First job had one ‘Horrible’ memory

Hammond Wry

Orville “Horrible Orville” Hoover was my first boss. I didn’t give him that nickname and I feel sorry today even repeating it.

I preferred calling him Mister Hoover, as he was Circulation Manager at the EVENING OBSERVER back when I started “pedaling papers” in 1962.

I was the late Frank Carey’s assistant back then, filling in when he had Cardinal Mindszenty High School basketball and baseball practice or games.

Soon I had my own paper route, one of dozens that teen entrepreneurs coveted in the Dunkirk-Fredonia community.

Turnover was high in those days, as Mister Hoover kept a tight rein on us reckless kids.

Staying under his radar was key, as he

was quick to replace the weak links in his chain of command.

We were charged for each paper we delivered six days a week. Eventually I earned his trust by paying my bill on time and avoiding the dreaded Circulation Department notes that ominously often read, “See me immediately.”

That paid off with my switch to the largest route in the city — the entirety of Washington Avenue – more than 140 customers when all the snowbirds were back in town. The fact that I had a brother to help me probably sealed the deal. One paper route per family was the unwritten rule back then and brother Tom was eager to help.

At the end of the year, carriers would receive an extra precious bundle — EVENING OBSERVER calendars. They were our Christmas present free of charge as long as we worked through February. Quit or get fired before then and you were charged 10 cents apiece.

They said right on them — Compliments of your news carrier — although as carriers we hoped our customers would feel the holiday spirit and throw us a buck or two for a year of faithful service.

Mister Hoover always made it clear that we were not to hand out calendars while delivering the paper, that would slow delivery time.

So one fine late December day I delivered my papers and doubled back to hand out calendars. At one of the nicest homes on the street, I rang the doorbell and was greeted by an elderly woman. I had handed her husband, a local bank president, the daily paper earlier that afternoon as he was coming out the door.

She thanked me for the colorful calendar and asked me to wait as she hurried off to find her purse. I left with $2 and thanks for a good year of service — in this case, a daily trip up a long staircase and insertion into a mailbox — more the exception than the rule as most papers were folded and flipped onto porches.

When I showed up a day or two later to collect my weekly 42 cents, I was confronted by the irate homeowner. He accused me of sneaking back to his house after he left to hawk my worthless calendar on his helpless wife. Not only would he not pay me for that week, he would not pay me for the next five weeks ($2.10) because I had already fleeced him of that money.

But there was more. He knew Mister Hoover and would have me fired for theft.

Sure enough, the next day my paper bundle came with the dreaded note. I grabbed my collection ring and headed to the circulation office.

Mister Hoover patiently listened to my version of the events, puffed on his ever-present pipe and told me what was going to happen next.

I would not be charged for this gentlemen’s paper for the next five weeks. After that, he could either cancel his subscription or pay for the next year in advance. Either way, he was not going to try to intimidate me or any other carrier ever again.

“Oh, and one more thing,” he told me, “Throw his paper onto the porch, he doesn’t deserve that special service you have been providing.”

And people wonder how I could possibly work for the same company for 55 years.

Well, at least part of that goes back to that magnificent old man who chose me — a 14-year-old kid — over the bank president.

So thanks to you, Mister Hoover, and my wonderful OBSERVER family, for a memorable career in the newspaper business.

BIll Hammond is a former OBSERVER News Editor and Sports Editor.