I guess technically I could say that July 2 will mark my 67th anniversary of working for newspapers.

But that’s stretching it.

Actually, that was the first dollar I ever earned from a newspaper.

When my mother died, I found an old letter dated July 2, 1953, from Edwin J. Paxton, publisher of what was then the Paducah Sun-Democrat.

She had tucked it away among the things she wanted to keep.

It seems that the paper awarded a $1 prize each week for some bright thing a kid said or did.

I had drawn a picture of Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin with a TV antenna on top.

And my mother mailed it in.

It was pretty creative because I hadn’t even seen a TV in 1953.

It was another two years before my parents got one.

Paxton called me a “bright youngster” in the note he sent along with the dollar.

A few years later, I got back in the newspaper business.

I read an ad in a magazine about how much a kid could make selling “Grit,” a national newspaper filled with timeless feature stories.

I decided to give it a shot.

Heck, I got to keep a nickel from every paper I sold.

But I learned two things in a hurry.

I’m not a salesman.

And you don’t get rich on a nickel a paper in a town of 800 people.

I was taking in about 35 cents a week — mostly from relatives.

Then I heard about a delivery job open at the Cairo (Illinois) Evening Citizen across the river.

I forget what it paid.

But it was more than 35 cents a week.

But I hadn’t realized just how hilly Wickliffe is.

The town is nothing but hills.

There’s Fort Jefferson Hill, Cemetery Hill, Tobacco Factory Hill and several hills that somebody forgot to name.

And the Citizen, which folded decades ago, didn’t have a lot of circulation in Wickliffe.

Mostly just people who lived on top of hills.

Not a single person in The Flats was on my route.

I had one of those one-speed bikes and it definitely wasn’t made for climbing hills.

So I’d find myself getting off to push about two-thirds of the way up.

But this one house on Cemetery Hill, about 100 feet from the top, had an ol’ yellow dog that would wait patiently each day to give me that extra bit of adrenaline to keep me pedaling to the top of the hill.

I think he only managed to snag my pants leg with his teeth twice.

That, of course, was the home of the woman who complained daily that her paper was never on the porch like she wanted it.

She was lucky it was in the yard.

And then came collection day.

You never heard so many hard luck stories in your life.

And after a while, they’d yell at their kids, “Tell him I ain’t home.”

After a month of that, I was in the hole and decided to cut my losses and retire.

I wasn’t cut out to be a newspaper carrier.

In the fall of 1963, I enrolled in a high school journalism class.

And the first byline I got in a daily newspaper was at the Citizen.

They encouraged me to stick with writing.

And I did.

Writing for newspapers, I found, is a whole lot easier than delivering them.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301


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