‘Boys on bikes: Remember the early days of newspaper delivery?’

Jul 04, 2021
It wasn't that long ago when newspapers were being delivered by boys (and girls) on bikes. Source: Getty Images

Yes, we are old, settled in our seniors’ routine. Old habits linger on, somewhere here in suburbia. We still have a daily newspaper delivered, albeit flung from an open car window regularly in the morning. Each day the car speeds off to the next home delivery. Our newsboy provides a reliable service.

When we were younger, lots of people had newspapers delivered. Back then the newsboys were schoolboys riding around in the pre-dawn on their bicycles. They were child labour, all banned now. We used to give our newsboy a Christmas card with a little gift, and he gave each household a card.

In town centres, newsboys (were there ever any girls?) stood on street corners, or in front of railway stations, with bundles of newsprint, usually the evening newspapers. They would stand there in all weathers, get maybe a tip, earn a pitiful salary, then they would disappear home for their meal. These symbols of the print media have all vanished, faded into times past.

In those ‘good old days’, we also had steel rubbish cans, not large plastic bins. The garbage was emptied weekly by grown men in singlets and shorts, riding around the suburbs, clinging to the sides of the rubbish truck. At Christmas, we would give them a Christmas card too, and place a couple of bottles of beer under the lid of the bin.

Of course now, everything is mechanised. Our large plastic repositories are emptied by a faceless driver of the rubbish truck, who has his epic journey round the streets. He has to dodge parked cars and try not to hit anyone in his path, walking in front of the bins.

It’s a job, one bin up, one bin down, next bin up, next bin down. Does he set himself a goal? Can he set his own world record for emptying most bins in one day? I guess he can only compete with himself, like most of us.

The rubbish man endlessly journeys round suburbia, on his ritual schedule. It is a worthwhile job, imagine if society had to dispose of its own garbage!

I arise in the dawn again, trundling the rubbish bin for garbage collection. My newspaper has been delivered. Like most Melbournians, I read the back pages first, for the sporting news. Like others, I turn to the classifieds, the hatched, matched and dispatched. Ah, the obituaries. Yah, still alive! Made it, I am old. Hell yeah!

Do you remember the newspaper boy? Was this one of your first jobs?

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