Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘North Bay Nugget

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.

-30-

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 25, 2015 at 12:11 pm

More from the Old Newspaperboy No. V

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Milt Robinson is perched prominently in my memory banks. I have no idea what ever happened to him and I remember little about him. But his image still glistens in my brain. He was the first person I saw when I got my first pair of glasses. And he watched me make a spectacle of myself as I stumbled over a block or so of Main Street as my brain adjusted to my new spectacles. I was nine years old.

Boy_Smoking

From the beginning. Much of my first decade on earth was spent learning how to see. Fortunately, I was far-sighted and, by squinting and crossing my eyes, learned to read people’s body language and movements, and facial expressions as well as lips. This all helped me tremendously for the rest of my life.

I don’t ever remember not being able to read, but I had to look cross-eyed to make out the words, or anything else I wanted to see clearly.

While I was born in town (in an apartment my mother rented over a small grocery store at the corner of First Avenue and Wylde Street just down the hill from St. Vincent de Paul Church) almost all my earliest years were spent in Feronia, a hamlet that was a seven-mile walk from town and is now a suburban enclave of North Bay.

After enrolling when I was 5 years old in the one-room schoolhouse that housed grades one through 10, I skipped grade two because I could read and knew my addition and subtraction tables and was Miss Brunella Guenther’s star pupil until our family moved into town on New Year’s Day 1943. My father finally snagged a spot with the section gang working out of the main yard (where the round house and maintenance facilities were) of the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway, which later became the Ontario Northland Railway.

School resumed for me at St. Rita’s Separate School when the Christmas holiday ended. Other than being a stranger in the schoolyard for a bit, the major memorable event that spring was beginning to sell newspapers – The North Bay Daily Nugget — on the street.

I’d tried taking on a weekend Toronto Star route. That’s when I saw German prisoners of war in their denim overalls and smocks with the large red circle on their backs stretching their legs around the Canadian National Railways station when I picked up the papers early Friday mornings. The POWs were being herded out to camps/farms out West.

The Star route lasted only three weeks because the four brothers who had the route before me made the collections the day before I delivered the papers and the route manager didn’t do anything about it. Fortunately, my mother deterred him – loudly — from extracting payment from me for the papers. That whole episode became part of my education.

When school resumed in the fall, among the earliest events was a visit by the school nurse. One of her chores was to give everyone an eye test. The only thing I recall about that is the look on her face that made me think I was really stupid. She was just amazed that I could function as well as I did. She got the news to my parents that I had a vision problem.

As it turned out, my mother had begun cleaning downtown offices for a few clients to augment our income. (We also took in roomers for the three upstairs bedrooms in the large house we rented). One customer was Ken Barry, who happened to be an optometrist. And he outfitted me with my first pair of glasses — appurtenances I wore for more than six decades until I had my cataracts lasered and replaced by tri-focal inserts nine years ago.

Back to Milt Robinson. As I said, I remember very little about him but I recall he was a classmate because we both ran downtown after the final afternoon school bell to purchase our armfuls of Nuggets to sell on the street. After a quick paper-sales run through downtown, we scooted into Ken Barry’s office to get my new glasses. Mr. Barry was a bit of a blur because everything happened so quickly. When I stepped outside the office, the first person I ever saw with clarity was Milt Robinson.

And I still see him clearly.

 -30-

Written by Cecil Scaglione

May 30, 2015 at 8:43 am

Confessions of a Newspaperboy

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Boy_Smoking

As a prologue to some of the memories that follow in what could become a series of flashbacks, my newspaper career began way back during World War II on the streets of North Bay, 220 miles (350 kilometers) north of Toronto.

It was a busy Northern Ontario railroad town just shy of 18,000 people when I became a newspaperboy selling the North Bay Nugget on the street at time when home delivery was not the norm. I was 8 years old.

My education began then, after being a rural rube all my life. We moved into town on New Year’s Day 1943 and I started selling papers in the spring after the snow and ice finally went south. Or maybe they went north. I would run the dozen blocks downtown from St. Rita’s School. Home was on the way so I dropped off my books and picked up 22 cents to buy 11 papers. We bought them still warm off the presses for 2 cents each and sold them for 3 cents. Paydays were great because a lot of buyers would flip us a nickel and let us keep the change. The paperboy price later went up to 3 cents and we sold it for 5 cents. Not as many tips then.

We fought for first place in the line at the press-room doors on Oak Street behind the Nugget that was housed in what was then the St. Regis Hotel at the west end of downtown where Algonquin Street angled off Main Street. When I got my papers, I’d scramble up one side of Main Street. They usually sold within the first two blocks. (I managed to pick up a few steady customers among the merchants.) Then I’d scramble back and buy another 11 and scoot into the pubs at the east end of Main and wrap up my sales day. Why I bought them in elevens, I don’t recall. Maybe that was all I could handle at first, but I began buying two dozen at a time before my three-year stint ended when we moved to the east end of town.

As I hustled around the eight blocks of downtown commerce peddling my papers, I used to see the Nugget’s reporter Ben Ward (he later moved on to a lengthy tenure with Canadian Press) talking with people all over: elected officials outside City Hall (it became a city in 1925), the cop on the corner, owners of the Arcadian Restaurant over a coffee, the postmaster on the steps of the Post Office. THAT’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. As it turned out, I got lucky and did “that” for several decades in such fun towns as Toronto, Sarnia, Kitchener, Windsor, Detroit and San Diego.

What turned me to thinking about those glimmering days was a recent medical visit to check a blockage in my nose. It turned out to be minor but the doctor asked me, “When did you break your nose?” I said I never broke my nose but he said I must have because of my deviated septum and other scarring. The thought clung to my skull for several days until I finally figured out when it must have occurred.

It was the third or fourth day after I became a newspaperboy. While we were horsing around waiting for the presses to rumble and roll, a 13-year-old burly bully named Maurice (Mo-Mo) Bedard walked up to me and said, “Gimme your money.” I was easy pickings because I was a slight kid, but I said no, not just because it was my money but because my mother would slap me silly if I lost my dough. So he grabbed my shirt, punched me in face and took 22 cents out of my pocket.

I recall bawling (don’t know if it was from pain or the loss of the money) but I couldn’t have been injured all that much because the nose didn’t bleed all that badly. I know that because there wasn’t much blood on my clothing — I threw away the hankie I used to soak up most of any mess and the rest didn’t show much because I was wearing a red-checkered flannel shirt — and nothing was said about my appearance when I got home. But that’s the only time my nose was ever smashed.

Billy Larochelle, who was a little guy like me but a heckuva lot more wiry and quicker and athletic and tougher and had a gravel voice that scared people, gave me enough money to buy my papers that day. I went back for a second and third batch so I could pay him back and still have enough money to show my mother when I got home.

The episode has an epilogue that bolstered my standing among my paperboy peers. A couple of weeks later, Mo-Mo, who didn’t sell papers but just hung around to steal money from kids, aimed  his eyes at me again and started making his approach. I happened to have a packet of matches on me (we used to share cigarets while waiting for our papers) and the only thing I could think of was to light a match and throw it at him. As it turned out, the entire packet erupted into flames so I tossed it at him.

The gods were on my side because that fiery package flipped neatly into his shirt pocket. He began hopping around and flailing and slapping at it and cursing and swearing and had to rip off chunks of his shirt, all of which made him look like an idiot in front of the 25 or so kids waiting for papers.

He never bothered me again. Nor did anyone else because the word spread not to screw around with that Scaglione kid because “He’s crazy.”

— Cecil Scaglione

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 20, 2015 at 9:40 am