The Duncan Banner

Opinion

October 6, 2013

Special week for memories

DUNCAN — Tom Cruise, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Martin Luther King Jr., Warren Buffett, Tom Brokaw, Joe Vermedahl and his wife Vicki all have something in common.

All delivered the newspaper.

I don’t know details about how the others became carriers in their respective communities, but I do know the Vermedahl story. Joe credits, or blames, me.

Years ago, we were having a conversation, probably about a lot of different things.

I told him of my experiences as a young carrier in my home town of Tuscaloosa. I shared with him memories about delivering the route that engulfed the University of Alabama and about how I learned traits like punctuality, dependability and responsibility, about how I learned to manage money, visit with people and provide customer service even when the weather was bad.

I could tell I had his attention.

When I continued, telling about the time my dad and I spent together delivering my route on dark weekend mornings and how to this day, I remember and value those unique times together, I knew I had him.

Why, I said, The Banner route in your neighborhood is open now. You could experience the same feelings and build the same memories with your boys.

As we celebrate the beginning of National Newspaper Week today, the long ago conversation comes to mind. Joe remembers it pretty much the same way. And his enthusiastic, “We’ll take it!” answer then did indeed produce memories for the Vermedahls.

Aaron was the first family carrier, then Erik and finally Matthew.

With a lot of driving help from Vicki and Joe, they handled the route 10 years and, as I recall, were among The Banner’s best newspaper delivery folks during that period. The Banner was a weekday afternoon paper then with morning delivery on Sunday and a special Saturday morning edition during football seasons.

Joe, who delivered the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch as a kid, still has the Schwinn bike he used on that route, and was a seasoned veteran, remembers the route here – Route 17, just north of the downtown area -- had 127 customers. My hunch is, in case of an emergency, they could deliver the route today even after a 17-year separation. It’s like learning the lines in a play. You remember them forever.

“I wasn’t looking for anything,” he quickly reminded. “But it seemed like a good idea. The boys could make a little money and you made that father-son angle sound so good. How could we resist?”

Not surprisingly, there are those memories.

The family van broke down the very first day, Vicki said. They borrowed a car without air conditioning in August and made the deliveries. “It was miserable,” she said.

The learning curve wasn’t immediate, either. Many “throws” missed their target and had to be placed by hand in the yard until they “got the hang of it.”

The challenges of a huge snowstorm in the mid-1980s seem like only yesterday, Joe said. “We had to throw papers on the porch or the customers would never have found them. The wind caught one, I remember, and carried it on the roof. We tried to get it, but couldn’t, so we just gave the customer our paper that day.”

And it was a delivery procedure that taught the Vermedahls just how meticulous son Matthew was and still is. “Every paper he rolled was perfectly round and the same diameter,” Joe said. “All the rubber bands were carefully aligned. And his pile of papers was in perfect order, before he put them in the bag. He was a perfectionist then and he still is today.”

Those valuable delivery lessons surfaced, too. Being responsible. Doing it right. Being on time. Handling complaints. Making judgment calls when bad weather threatened. Providing good service. And there was that family closeness opportunity as well.

“You were right,” Joe said, looking back nearly three decades. “We had some good times. We did have some quality time together and there are some good memories. Though I didn’t always think so then, especially on those unbearably early mornings, I’m glad we did it.”

It’s possible folks like Cruise, Buffett and Brokaw are having similar reflections today as our special week begins. Carriers are now independent contractors and while some of the procedures have changed, there remains a common bond among all who have shared the experience.

Like the Vermedahls, they’re special people.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Governor, state Legislature have misplaced priorities

    If the Oklahoma State Legislators and our Governor spent less time interfering in women’s rights to manage their bodies, creating ways to lay more taxes and fees on the middle class in order to generate more tax breaks which benefit only the wealthy while also conceiving methods with which to fill Oklahoma’s for-profit prisons, they would be doing all of us a favor. Instead, why not work to enhance funding for our schools and wage increases for all school employees? While reforming the state’s educational budget, why don’t they approve wage increases for our Oklahoma State Troopers and enlarge their Academy to insure qualified individuals are ready to fill the upcoming vacancies as many of the older force retire?

    April 9, 2014

  • Self government key to keeping politicians in check

    Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal campaign laws that limit the total amount of money donors can give to political parties, committees and candidates for federal office (U.S. House, Senate, and President) was unconstitutional. The ruling will not increase the current $2,600 limit on how much a donor can give to a federal candidate in each primary and general election or the $32,400 limit that can go to a national party committee. Those limits are still in place.  The ruling will instead remove the limit on how many candidates/committees to which a donor can contribute.

    April 9, 2014

  • Legislative goals crucial to priorities in education

    I am a member of several professional organizations where I attend regular meetings, network with colleagues, and stay abreast and informed on education best practices.  The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, better known as CCOSA, is a nonprofit organization that establishes close and continuous communication and cooperation between educators, taxpayers, and legislators to improve the effectiveness of professional school administrators and to communicate the needs of schools. Attendance this time of year is especially critical because legislators are in session.

    March 28, 2014

  • An impressive ranking that could be better

    That Duncan was named one of the best 15 communities in Oklahoma by Movoto, a national Real Estate company, is news worth celebrating.
    Of 43 places with population of 10,000 or more, as determined by the U.S. Census data, Duncan finished 15th. Norman was first, Edmond second, Yukon and Moore tied for third and Bethany was fifth.

    March 9, 2014

  • Kids shouldn’t have to pay for having punster parents

    Friends and neighbors, I’ve been cloistered in my Thought Chamber for the past few days, contemplating many high-brow philosophies and haughty hypothesis that we who think on a different level use to exercise our finely-tuned minds and remain intellectually superior to the Great Unwashed.
    As you see, the time alone has been intellectually beneficial. I just composed an opening sentence (what we in the journalism dodge call a “lead”) that’s 46 words long.

    March 9, 2014

  • The blissful serenity of No-TV Land

    Life without TV is possible. Maybe you should try it. I did. It’s a do-able thing, I tell you. I’m still here, no worse the wear, no oozing wounds, no serious loss of brainwave activity except for the slow, inexorable downhill decline that already started when TV viewing was a daily occurrence.

    Granted, two months without the tube is quite likely not a scientifically acceptable sample from which is to hold forth. But it’s the best I can do, so deal with it.

    March 9, 2014

  • Cooper’s message is to remain active

    Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Dallas physician who coined the phrase “aerobics” more than four decades ago, who has become a world leader in physical fitness and who has saved, literally, thousands of lives by promoting the value of an active lifestyle, shared his philosophy of life here last week.

    March 9, 2014

  • Time to take the “B” out of the “Three R’s”

    Our young folks are hitting the stretch drive toward the end of another school year, during which they’ve been taught “Three R’s”, which are not really “r’s” at all.
    In case you missed it, reading is the only one of the “Three R’s” that actually begins with the letter “r.” Writing starts with a “w” and arithmetic begins with the letter “a.” There are two reasons we drop the “w” from “writing” and the “a” from “arithmetic”: 1. For poetic flow in the age-old saying; and, 2. many people have a secret yen to talk like the Beverly Hillbillies.

    February 23, 2014

  • Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again

    Friends and neighbors, hope I don’t sound like the biggest egomaniac since Donald Trump, but you know, I am the most interesting person I’ve ever known.
    Forgive me if — on first blush — that sounds like the most totally self-aggrandizing statement you’ve ever heard. And if you’ve headed to the restroom to express an editorial opinion about the statement above, I’ll stop for a couple minutes.

    February 15, 2014

  • Buzz misfired in Vanity Fair body slam of Duncan

    As the new kid in town, I’m reluctant to leap atop the ramparts to defend the honor of Duncan, Okla., my new adopted hometown.
    But to heck with that. When an out-of-towner comes into your house and soils your rug, it’s on.
    I speak, of course, about the article in Vanity Fair magazine about Duncan and the  killing last year of Chris Lane, the Australian who was gunned down in August.

    January 24, 2014

Poll

Who do you favor for the U.S. Senate seat that Tom Coburn is giving up?

State Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton
U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond
State Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City
Former State Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso
     View Results
AP Video