|In the Gardens of Sugar and Pineapples, Part Three: The Paper Route|
|In the Gardens of Sugar and Pineapples, Part Three: The Paper Route|
|Written by Ismael Tabalno|
I attended Koloa Elementary School for eight years. I enjoyed walking the streets and trails of Koloa during the long trek to and from school. Instead of looking at it as a chore, I went on many exciting escapades during these walks. I explored man-sized storm drainage ditches that led to lava tunnels under the main road, scaled the oldest sugar plantation ruins in Hawaii, threw rocks at bull frogs in the creeks, swam in shallow mountain spring water and other fun adventures. My mother used to ask me how in the world my clothes got so dirty just by attending school. Of course I didn't volunteer the information, but I think she already knew how I got dirty.
My route to school was walking or riding my bike on the single lane road to downtown Koloa and from there I travelled on a sidewalk all the way to school. The total distance would be about 1.25 miles. That meant 15 minutes walking, 10 minutes by bike, or a 5 minute car ride. There were short cuts that cut the trip by half a mile. If you went through the sugar cane fields and sugar truck roads the trip was cut by almost half, but that would be feasible only if it wasn't raining. On my last year at Koloa elementary school, I started on another small business venture that spiced up my days. "Hey, Smile, I heard Larry's folks are moving from Koloa to Lawai," Trudeau ran and caught up with me after the school bell rang. Trudeau was my chubby friend and was panting as he spoke. "Nah, really, why?" "I don't know, but I heard his father is building a house that will have a big pasture for horses, so they moving in couple of months." Trudeau sounded excited, but was still panting from running after me. "Do you know he wants to find somebody to take over his paper route, so Larry asked me?" "What? Are your kidding, you need a bike and you think your parents will let you do that?" I was excited for my friend, but a little envious too. "Yeah, that's the thing, I don't think my parents would want me to do that and besides, I don't really want to do it either." Trudeau was more of a thinker than a doer kind of guy, thus his chubby figure. "Then I could do it!" I exclaimed. "Larry is selling his paper route bike too. He wants $15.00 for the bike." "What? The bike is all beat up." I wanted it, but not for fifteen dollars. Besides that, the paper route only paid $5.00 per month.
I wrestled with the idea and knew I needed the bike too. "I will talk to Larry this weekend and maybe we can meet up with him," Trudeau suggested. First thing I had to do was buy a bicycle on installment. Imagine a 13 year old negotiating and buying something on installments or making payments? Well, I did, and it was for a good reason – a bicycle to deliver newspapers and earn money. The asking price was $15.00 and that included all the attachments for newspaper delivery. Larry was a classmate who was moving away so he couldn't continue delivering newspapers in the area. I would ask to borrow the first $5 from my dad and later pay him back. I would ask to then pay $5 a month in two more installments.
Saturday afternoon I walked over to Trudeau's house. He was outside in their yard with his younger twin sisters playing jump rope. "Trudeau, did you talk to Larry?" I asked. "Yeah, I did, and he wants us to come over to his house tomorrow afternoon at 3 O'clock. I was going to come over to your place and tell you." "Okay, Trudeau, I will talk to my parents and then I will come over tomorrow so we can walk together to Larry's. Thanks! See your tomorrow." I ran back home all excited about the business venture. "Ma, Ma, I can get a job!" I ran into the kitchen. "What kind of job, Mael?" My mother had just finished washing dishes and dried her hands on her apron. "My classmate, Larry, is going to let me take over his newspaper delivery!" "Oh, son that is good." "But I have one problem ma. I need to borrow $5 for the down payment of the bicycle. Than I can work and earn the rest." I was so excited. "I can talk to your dad about it and I don't see a problem." The deal was made between Larry and his parents. I purchase the delivery bike for a total of $12.50 with $5.00 down and the rest $7.50 in two months. For a week I accompanied Larry to the newspaper pick up point and I walked along side him as we delivered the papers. After the seven days of orientation I was on my own. "Hey, Larry, how do you deal with those stupid dogs?" "You know what, let's bring my water pistol next time and let's shoot them when we get up close." "Yeah that would be cool." I smiled mischievously. The next time we did carry a water pistol but the idea backfired on us when the pistol leaked in the paper bag and drenched some of the paper. So we abandoned the water pistol idea. Each day I carefully sorted and folded the papers into my bike saddle bag. I hung the bag on my bike's handle bars and delivered each paper on my way home. On the weekends I had an additional 5 newspapers for the Sunday paper subscribers only.
This was my first real job. I felt good having my own money and contributing to our family's tight budget. The deliveries for each house for the most part were routine. I rode my bike as close to the house's front porch and tossed the paper without stopping. There were some of the deliveries that were a bit more difficult. Some houses had long driveways and the subscriber wanted the paper either on the front door or at the side door. Well that required me to use more maneuvering and took more time. There were also more challenging deliveries; three houses had dogs that were very intimidating. Every day I dreaded going to those houses. It wasn't the German Shepherd, which was the largest dog, which was the most frightening; it was a Dachshund (Sausage Dog) and a Bulldog that I was more afraid of. The Shepherd just stared at me from the porch screen whenever I rode up. He usually didn't bark or anything, except when Willy was with me. If he was with me then the Shepherd would go nuts; barking and growling revealing white glistening rows of teeth. Willy would walk along side me and ignore the dog and it seemed to drive the dog even crazier. I sometimes think Willy was making faces at the Shepherd or something. Now, the Dachshund was entirely different. That long red body with stubby legs and long ears would come chasing after me; bolting out of the side porch dog door. If Willy wasn't with me, I had no problem; I just peddled faster than the short legs could carry the long, round sausage body. Now if Willy was with me, Willy would just trot along side of me and fight back if the hot dog tried to nip at him. Willy wouldn't go after the hot dog. He would just stay alongside of me and make sure the dog didn't bite me or him. Willy was a loyal and brave dog and to avoid the barking and unnecessary chasing I would sometimes order Willy to wait for me by the road and he would obey.
The other challenging part of my paper route delivery was collecting the monthly subscription money. My newspaper subscribers were employees of the sugar plantation, in fact there were mostly supervisors or held management positions in the company. To me, it would seem that they all would have the money ready; some did, some didn't. Half of them had so many excuses why they couldn't pay on the due dates. So I had to pester them for days until I collected all the monies. I couldn't get my pay until I collected and turned in all the monies to the newspaper company then I was given a monthly check. That was the most frustrating part of a newspaper boy. Annoying dogs came in second. Guess how much I earned each month? A whooping $5.00 and that was enough to make a little 13 year old boy and his family happy. With the five dollars we bought a 100 pound bag of rice each month. That was a huge contribution to the family budget and I was proud to have the means to contribute.
Pineapple Sam originated as a fictional character from the mind of Ismael Tabalno from Hawaii. He is a Kauai local individual of Asian descent who decided to write as a hobby when he retired. Pineapple Sam loved to "talk story" as they say in the islands, now many of his friends and family can still listen or read about his adventures.