Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Still More Newspaperboy Confessions Ch. VI

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Boy_SmokingBilly Larochelle and I rarely bumped into each other after I relinquished my spot in the waiting line for Nuggets to rumble off the presses six days a week in downtown North Bay. I moved to the other end of town and we went to different high schools. He also matured into an excellent multi-sport athlete. He wasn’t much bigger than I, but he had many times more talent, athletic skill and toughness.

But we spent a lot of time together for a couple of years pounding the downtown pavement selling papers and conning passersby.

The conning began rather innocently. While scurrying into and out restaurants, shops and saloons peddling our papers – he and I leap-frogged each other in our chase for customers – I managed to lose my money one day through a hole that developed in my pants’ pocket. (When I started newspaperboying, my mother gave me a little change purse but it wasn’t designed to use for gathering coins and providing change while maintaining control of an armful of papers so I did like my colleagues, I banked on – and in – my pants pocket.)  I lost more than usual because it was a payday Saturday and I was near the end of my second batch of papers. I’d bought 20 papers to start and ran back for another armful. The papers cost 2 cents each and we sold them for 3 cents. On paydays, we’d get quite a few nickels “and keep the change.” So I’d lost about a buck.

I told Billy my problem — and that I’d probably get what-for going home without any money. We were sitting on the curb in downtown Main Street and Billy thought for a minute. Then he said, “Cry.” I said, “What?” And he repeated, “Cry.” So I put my hands to my face and started “sobbing.” A couple of people stopped to see what was wrong and Billy told them I’d lost my money and that I’d get a licking if I went home without any dough. And he added some eloquent embroidery by adding that I’d been beaten up by bigger kids and my family was poor, and whatever else came to his mind.

It wasn’t long before a lady gave us  — me – a quarter to buy one of my remaining papers and a couple dropped a couple of extra nickels to buy the remainder. Then a guy who’d been drinking a bit stopped to listen and he popped a $1 bill – A $1 BILL!!! — out of his pocket and said, “Here, kid.” Hallelujah! Billy had saved my skin. But he wasn’t through. He said, “Keep going.” So I did and after a few more encounters, I – we – wound up with almost five dollars.

Billy wasn’t concerned about getting a fair share or an even split, he was just going to enjoy what we had. So we hopped to a nearby restaurant and got ourselves each a tin roof sundae (a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped heavily with chocolate sauce and handsful of salted peanuts). Then we went to a movie and got ourselves each a candy bar and a Coke. And we stopped for another tin roof after the theater. I still had about $3 left and offered to give him one dollar but he said, “Never mind.”

What he did do was have me run the same scam a few more times before we parted ways when I no longer sold papers. None but he and I ever knew about our venture. And it was certainly fun while it lasted.

When we did bump into each other on occasion around town as we grew up, one of us would just say “Cry” and we’d both break out big grins.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm

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