Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Added to Newspaperboy Confessions: Ch. VIII

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The perks of roaming the streets of downtown North Bay peddling the daily Nugget during the mid-‘40s were wide-ranging and the lessons long-lasting.
As I cited earlier, it developed street smarts in a 9-, 10- and 11-year-old who’d just moved into town from the bucolic burg of Feronia that was about an hour’s dirt-road drive away.
We had no electricity (our substitute was coal-oil lamp) indoor plumbing (an outhouse, of course, and washtub for once-a-week baths) central heating (piling and chopping wood and kindling for the stove was a daily chore) nor storm windows.
Our main connection with sidewalk civilization was our twice-a-month (1st and 15th were paydays) rides – we used the bus in winter because my father put the old ’30 Nash coupe on blocks – for groceries and quick visits with friends, and our battery radio that was turned on only for the nightly news.
So diving into the ‘Bay’s commercial core and culture was fantastically eye opening and educational. Without realizing it, I got to know many of the movers and shakers in the city of 18,000. I’d run in and out of the soon-to-be mayor’s jewelry store and sell him a paper if someone hadn’t beat me to him. I’d crash highly animated political (I didn’t know then that’s what they were about) debates in several of the sports and shoe shine shops along Main Street.
And I’d see Mr. Smith sneaking some suds in the Continental Hotel with a paramour Mrs. Smith ostensibly knew nothing about. These encounters usually resulted in a sale because it seemed like the cheating husband felt buying a paper sealed my lips. I never intended to hunt down his wife and tattle, but I was pleased that he thought I might if he didn’t buy a paper.
We unwittingly made life-long connections because everyone remembered you as the kid who once sold papers. In some cases, that wasn’t so good.
Among the things I learned was how you could sneak into the theaters to watch movies. A fellow paperboy said his older brother, who was an usher at one of the cinemas, told him to buy some confections once you slipped by the ticket taker. The theater made more money on the candy bars and Cokes, he said.
And there were immediately-satisfying events. Like the time I found a crumpled-up $5 bill right in front of the check-out counter at the Arcadian Grill. FIVE DOLLARS! That was about what I made in a month of newspaper sales. I showed it to the restaurant manager, and he said no one reported a loss, and then ran across the street to show it to Hector Bentley (he operated a magazine stand in front of the Post office and used crutches to get around but was always dressed in a hat, suit, shirt and tie with shoes shined at all times) and he said no one had mentioned a loss to him. It was a remunerative as well as memorable day.
Another sweet memory is stopping by Central Bakery on the way home. It was right on the bend where Main Street angled north into Klock Avenue (later Algonquin Avenue) that turned into the two-lane highway reaching north to the precious-metals mining towns of Kirkland Lake and Timmins. On most days, there would be a couple of sugar-dipped doughnuts still soaking in the sweetness at the bottom of the tray slanted in the window for display. Because it was near closing time, I would get them for half price. Even thinking of them now, they surpassed their weight in gold.
When I joined a local senior softball league a few years ago, the first team I played with was sponsored by a local doughnut shop. Their array was sweet-toothsome, but no match for those Central Bakery “leftovers” from so long ago.
– 30 –

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 11, 2015 at 8:13 am

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