This is my story for both The Writers Group and The Memoir Group this week. Due to internet problems, I was not able to join the Writers Zoom. A tale my early career in the newspaper business…


There were 10 of us gathered outside The Cherry Hill Elementary School.  It was a Saturday morning and we were in the act of picking teams for a game of stickball.  We were tossing the ball around when an errant throw sailed over my head.  Turning to chase it down, my back was to my friends when I heard one of them yell “Run”!  Thinking he meant me, I ran faster.  Retrieving the ball, I turned to throw it back only to see my friends retreating around the corner of the building, a dust cloud lingering in their wake.  As I stood there dumbfounded, I jumped when I heard a nasally voice shout “Hey sonny!  How old are you?”.  I looked to my left and there it was – the brown and tan Ford Falcon that was known to cruise the neighborhood, looking for kids of a certain age.  The car that my friends and I spent the late Spring and Summers months avoiding.  When spotted we would run like the wind to our homes, or to the nearest patch of woods or brush to avoid detection.   Leaning out the drivers window, a bespectacled face asked me again how old I was.  On the door beneath the face were the words “The Record”.  The color combination of the car reminded me of a Mars bar.  I was cornered, there was no place for me to run to, not a sapling to cower behind.   “Ten”, I replied, regretting giving my exact age.  But this same guy had cornered me at least twice in previous summers.  The last time was when I was 9 years old. But he doubted my story because he said I was a big kid. I figured he probably remembered me so I told the truth.   “Great!”, exclaimed the driver, then asked “How would you like to work for The Bergen Record?”.  “Umm, maybe”, I mumbled.  “Great!”, exclaimed the driver again.  He went on to introduce himself, Mr. Pantaleone, and said he would need to talk to my parents.  He offered to give me a ride home.  “I don’t ride in strange cars”, I said.  “Fair enough”, chirped Mr. Pantaleone, “give me your address and I will meet you there”.  I trudged home thinking about all of the summer fun I was going to miss.  I had a good run avoiding the job market, that was about to end as I arrived at my house to see the Mars Bar Falcon pull up.  Before noon that Saturday, in May of 1964, I became a paperboy, delivering the Bergen Record, “The Record” as the banner on the front page proclaimed.  The reason my friends ran?  They did not want to deliver newspapers.  They wanted to have fun.  When I finally re-connected with my chums after lunch, they all acted like I was sentenced to 20 years at Rahway State Prison.

Two Saturdays later, I completed my first full week as a paperboy and had collected the weekly paper fee – 33 cents.  Every customer gave me 50 cents, a 17 cent tip.  Counting up my coins when I got home, I had earned my first $3.50!  A whole new world had opened up to me.  Not one who received an allowance, I was no longer dependent on my parents for disposable income.  I did not have to ask for a dime to buy a bottle of Coke, 12 cents for a Marvel comic, or God Forbid, a whole quarter (Cheap!) for an issue of Mad Magazine!  I could go to the movies more frequently now, still had to rely on a ride, but for 60 cents I could get a matinee ticket and a box of Good ‘n Plenty.  I was now independently wealthy.  I would start a bank account and, as my Grandmother told me 500 times, earn interest on my savings!  Wow!  I decided that the first place I would part with some of my disposable income was Chizzie’s Gulf Station on Route 46. For 15 cents I treated myself to a Coke and a handful of pistachio’s from the vending machines in Chizzie’s office.  This was great!  I did not have to ask my Mom or, even worse, my Dad for any change and suffer through a harangue of how I was wasting their hard earned money.  I could waste mine!  This money that I earned was for me, to spend or save as much or as little as I chose. I was not encumbered as yet to be concerned with paying bills, putting food on the table, concerned with getting braces for anyone.  My only concern was to make sure I did not go crazy at Palisades Park and make myself sick on too much cotton candy or from the ride that turned people upside down.  

Carrying the Bergen Record was not a prison sentence.  I made money!  I even saved some.  I worked hard to grow my route to make more money.  Through rain, sleet, snow, on days I froze and days I baked in the heat, I delivered my papers.  My thoughts centered on how I was going to earn enough money to buy a silver Corvette and drive from Chicago to L.A. on Route 66.  Just like Marty Milner & George Maharis.  Life was great.

Ernie Stricsek

Chatham Memoir Group


The Record 1964

4 thoughts on “Cornered

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