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Wednesdays with Wade: Walt the newspaper boy

Wednesdays with Wade: Walt the newspaper boy

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When Walt was a boy in Kansas City, Missouri, he delivered both a morning edition (TIMES) and an evening edition (STAR) of the local newspapers. His father had acquired a distributorship for an area of seven hundred subscribers. Elias Disney would not allow the newspaper boys to deliver from bicycles and insisted that instead of throwing the papers on the porch, they had to carry the papers and lay them on the doorsteps.

For six years, Walt delivered the newspapers (missing only four weeks during all that time because of illness). He delivered in rainstorms and blizzards. He got up around three-thirty in the morning in order to get the papers from the delivery truck by four-thirty.

Walt liked to recall how he, along with other Kansas City newsboys, had been invited in 1915 to the silent movie version of "Snow White" starring Marguerite Clark at the Convention Hall. The movie was projected on four screens in the huge auditorium, and from where he was sitting, Walt could watch two of them. It had been his most vivid early memory of attending the movies and probably influenced his choice of selecting the story for his first animated feature.

Of course, Walt also had a recurring nightmare for the rest of his life that he had failed to deliver a newspaper and would have to deal with his father's anger. By the way, Elias never paid Roy and Walt for delivering the newspapers. He claimed, "Your pay is the board and room that I provide for you."

When Disney Archivist Dave Smith was fifteen years old and living in Pasadena, California, he decided he wanted to go to Disneyland but he didn't want to pay the admission price and then have to pay for each individual attraction. Dave learned that Walt had made a special arrangement for newspaper boys. If a newspaper boy got three new subscribers to sign up, they would be able to visit Disneyland and be given a special Disneyland passport. The newspaper boy passport would allow a newspaper boy to enter Disneyland and ride any attraction as often as they would like just by showing the yellow passport to any ticket taker.

Dave was able to get two new subscribers but was unable to get a third so he "invented" a third subscriber, paid for the subscription and the third subscriber cancelled his subscription before the month was out but not before Dave got his passport and visited Disneyland.

Dave still has that passport today (along with his Autopia driver's license) and the memory that on that day, he got to meet Walt Disney briefly and take his picture. Walt later sent him an autograph for his collection.

While looking through my book collection for more obscure Disney related books, I ran across another book that has an interesting insight from Walt himself on being an newspaperboy.

The following excerpt from Walt is from "The Newspaperboys' Hall of Fame" by Sid Marks and Alban Emley (House-Warven Publishers 1953) Among other things, this book contains testimonies from former newspaperboys like Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Jack Dempsey, and Art Linkletter but here is Walt's contribution:

"I have yet to meet a man who once was a newspaperboy who isn't proud of the experience. I myself look back upon the time when my brother Roy and I delivered papers in Kansas City, Missouri, with great appreciation for what this daily chore meant then and what it has meant in all my grown-up life.

At the time, the sense of responsibility which goes with the job may seem like an onerous thing to a boy. Doing his work regularly every day, in all kinds of weather, often against his inclinations to loaf and postpone his accepted duties, gives a youngster a good foundation for his responsibilities as a man and a citizen later on. It helps greatly to equip him for the tasks and the satisfactions of business or professional life.

Delivering papers to many homes and offices gives a boy an added feeling of being respected by his neighbors and of belonging to his town or community, as well as being an important and reliable member of his own family. In all this he builds a proper pride and confidence in his own abilities--a good self-reliance and competence which comes from earning his own money.

I base these convictions on my own experience, and on the experience of other men familiar to me in many places in America.

My newspaper route in Kansas City got me up at 3:30 every morning and kept me hustling right up to breakfast and time to hurry to school. Then, after school, I did the same thing with the evening paper.

My father was a newspaper distributor for our end of town. He insisted that brother Roy and I always place the papers inside the screen doors or safely on the porch of our customers. And woe to us if we were slipshod about this. When it snowed, the job became all the more demanding. At the time, I'm afraid, I didn't think too highly of this requirement for taking pains. But today I appreciate what my father so thoroughly inculcated into us in the formative time of our youth.

I believe that the benefits to a boy who carries newspapers on the neighborhood routes of his town or section, if he is not too young and the task is not too burdensome, are as generally sound and valuable today as they were in the days of my youth."

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