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Former carriers recall days of delivering A-J

Delivering daily newspaper brought some trials, tribulations

BY Ray Westbrook
For the Avalanche-Journal

Robby Parrish still remembers what might have been the coldest day he ever spent in Lubbock, and he has the frostbite scar to prove it.

Parrish, now 54, was an Avalanche-Journal paperboy on that winter day in 1965, which is why the experience remains seared into his memory. Getting up before the crack of dawn to roll and deliver papers in the neighborhood was Parrish's early foray into the business world.

"It was something like 13 below zero that day," Parrish said. "I don't think it was snowing, but I remember there was snow on the ground, and the wind was blowing it everywhere. I wore gloves that day, but I had a hole in one of them, and that's how I wound up with this frostbite scar."

Parrish smiled as he displayed the mark on his right hand, and he recounted how hard he tried to keep his hands warm that day. At one point on his route, he said one home had a bare porch light burning, and he used that bulb to warm his hands.

"I had my hands around that bulb," he said. "It took several hours that day for my hands to thaw out."

His mother, Peggy Parrish, had six children, and she said five of them spent many mornings in the living room preparing for their A-J routes.

"No one around this neighborhood knew who I was other than the paper carriers' mom," said Peggy, who has lived in Lubbock for 40 years. "They wanted to make money, and when my daughters saw their brother (Robby) do that, they wanted to do it, too."

Money was a driving factor as well for Larry Holley, another former A-J carrier and older brother of Lubbock music legend Buddy Holly.

"We were very poor with no money," said Holley, who said he started delivering the paper in 1936, the year his younger brother was born. "I was 10 or 11 years old and could use a little spending money. I got to thinking I could sell papers. The A-J had bags a young boy could carry around town to commercial places, and boys had their own territory. It was important to realize that or you might have to fight one of them.

"I had Avenue H as my territory, which later became Buddy Holly Avenue. I would go to places and sell papers for a nickel apiece. Now, every time I drive uptown and see that sign that says Buddy Holly Avenue, I just think, 'Bless his heart, they named a street after him.'"

The Holley family moved to Wolfforth, and Larry said he didn't deliver papers again until taking a bicycle route in 1942. He recalled that he and his brother, Travis, had routes, and Larry was able to save enough money to purchase a Model A Ford Roadster for $100 - although he had yet to learn to drive.

"We paid for our bikes by selling papers," said Larry, whose career as a paperboy ended upon joining the Marines in early 1944. "We each had a route in the North Overton area, and later on, it spread out where it was an even bigger route. Travis couldn't collect at one house in particular on his route, and I was helping him collect one day. The lady at the house there said he hadn't been bringing the paper to her, and Travis said he had.

"I climbed a tree, and the roof of the porch gave me a clue. All the papers were up there on that roof."

Larry recalled getting up at 4 a.m. each day, heading over to the Busy Bee Cafe and listening to the jukebox before getting papers and beginning their bike routes. He said they began using the car for deliveries after learning to drive.

"The car had a jumpseat in the rear that you could open up, put your paperbags down in there and set up on top of the back rest to throw the papers," he said. "It was a big improvement. Travis would drive my route, which by that time was nearly all of North Overton. He had a route on the east side of Avenue Q.

"One day, down there around 27th Street and Q, there was a big mudhole that we would go through while Travis was throwing his route. We went through it and got back out on the street. When I looked back, Travis wasn't there. I said, 'Oh, my goodness, I must have hit the bump too hard.' Travis was laying in the mud puddle as mad as he could be. We almost got in a fight. He said there was no need to drive through it so fast, but I was afraid of getting stuck."

Billy Sims is another longtime Lubbockite whose business career began as an A-J paperboy. Sims, a Lubbock resident since 1934, began delivering papers in September 1944. He gave up his route in October 1954 and at one time held the record for longest tenure as a carrier.

"I needed to work," Sims said. "My mother was a schoolteacher with three kids, and times were pretty tough. We had what we needed, but we sure didn't have any luxuries. It made it easier on us if I worked."

Sims heard another paperboy was about to give up his route, so the eager 9-year-old went to see The A-J circulation manager at the newspaper's former location on Texas Avenue.

"He said I was too young and too little for a route," Sims recalled. "I went home and thought about that overnight, and then I went back the next day and I didn't think I was too young or too little. Basically, I begged and pleaded until I got the job. Through the years, I had all kinds of other jobs to go with it."

Sims, a Lubbock business owner since 1971, said the paper route was great experience as far as helping him learn business skills and polish people skills.

"You deal with all kinds of people, especially when you were collecting (payment) from them," he said. "You get to know them, and they sure get to know you."

Sims said he started delivering papers on a bicycle before upgrading to a motorized scooter a few years later. By the time his newspaper days ended, he was delivering from a car.

"You had to roll them and tie a string around them when I started," Sims said. "I could roll 100 papers in five minutes. I don't know how many I could do today, but I bet with a little practice I could do 100 in 10 minutes.

"It was the beginning of a career for me," he said. "I don't know what I would have done with out. I always had a little money in my pocket when other kids didn't, and I was always frugal with it because my family needed it."

Likewise, the business taught Robby Parrish a little something about money and people.

"I met a lot of extremely nice people and just a few who were grouchy," he said with a laugh.

Previous A-J Remembers:


The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History

SPECIAL SECTIONS: 1909-1933 / 1934-1958 / 1959-1983 / 1984-PRESENT | PRINT VERSION