I walk to work in the morning. Shortly after 5 a.m.
One gets a unique perspective on the world during a solitary walk through the neighborhoods of Oneonta each morning. Everything is quiet and tranquil. I rarely run into anyone. Except for one person who, like clockwork, slowly passes me by like a ship in the dark. And it's a kid.
I guess we call them paper carriers now. It got me thinking recently about my own time as a paperboy when I was 12, in 1961. I had the largest route in Sidney. I loved it all. My brother Jim joined me in my entrepreneurial endeavor soon after I began.
My product was the Binghamton Press. My tools of trade were a pair of wire cutters and an English bike, with saddle baskets over the back wheel.
Initially, I walked the route. I had two large, gray canvas bags that crisscrossed my chest. I arrived before dawn at a private residence where I would let myself in and unpack the papers, which had been dropped off overnight.
That's right. I actually let myself into a home whose owners I had never met and whipped out my wire cutters and started folding the papers to stuff into my bags. While the owners were sleeping upstairs. Try that today!
I was a master of the art of "newspaper folding." The double fold, the tight tuck, the thumb and index crease and then, finally, the victorious knee slap. "Thwack!" In the category of newspaper folding I was definitely medal-worthy.
After a short period of huffing along my two-mile route on foot, looking like a Sherpa guide with a week's worth of supplies strapped to his chest, I succumbed to getting a bike.
I bought it from Dick McCauley at the Sidney Western Auto. I hardly ever rode the bike on the route, but walked it along next me. It was the pack mule, if you will.
The Sidney Hospital was on my route, and Jim and I would raid the vending machines for candy, snacks and hot chocolate before heading out on the final, hilly half of the route. This expenditure usually wiped out any profit we would make for our morning's work.
Collection day was interesting. Do kids still go "collecting"? I guess everybody just prepays by credit cards today. Not in 1961, though. You'd approach and ring the doorbell and shout "collecting!" The door opened a little and a hand would stretch out with a dollar in it. I don't think the paper was much more than that back then. For the whole week.
Christmas season was the best. Despite trudging the bike through snow drifts as tall as me, we were rewarded with gifts, tips and treats along the way. Our customers would hand us envelopes with a couple of bucks in it. Sometimes a little present wrapped in holiday paper.
One paper route memory sticks with me all these years.
I had an older couple on my route, the Laphams, up on Cobbles East. The week before Christmas I'd shove my paper-laden bike through the snowdrifts up their little driveway. Chet Lapham would holler out into the blizzard, "C'mon in, Chuckie, for your present." I leaned my bike against a tree (akin to tying up a horse outside a saloon) and entered the bosomy warmth of their tiny cottage.
There I'd sit at the little kitchen table, and they would feed me. Why? I have no idea. Mrs. Lapham would whip me up a batch of pancakes and eggs as I sat at the table chatting with ol' Chet. After, he would thank me for my service and wave me off into the snowstorm.
I had never met them before I had my paper route, and I never saw them after I ended it in 1964. I can still see them smiling at me out their living room window as I disappeared into the snow. A sweet couple.
At week's end the guy from Binghamton would come to "sort out the money." He and I would sit in my living room as he looked through my record books and tapped furiously at his pocket-adding machine. Finally, he would tell me how much I owed him.
I'd get my mayonnaise jar down from the cupboard and count out his money. The rest was mine. There wasn't much left. Sometimes there was nothing left, and my mother had to make up the shortage.
I blame it all on the hospital vending machines.
"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
I walk to work in the morning. Shortly after 5 a.m.
- Big Chuck
Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old
I asked Cam Morris, head of Eastern Travel/Oneonta Bus Lines, how many years her company has been handling the Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C.
My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
Ask any hospital administrators if they've ever heard of a closed hospital in New York state that has ever been re-opened. They will say, "Impossible." In a half century of going through records you can't find any.
Catching a whiff of 'Vermont Vapor'
We just came back from a weekend in Manchester, Vt., and my wife insists that something "magical" happens when you pass the state sign. "I think they spray 'Vermont Vapor' out of the sign or something," she opined, "something that actually changes us."
Selections from the virtual mailbag
Well, it's time to open up the email bag, and it's really full!
Recalling days of 'Doughnut King'
In 1969, I was "The Doughnut King" in Sidney.
- Monday, March 11, 2013
Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory
Opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) has been called the "most distinctive American voice of the 20th century."
- Monday, February 25, 2013
Film clip a window into Oneonta's past
One of my radio listeners sent me an astonishing piece of video recently. I posted it on my Facebook page (go to Facebook, search "BIG CHUCK") and it has been viewed by well over 1,000 people in just a week.
- Monday, February 11, 2013
Many made stop at upstate naval base
My father was in the U.S. Navy. Not for long, but he did enlist out of high school in 1944. He did his naval training at Sampson Naval Training Base in Romulus. Shortly after Dad's basic training, he was honorably discharged because of a health issue. So, although his service was brief, I needed to find out as much about it as I possibly could.
- Monday, January 28, 2013
Local foods worthy of national spotlight
Well, President Obamaâ€™s second inauguration is over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction.
- Monday, January 14, 2013
Remembering lives of the not-so-famous
I write about 25 columns a year for this paper. And I must admit, this annual one is always my favorite. A lot of famous people left this world last year, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, singer Andy Williams and TV's George Jefferson actor -- Sherman Hemsley.
- Monday, December 31, 2012
Canines create unforgettable moments
Last year, I used my holiday column to pay tribute to my dog, Stella. The darn dog actually received fan mail after that, and has insisted that I do a shout-out to her canine colleagues each year around this time. So, to keep Stella happy, here goes.
- Monday, December 17, 2012
Nothing like an old-fashioned movie theater
What is it about a movie theater?
- Monday, December 3, 2012
Chuck's daughter returns to a town full of memories
My daughter Frances, OHS Class of 2000, came home for Thanksgiving last week after not having been in her hometown for nearly five years. I asked her to be my "guest columnist" to share her thoughts about coming home for the holidays. I hope you enjoy her story.
- Monday, November 19, 2012
Time to move on after grueling campaign season
Nobody likes a presidential election campaign better than I do. But this one darn near took a piece out of me.
- Monday, November 5, 2012
One nasty hurricane more than enough for one lifetime
Hey, Sandy! Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
- Monday, October 22, 2012
Latter-day stunt men still knew how to thrill
What is it with all these crazy stuntmen all of a sudden?
- Monday, October 8, 2012
Andy Williams, last of the great crooners
When singer Andy Williams died a week ago, it truly was an end of an era.
- Monday, September 24, 2012
Senator's farm was all I imagined
Many years ago, when I first arrived in Oneonta, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the senior senator from New York state. His top aide, Ross Frommer, used to come into the radio station for interviews and to tell my audience about the various legislative efforts involving "their senator."
- Monday, September 10, 2012
Family's history includes ancestor who knew Lincoln
- Monday, August 27, 2012
Making up for lost time on Facebook
If there ever was a true-blue phenomenon, it is Facebook.
- Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old