The old bike and the first job

Somehow this has turned into one of the longest posts ever. It’s compelling so I dare you to read it! Maybe it’s only compelling if you grew up on bikes in the eighties.

I’ve been looking around for another bike, and some of the older ones on Craigslist reminded me of the bike I used in the eighties.

My parents bought this Huffy Sea Pines bike at KMart in about 1978 for around $60 (information gathered from Dad’s memory and online, including the picture! I love the internet). It was stolen from their garage (in INDIANA, take note) by the druggie neighbor, then found by the police in FLORIDA and returned! I then used it as my paper route delivery vehicle. It had big wire baskets on the rear and I also wore double shoulder bags of papers. I’m not sure why this big clunky bike seemed like a good idea to get up and down driveways and front porch walks (walking makes more sense now), but I do remember pitching the papers to the porches, and how I had to buy my own rubberbands and plastic bags from the Tribune, so even back then I was conserving the use of these items to save myself money. Most days the paper was thin enough that I could fold it into itself and use no rubberband at all. I cringe now every time I get a paper in a plastic bag on my covered front porch, delivered from an idling gas guzzler… I bet I’m the only person recycling those bags.

On Sundays, my wonderful father would get up and help me deliver the big heavy paper with the minivan. Part of this was because I was not (and still AM NOT) a morning person, but many of my customers liked reading their paper early! During the week the paper was afternoon delivery, so I did it after school. The Sunday paper had to be assembled from the parts that arrived on Sunday morning and the parts delivered a couple days before that which had all the ads and comics.

I had to purchase the papers from the Tribune and then my income was based on the collections door-to-door from the customers in my neighborhood. A few people paid by mail, but mostly I had to knock on the door and make change and all that. One time I apparently misplaced my cigar box of checks for a few months and wondered why people started asking me about them not clearing the bank. I also found an old ring of their pay stubs recently! There were always a few houses (I thought of the houses as the paper receiver, not the people in them) who wanted me to come back later because they didn’t have enough money. It seemed a bit crazy that they ordered a paper and wouldn’t pay an eleven year old for it, but the entire experience was great education in money matters. I also remember the dogs on my route, like Ziggy the chow who I was warned not to pet when I waited for my money, and Max and Heidi, miniature Schnauzers, who ran out to my bike all the time. Max bit me on the calf and died a week later when he was struck by a car!

Tribune tangent: great opinion piece there today on biking in the real world, and my brother actually writes for their monthly publication now, too! Would you believe this month’s article is on his new bike? Check out the third page from the end in the pdf until I get a chance to scan or something.

The Ford Taurus was a brand new model in 1986 and someone on my route had this cool new car! It was so curvy in shape, so different than all the other cars at that time. Well, I ran into one with my bike while crossing the highway that divided my route from three papers–a house that always seemed abandoned, a real estate office, and the Elks Lodge. No one was injured, and I was all worried that the lady driving it (my customer) would be mad at me for hitting her as she waited to turn left into our subdivision, but she just asked if I were ok! (Note: this more formal/correct use of “were” also tolerates the informal “was” but I have readers who care about these things so I’m forcing the issue and pointing out that I looked it up. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition.)

The only headline I remember from my delivery days was the stock market crash in 1987.

My dad ran into one of my old customers (near “the H house,” which had a giant H for Henderson hanging on the outside) the other day while walking his dog. He remembered me!

I upgraded to a ten speed in boarding school, which was also stolen. The Muncie police got THAT back too after they found it in a garage full of stolen bikes a few months later. This demonstrates that you should always file a police report!

My current bike has been in the shop for a few days, a bummer since the weather is so nice right now. Meanwhile I’ve been looking around for another style of bike that would be a bit zippier. I’m really torn because I hate to purchase something new and waste those energy/manufacturing/monetary resources when there are used bikes available, but the features I’m looking for are not showing up on used bikes in my size. Anyone have a 53ish cm cyclocross bike they want to sell? Meanwhile when you factor in depreciation and a strong possibility of theft, spending a grand on a new bike seems silly. But would I buy one used unless it met my new, current needs? Probably not.

I even went to a pawn shop yesterday (largely out of general curiosity) and marveled at all the (stolen) tools and space heaters and stereo components. If you need a random socket, I can tell you where to find buckets of them. I won’t get into whether pawn shops prey on their neighborhoods and promote a criminal lifestyle, but with only one bike there, I cringe to think of all the bikes that are stolen now and just end up at the metals recycling facilities. What a waste. You know that’s what’s happening when thieves will even steal your aluminum downspouts (happened to ours a few months ago).

I can’t end my post on that sad note, so I’ll mention my Flower Girl banana bike, purchased for me in blue so my brother could have it later! My parents removed the flower stickers for him. And I’m not sure which bike it was (probably the Huffy), but I used to take my guinea pig Frisky for rides around the neighborhood in the front basket, a plastic one with big flowers on it.

Ten bucks says my brother will leave a comment about how I beat him up with my newspaper route.

5 thoughts on “The old bike and the first job

  1. Well, hey! I also had a bike stolen by a druggie but it didn’t travel any further than the local taco bell. Ironically a few years later I became a druggie who hung out at that taco bell. But I didn’t steal bikes. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the cup of nostalgia this morning! I used to have a 10-speed blue Schwinn, which was my means of seeing how far away from my house I could get and still return before the curfew. I’d just pick a direction and pedal away, watching my watch (allowing 10 extra minutes for the return trip, though not knowing why this had to be so). Anyone who knows Milwaukee will shudder at the thought of my choosing “east” from Brookfield at Burleigh Rd., and join me in amazement that I escaped murder, mugging and molestation on my many solo bike trips to and from Lake Michigan at age 13.

    Now? I’m afraid to take a bike down our gravel driveway.

  3. I shouldn’t post a complaint since you offered my article a shout-out. I will just say that I remember having to do the paper route for you a few times when you were sick or something and I was not happy about it. I seem to remember doing the route for several days in a row while you were at camp and by the third day I was cutting corners big time. I remember being afraid of a few dogs or too tired by the end of the route and I started leaving newspapers at the ends of driveways. I figured they would find them. I don’t think I got any complaints either. Maybe because they saw an adorable little boy slamming a newspaper down on their driveway (just inches from the street) with a scowl on his face and felt bad that he was being so horribly abused.

    I may have hated the route but I was very jealous of all your cash. Think of all the He-man guys I could have gotten with that. Maybe even a new Beast Man with an arm that stayed on.

  4. I remember when your brother’s bike was stolen from the driveway by some kid who was walking through the neighborhood, hopped on and took off. Our neighbor happened to see the thief take the bike. The neighbor had one of the first cell phones in town. (This was late 80’s or early 90’s) He got in his car, followed the kid, called the police, and directed them around town until they picked up the kid a couple of miles from our house. The bike was returned before we even knew it had been stolen!

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