In the beginning, I thought the worst part of my new job was crawling out of bed at three o’clock in the morning. Then came the vicious winter storms that year, howling in off the Gulf of Alaska, with wave after wave of rain and sleet that bit sharply into your face like a fist full of needles.
In the midst of the cold downpours, I did what the other “paper boys” in the city did that sodden winter. Weighted down fore and aft with a canvas bag stuffed full of newspapers, I crouched over the handlebars of my bike in the predawn darkness—and kept pedaling. My new job was delivering Portland’s morning newspaper, The Oregonian.
My route fanned out from the eastern end of the Burnside Bridge. In the back streets, I delivered papers to aging bungalows and rows of sagging fiats and rooming houses—while along lower Burnside Street, I covered shabby hotels, beer joints, storefront cafes, mom and pop shops, and the cheap apartment buildings of the tenderloin.
At the old Northern Hotel next to the bridge, I delivered two papers every morning to a whorehouse on the second floor. One morning, a thin, working girl with a sad, little smile on her lips presented me with a fat glazed doughnut. I had just plopped their two papers on a round table in the entrance. The doughnut was scrumptious.
To this day, I can recall the rich perfume of spaghetti sauce that saturated some of those old buildings, where I lugged papers up two or three flights of stairs. Other tenements, though, had a different feel to them. Gaunt shadows. And the smell of dank, dark hallways.
By five-thirty or six o’clock each morning, I usually made it back into bed, where I’d try for one more hour of sleep before crawling out again to get ready for school. I was in my junior year at Washington High.
The Oregonian heralded the opening of San Francisco’s magnificent Golden Gate Bridge with a horizontal photo spread across the front page,, all eight columns, It was a proud day for the entire nation.
The new Golden Gate was the world’s longest suspension bridge with twin towers soaring 746 feet above the water (as high as a 65-story building). Today, this monumental example of sculptural art and engineering excellence is the most photographed man-made structure in the world.
One foolhardy ambition of mine a few years after the opening was to make a low-altitude run under the Golden Gate Bridge in a Marine Corps TBF. Never did I get a chance to pull it off.