Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Some More Newspaperboy Confessions: No. VII

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One of the most utilitarian tools I ever had in all my years was a canvas bag for my newspapers made for me by my godfather.Boy_Smoking

He was Augie Cicci, a close friend of the family who owned and operated a shoe-repair shop on Algonquin Avenue for several decades. It was closed a few years after I left North Bay when  he was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in critical condition when a robber failed in his attempt to kill Augie with one of his own cobbler hammers. (Augie eventually became lucid enough to greet visitors from his hospital bed and the cowardly crook caught and jailed for a time.)

But back to the bag.

I’d been peddling the North Bay Nugget for about a year and was picking up more and more to, of course, make more money. I would pick up 20 or a couple of dozen that were the maximum I could arm-carry comfortably while foot-padding around downtown and in and out of restaurants, shops, and beer parlors. On good days – payday, Friday and Saturday — I usually rushed back to the Nugget for a second load.

Augie’s shop was on Algonquin Avenue (it was Klock Avenue then) next door to what would become my high-school hang out – Demarco’s Confectionary (the family-owned-and-operated shop finally closed down a few weeks ago after some eight decades of accumulating customers). It was across the street from the Pro-Cathedral of the Assumption a couple of blocks off the western end of downtown. About once a week, usually the quiet Wednesday afternoons when retailers shut their shops to stock their shelves for the upcoming weekend, I would trot down and visit with Augie for a bit. This was long before I realized Demarco’s was a hangout. We always saw each other at Christmas, Easter, Italian weddings and several weekends in between when our folks exchanged visits. That’s how he came to be my godfather for my confirmation when I was 12 or 13 at St. Rita’s Church, so he wasn’t yet my godfather when he made my newspaper bag.

My mother had a piece of canvas big enough to turn into a pouch large enough to hold as many papers as I could carry without my knees buckling. She gave it to Augie and he worked it through his heavy-duty sewing machines and produced a bag with a leather strap that allowed me to carry 30-plus papers with ease.

I learned quickly that it made several downtown merchants uneasy. You see, it was also large enough for a wily little street rat to tuck stolen candy bars, toys, cigarettes or most anything you could think of into that bag without being seen.

When I found that out, I enjoyed several of the sweetest moments on my forays downtown.

A fellow named Maroosis, owned a sports-equipment store about mid-town. His window display included baseballs and hockey pucks and catcher’s mitts and team sweaters and so on. And so did the shelves in his store. I used to drop in occasionally and putter with a fielder’s glove or a pair of skates or other piece of sports equipment I would dream of owning. He never bought a paper from me and rarely talked to me but was always exceedingly friendly to most of the other customers who were either jocks or, of course, bought stuff. He supplied both local high schools with their team jerseys and jackets as well as equipment and for most of the fastball and hockey teams in town. He was the main game in town. (When I was older and got more involved in sports, I bought my equipment — skates, gloves, pads, hockey sticks, ball mitts, etc. at Mr. Lefebvre’s, who was much friendlier and allowed me to make  purchases with some money down and regular payments.)

To Mr. Maroosis, I was just a nobody kid – and he taught me how to have fun with that.

When I entered his store and no one else was in there, Mr. Maroosis would head into the back and leave me out there alone. Dicey, wouldn’t you think, to leave me out there with all that stuff and my great big newspaper bag? I would have thought so if I hadn’t spotted very early on that he had a peep-hole through the wall dividing his sales counter from his stockroom. So I knew he was watching me – and probably hoping I’d do something stupid so he could collar me and kick my ass into the arms of the nearest cop. So I would pick up a ball glove and punch my other hand into it making believe I was playing ball and then pick up a handy ball and pop it in and out of the glove and then put the glove down and try on another one and, every once in a while, look over my shoulder without glancing at the peep-hole. I’d do this for probably only 10 minutes or so because that’s a long time for a kid. And then I’d sorta sigh and drop whatever I had wherever I was at the time and slip silently out the door pretending I was unaware he was watching. I’d scoot into the entrance-way of the shop next door from where I could see his reflection in his store windows as he came right out to collect whatever I had been toying with and put it where it belonged — and to make sure nothing was missing.

I’d drop in and visit his store again the next afternoon — I always (ALWAYS) asked if he would buy a paper and he never (NEVER) did — and the evening after that and then the following afternoon and – well, you get the idea.

If for no other reason, I’ve thanked Augie hundreds of times for that bag.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 25, 2015 at 12:11 pm

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