Bridgette Mongeon © 2004
Houston Tribune October 2004
It does not matter what your age; everyone recognizes the cry of "Extra, Extra, Read all About it". The cry causes us to pay attention because we know that the information to follow is important. Originally it was the cry of the newsboys.
In 1833 Barney Flaherty answered this ad placed in the New York Sun newspaper. "To the Unemployed - - A number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper. A liberal discount is allowed to those who buy to sell again." Instead of a man, ten-year-old Barney was hired and became the first newsboy. Over the years many children followed. The children, sometimes as young as six years old, bought the newspapers from the publishers and hawked them on the street corner.
Receiving the news in this age of technology is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact it seems that sometimes we take it for granted. We can get our news through radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, and we can even have it e-mailed to us without moving a muscle. In 1833 and the years to follow, the newspaper was the only way to get the news, and the newsboys were the important resource between the people and the press.
When newspapers began to "deliver" papers, newsboys turned into news carriers. My hometown of Western New York still has news carriers. The paper is not delivered by some anonymous man in a dark car who drives slowly down the street, the sight of which, at 5:00 a.m., makes you feel a bit cautious, until you notice the car seems to be spitting papers from its dark interiors. These projectiles land in the ditch, others in the flowerbed, some do make it within ten feet of the front door. This is what our newspaper delivery system has turned into- anonymous, cold, and unfriendly.
It is not so in some towns. My hometown in Buffalo, New York, still has news carriers that deliver your newspaper. Oftentimes the paper is delivered inside your screen door. Delivering papers is not an easy task. The young child must get up early to not only receive the papers hot off the press, but also to deliver them, and this must be done in all sorts of weather. In the blustering blizzards of Buffalo, winter snowstorms could often cover a small child. But, no matter what the weather, the paperboys always delivered the paper. As far as I know they still do today.
These eager and honest entrepreneurs not only delivered the papers but also collected the money that you paid for your subscriptions. Knowing the paperboy wanted to be paid, your weekly face to face encounter would be announced by any family member not in charge of the checkbook. The shout would ring, " It's the paper boy." Upon receiving payment politely, the paperboy would hand to you your little stamped receipt to show that you have paid. The thought of the paperboy gives me the warm fuzzys. I hope that paperboys never go away. The last bit of nostalgia and intimacy with the media, young entrepreneurs, trustworthy and dependable, a symbol of the company they work for, a delivery system with a friendly warm face that represented stability and our future. If Houston, Texas, still had paperboys I am sure people would order the paper just for that reason alone. I know I would. And then I could put the paperboy on my Christmas gift list because; well he would be that important.
When I was 13 I wanted a guitar very badly so I thought I would get a job. Much to my parents dismay I took up a paper route. I was not the only one that had to deliver the paper in the morning. My Dad toted me to my place of delivery and dropped me off. There I stood in that eerie light between night and day bundled up with boots, mittens and a muffler. I stood in the snow, my paper sack slung over my shoulder and contemplated the task ahead, as I watched my Dad drive away. Oftentimes, when I would walk my paper route, my heavy footprints were the first to be seen in the early snow. My back rejoiced every time I delivered each paper, the sack growing lighter on my shoulders. My job lasted 2 weeks. I don't remember who held out longer, my Dad or I. But I am sure that the end of that short stint as a papergirl was a sense of relief for both of us. Yes, I did make enough to buy my guitar.
I have recently been awarded a sculpture commission to create a life size bronze newsboy for the Texas Press Association. They hope to place it at the state capitol building in Austin. As I prepare for this sculpture the research that I am doing on the newsboys is endless, but fascinating. I pull on my fondness and my own feelings about these boys for my creative inspiration. I decided to document the process of the sculpture and my research on my web site at www.creativesculpture.com/texaspress.html.
On the web site you can see and read about the entire process, from finding the model, a neighbor and dear friend's son, Dustin Lee, through the thoughts and struggles of the creative process and the endless research to the final installation and celebration. To my surprise, teachers and educators introduced to the web site immediately began to see the site's potential in becoming a viable education tool. In researching and discussing the importance of a newsboy, I introduce students to a very important part of history.
Because the children are reading my journal and following links to such subjects as the newsboys strike of 1899, the history of metal casting, headlines through history, they are being introduced to both history and reading. I have added a Students and Teachers section to each page of the journal with questions and links to help encourage the children in their education. As students become involved, I will also add sections to record the student's involvement and comments.
Because the sculpture placement is intended for Austin, Texas, and the state capitol grounds, through the website journal, the students will become involved with the political process that the Texas Press Association will have to through to present it to the legislature. Who knows, maybe some students will take a field trip to the Austin State Capitol for the unveiling.
It has always been important to me to make sure children know that even though they are small, they can make a big difference. This newsboy sculpture not only depicts the strength and integrity of the newspaper industry, but is an image for children to look up to as well. These boys made a difference and the children of today can as well.
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