No job will ever be as good as my first one. When I was in sixth grade, I became a carrier for the Rockford Register Star.
I wanted to become useful to society. There was no better way, in my mind, than being the guy who delivered the news to people. Perhaps I was influenced by the character Henry Huggins, a boy carrier featured in a series of novels.
I got up at 4:30 every morning. I loved the smell of the freshly printed bundle of newspapers. I still like that scent. The one thing I didn't like were the centipedes on the driveway as a folded the papers. I still hate centipedes.
Recently, I interviewed LaRue Plog, an 87-year-old who lives in Milledgeville. She delivered the Daily Gazette in her later high school years in the 1940s. She got the Milledgeville route from Jewel and Janet Hawkins, whose mother was a reporter for the Milledgeville Free Press. She inherited a bicycle from the girls, so she could deliver her newspapers faster.
Back then, subscribers couldn't pay at the office. The carrier had to collect payment from each one.
Plog remembers everyone taking the paper. In the days before TV – and, of course, the Internet – people had no other way to get the news besides word of mouth.
Plog has remained a loyal subscriber of the Gazette, but that doesn't mean she's always happy with it.
For starters, she said, the newspaper emphasizes Dixon news.
"If it's not [Rita] Crundwell, it's something else," Plog said.
These days, the Gazette and the Telegraph in Dixon operate under the umbrella of Sauk Valley Media, just another example of the massive consolidation of the newspaper industry since the days Plog was a carrier.
Plog also said she disliked how the paper focuses on "negative things," which would be better on the second page, not the first.
Still, she looks fondly on her experience as a carrier.
"It was a good deal, and I got a bicycle out of it," she said.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.