribers choose the newspaper they took based on their political party.

The first bus station in Livingston was located on the corner of Church and East Broad Streets where Eye Centers of Tennessee is now. That’s where the paper boys of Livingston came on their bikes to wait for the bus that brought the newspapers in from Nashville. Sometimes the wait would be a long one due to the fact that the bus was often two hours late. Bundles of newspapers brought in by bus would be labeled with each individual paper boy’s name. At times, the papers would be so thick, it would be necessary to leave part of a bundle sitting on the square and come back later after delivering part of the route and pick up the remainder of a bundle. Other times, the top of the head of the paper boy would just barely be visible over the large stack of newspapers in the basket of his bicycle. Each paper boy was given what was called a Time Book where records were kept with information as to who got what paper and when it was paid for. Sometimes a young boy just beginning a route would be too shy to ask for the customer’s name, and notations like "man on the hill" would be found in the Time Book.

The paper boys paid 3-1/2 cents a copy of each paper, sold them for a nickel a piece, which would earn them 1-1/2 cents on each paper. Each route had anywhere from 60 to 70 stops, so if a paper boy had two routes, he could earn around $1.50 per day. Careful accounting records had to be kept and the information recorded each week. The Time Book was brought in and gone over each Monday. Kuell Stephens began the paper routes prior to the time he got married, and after Janie Stonecipher became his wife, she helped him with all the work involved. They received a total of $12.00 a week for managing the paper boys. When Kuell was drafted into the military, Janie continued on with the paper routes for the two years Kuell was away.

Several sets of brothers worked under Kuell and Janie Stephens while they were managers for the newspaper routes in Livingston. This is a list of those remembered, and if some names are omitted, it is not at all intentional.

Glen Masters; Doyle Masters; Earl Wayne Masters; Ralph Masters; Houston Evans; Sam Brooks; Bill Brooks; Terry Heckathorne; Lonnie Heckathorne; John Kelly Wright; John M. Roberts; Jack Bradford; Ross Averitt; Tim Stephens; Frank Booher; Gary Anderson; Roger Anderson; Bobby Linder; Bobby Masters (son of Ranzy and Maggie Masters); Danny Williams; Mike McCulley, and Clark Howard. Most of these boys had both a morning and afternoon route, and also delivered the Sunday edition of the paper.

Livingston's Paperboys
A photo taken around 1942 of Livingston's paper boys.  Left to right:  Terry Heckathorn; Sam Brooks; John Kelly Wright; Houston Evans; and Jack Bradford.  This photograph was taken in the yard of Kuell and Janie Stephens' home that now houses Misenhimer's Barber Shop on North Church Street in Livingston.

The picture included with this story is a little misleading in that it doesn’t show these boys getting up before daylight every single morning, it all kinds of weather, whether it was pouring the rain, or if snow and ice would be in the forecast. They would be out there delivering those papers no matter what. Most routes took at least two hours to complete with parts of town having lots of steep hills to contend with. Sometimes mothers like Danny Williams’ mom pitched in and helped deliver papers on part of his route. Tim Stephens recalls how terribly cold his feet would get when the weather was snowy or icy. But one of Tim’s more pleasant memories is about a Great Dane dog named Rusty that belonged to Ranzy and Maggie Masters, and their son, Bobby. It was Rusty’s job to meet Tim everyday and carry the newspaper back to the front porch of the Masters house.

Bobby Masters must have been a really good bicycle mechanic too. He put a bicycle together from old parts and sold it to Tim Stephens for $7.00. That was Tim’s first bicycle he used on the paper route, but there was just one problem. Since Tim didn’t have the $7.00 to pay for the bicycle, Bobby allowed him to have credit, and as soon as Tim made enough money on his paper route, he paid off his debt to Bobby. That was Tim’s first introduction to managing his own money.

Frank Booher and Tim Stephens got off to a shaky start one day on the corner of the square just after loading their bicycle baskets down with their papers. As they started to hurriedly leave the square, they had a head on collision with their bikes. Neither boy was hurt, but all their newspapers spilled out into the street and had to be gathered up so they could go on with their route.

The publishing company in Nashville often offered prizes and even trips for the paper boys. An all expense-paid trip to Chicago was awarded one year to the paper boy who signed up the most new subscribers for both the morning and afternoon papers. Tim Stephens was in the winner from the Livingston area. The trip was made by bus and a stop in St. Louis was included in the trip. That trip is one that has some great memories for a small boy visiting a big city like Chicago for the first time.

Despite conditions that were not always the best as far as weather goes, having a paper route was much more than just being a neighborhood boy on a bicycle delivering the morning and afternoon papers. Most of the boys learned how to set individual goals and how to save money because of this job. Probably much more beneficial was the fact that they were taught responsibility, honesty, trustworthiness, and accountability that went a long, long way in helping to shape their lives. Another way both subscribers of the newspapers and the paper boys benefitted was the close friendships that were formed between them. Many times the boys would be invited into some of the homes of their customers, and on holidays, would be remembered with small gifts or a little extra money. Janie and Kuell spent more than 30 years working with the paper boys, and even today, Janie says from time to time one of the boys’ names will still be mentioned by a former customer. And it’s usually with a big smile that someone will say, "He was my paper boy." To me, that statement speaks volumes about someone who made a long-lasting impression while doing what seemed like a simple job as a neighborhood paper boy.