There’s a great ’89 SNL skit featuring Jan Hooks and Alec Baldwin, set in a diner. Two geeks sitting up at the diner bar were regulars. They had no chance with any of the waitresses, but loved to come on a regular basis, not only because the food was good, but also because the waitresses were nice to these poor saps. This was me and 3 other paperboys in 1971 in a corner drug store in Hamilton, Ohio. (here’s the transcript for that skit)
What a drag it was to grow up without an allowance like ‘the rich kids’. In 1971 I had 3 paper routes. Two were early morning Cincinnati Enquirer routes and the afternoon route was a Hamilton Journal. I’d get up early in the morning, prepare my papers and then have to walk (or ride if I had a bike at he time) about 5 blocks just to get to my first house. Lugging 2 heavy bags, one on each shoulder, down to a neighborhood I was not very familiar with to deliver fairly thick newspapers, was a tedious job for a 13 year old (I detested Sundays as a paperboy). I would get up early enough so that I could still take a nap afterwards before having to get ready for school. I can recall being able to keep my eyes just barely open for most classes; especially after lunch. Luckily my grades didn’t suffer too badly.
The afternoon route was different. Everyone in those days subscribed to their local newspaper so even though the papers were thinner than the big city paper, there were far more of them. Remembering the route, (which houses to zip a small paper up to), was a piece of cake. All one had to do was to memorize which houses did not subscribe – almost everyone got the paper. I enjoyed my afternoon route. No, not because I loved lugging around 180 papers everyday, and no, not because I had to skip afternoon pick up games. I loved that route for one thing – the finale. The Pièce de résistance was the stop at Hughes Drug Store.
Hughes Drug Store was a throwback to simpler times. It had the cranky old pharmacist. It had everything a kid could need to build stink bombs. It had a good old fashioned ice cream counter, complete with shake mixers and a huge wall mirror. But it also had one very important magical touch – it had a gorgeous, sweet and stacked older teenager working the counter. Her name was Sue Hall. To us pre-pubescent teens, Sue was an angel from heaven because she would actually “talk” to us! Naturally, in order to feed our kid-fantasies, we considered it”flirting”, but Sue Hall was the closest thing to Marilyn Monroe or Playboy we paperboys had. A winning smile, (always), a figure rivaling Selma Hayek, (hey, this is ‘my’ story), and the personality of a snake charmer. She would just look at me and I would go crazy. And I wasn’t alone.
There were about 4 of us paperboys as I recall and every day it seemed we’d be in contest to see who would get to the counter first. You see…if you were the first to arrive, you had a chance to have Sue’s attention all to yourself. It was like a paperboy fantasy date – and the best thing was that we didn’t have to have a car to take her out – you just had to be first to the trough (so to speak). On several occasions I can recall skipping my last few papers and delivering them after the drug store stop just to catch a chance at being all alone with Sue, (well, all alone plus a few annoying people who had the nerve to come in to actually purchase something). I would order a chocolate malt. They were delicious desserts, hand-scooped by the drug store angel. If you paid in change, she would use one hand to catch the change and the other hand touched your hand to help prevent the change from hitting the counter or floor. I always paid in small change!
So there we were – three to four 12-14 year old paperboys, all with a shake, malt or ice cream and all of us doing the same thing – ogling Sue and competing for her attention. This was our version of sex with an older woman, (if any of us really knew what the heck sex was then). We were all very green. We all knew she was older and none of us had a shot with her. For that matter, at 13 none of us would have known what the heck to do with an ‘older woman’ anyway….give her a thrill ride on our bike? But it didn’t matter, this was our time and we looked forward to it…and Sue never disappointed.
Until writing this little story, I never really stopped to think if Sue was all that ‘innocent’ or if she knew that she was driving us crazy and perhaps doing it intentionally. My bet is she knew – good looking girls always know they’re good looking and they know we men, (no matter what age), are weaklings unable to resist a chocolate malt, hand scooped by a bent-over drug store vixen. We must have looked hilarious to the adults who walked in to pick up their prescriptions. We couldn’t have looked any goofier if we had all been outside with our faces all pressed to the glass.
One day I came in after the route and Sue told me that she would be moving to a new job somewhere. After she left, things were never the same. My afternoon route was much less alluring. I continued to deliver papers until I think I was perhaps 16 and could get a big-kid-job, but I rarely stopped at Hughes Drug Store for a malt. It just wasn’t the same without Sue. Sue Hall – if you’re out there and you read this one day, thanks for not treating me like a little kid. I hope you found joy and happiness because you sure could scoop it out!