Remember when there were newspaper boys and girls on almost every corner of the city each afternoon, at tram and bus stops, at traffic lights and scattered around the main intersections in the suburbs?
In those years, most Australian cities and towns were a Monday-to-Friday, 9am-to-5.30pm operation and as the shops and offices closed, there would be a mad scramble for the bus, tram or train.
The paperboys and girls would be yelling out at the top of their voices, thrusting the “Red Spot” (last edition) of the afternoon paper at people hurrying by and fumbling in their change belts for the tuppence change, hoping the buyer would lose patience and mumble “Oh, keep the change” as they hurried to board their transport home.
The young paper sellers were generally aged about 10 to 12 and worked for a local newsagency, or directly for a newspaper distribution company. For a lot of kids, it was an opportunity to earn a little pocket money and maybe help out with the family finances.
Many of the youngsters had to work their way up to sell at the best spots, such as outside the railway station or at the busier bus stops where it was possible to move up to 500 copies of the paper a night.
They would start their “apprenticeship” in some of the less busy areas but – as they picked up their skills (and some tricks, too) – they would be moved to the heavier traffic corners with more sales and far more tips.
The job would start directly after school, with the young vendors riding their bikes into the city and picking up their first lot of papers, then working until about 6pm and, finally, walking back to the distribution company to cash in. They would count their money and return unsold newspapers before riding their bike home by 7pm, in time for tea, followed by homework and bed.
I doubt that kids today would be able to do it. Quite apart from safety issues, there would be concerns and even accusations about childhood exploitation and mistreatment. And yet, talking to some of the then young boys and girls (now older adults), they look back on those years with a genuine affection.
The busy suburban intersections presented an excellent opportunity for sales. Ducking and weaving between cars waiting at red lights always produced customers but it was dangerous work.
The numbers of paperboys and girls began to diminish in the mid to late ’80s as reading habits began to change. By the early 90s most of the late afternoon newspapers, the main driver of paper sales late in the day, finally closed down.
Over the next few years, the young paper sellers all but disappeared from the rural towns and city and suburban streets.
Newspaper kiosks, which sold papers, magazines and cigarettes and were once spread throughout the city streets have also gone. Although a considerable number of people still prefer to read the daily paper, in this digital age more and more readers are turning to the internet for the news which is now delivered throughout a 24-hour cycle.
And many people who enjoy a traditional newspaper in the morning, access their afternoon news and updates via their computers, tablets and mobile phones.
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