WILLIAMSBURG — What do a former Corbin mayor, Corbin School superintendent, local realtor, Willie Mays and President Harry Truman all have in common? They were all paper boys.
The nostalgic childhood starter job that is dying out across America was once the beginning of future business leaders.
And if only for an afternoon, one local organization is recreating the iconic paper boy delivery experience while allowing children the opportunity to get active on their bicycles and learn safety procedures.
Whitley County Spokespeople Bicycle Club is hosting Night of the Living Tread Paper Boy Bicycle Competition at Kentucky Splash Water Park on Saturday. The event will run from 3-5 p.m. and medals will be awarded to the winners.
Kathy Lay with the organization said the object of this event is to have two participants riding similar sized bicycles at the same time on a two-lane course. The two participants will compete against each other earning points for gathering papers in baskets and as well as for finishing the course first.
Each participant will carry the papers in a bag while riding a bike just as paper boys used to do. There will be six baskets set up in each participant's lane.
The winner is determined by a combination of papers in baskets and points for crossing finish line.
The event is designed for children ranging in ages from 3 to 14.
Newspapers have been donated from the Times-Tribune and the News Journal.
“A lot of kids probably don’t even know what a paper boy is or what he did,” said Lay who came up with the idea to teach children about the paper boy while providing them an opportunity to be active on their bikes. “We’re kind of reviving that theme.”
Paper boys have been called an American symbol and the job was a way many young men first learned to earn a living. Paper routes, whether by foot or bicycle helped young men and even some women, develop maturity that led to self-confidence. The job helped youth learn customer service and responsibility.
Former mayors and school superintendents in the Tri-County were once paper boys. President Truman, actors John Wayne and Bob Hope, and baseball star Willie Mays all had paper routes when they were young. So did TV journalist Tom Brokaw, cartoon great Walt Disney and investment whiz Warren Buffett, according to NBC.
Local realtor Chris McHargue had not one but two routes as a paper boy. He started at age 11 and finished at 15. He enjoyed the routes and said they no doubt instilled a work ethic in him that he carries with him to work today.
“I wished they still had this job for my boys,” said McHargue. “They would definitely be running their routes.”
These routes taught McHargue a lot about people and to his surprise a lot about financing.
“I would get home from school and my papers would be on the porch,” he said. “I immediately start getting them ready from the ones I rolled to the folded ones that folks asked for to be delivered that couldn’t bend over to pick up.”
McHargue said he started out delivering on his bicycle and saved up money to buy a dirt bike.
“I had over 100 customers and I had it down to an art of finishing within one hour and 30 minutes normally,” he said. “I would save the old folks home for last stop so I could stop and talk with the older folks since they didn’t get much company. I always enjoyed my job and took pride in it.”
McHargue only left his job as paper boy when one of his customers he delivered to offered him a job. He said the paper route was easy but collecting money at the end of the month taught him a lot about people and life.
“I never missed — rain, snow or sick didn’t keep me from delivering because people still wanted their paper,” added McHargue. “I believe that it helped me be who I am in life and probably the reason I hardly take off work now.”
The Paper Boy Bicycle Competition is in conjunction with the Kentucky Splash Water Park trunk or treat event that begins at 4 p.m.
While there will be lots of candy given out throughout the evening, the Spokespeople will be handing out apples to keep things healthy.
Lay said the event is something fun to help children maneuver their bicycles a little bit better.
“They will have to wear a helmet because we do teach safety, that’s most important,” added Lay.