By Arthur H. Gunther III
When I was 21 and had not yet set the sail of life’s direction, perhaps even adrift for a time in a dinghy in calm waters but with rapids in view, I took a part-time job as a “flyboy,” the person who catches newspapers as they come off the “fly” or end point of the press. It wasn’t a difficult thing, but you had to pay attention, and that was just right for the young fellow I was.
By Arthur H. Gunther III
When I was 21 and had not yet set the sail of life’s direction, perhaps even adrift for a time in calm waters but in a dinghy with rapids in view, I took a part-time job as a “flyboy,” the person who catches newspapers as they come off the fly or end point of the press. It wasn’t a difficult thing, but you had to pay attention, and that was just right for the young fellow I was.
There were two flyboys, one on either side of the conveyor, and “Chet” would grab 25 or 50 papers, and then I would get the next batch. On most days, the count was 50 for The Journal-News, a daily in Rockland County, N.Y., light enough for one person to lift and then swing around and deposit on a handcart. On the heavier advertising days of Wednesday, maybe Thursday, too, the count was 25 because of the thicker papers. After the handcarts were filled, others would take the papers to be bundled at wrapping stations. The bundles would go to carriers for delivery to newsboys.
Eventually, early on in what would become my 42-year newspaper career, and just before I became a copy boy and spent the rest of my time in the newsroom, I also ran the bundling machine, delivered papers to the boys and girls who were our afternoon team and even hand-delivered to homes and business.
(One day, when I was a copy boy and had managed to get a story and photograph printed as an enterprise effort — which is how you then rose in the news business — I wrote the story, engraved the photo, delivered my copy to Composing to be set in type, went to Circulation, bundled papers, took the bundles and delivered them, a great experience. In a small way, I handled the “baby” — the story and photo, the publication, the delivery — from beginning to end, a privilege.)
As a flyboy, and more important as someone trying to find himself, which we all must do, the gods paired me with Chet, who had been installation manager for the New York Telephone Co. in Rockland but who, according to old company rules, had to retire at 65. Yet he felt young, had a family in Nyack and wanted to work. So he took a humbling, part-time job, this man of great experience who directed so many. The contrast between him and me could not have been greater.
Chet was a kindly sort, a gifted asset for his co-worker, and he offered life encouragement as well as a work ethic and both modesty and confidence. There could have been no better schooling for me at that point. Together with “Art,” another Telephone company retiree from Nyack who worked various jobs in Circulation, these two gave me a chance at aspiration.
A gift for which I am continually grateful.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.