SUNDAY REFLECTIONS OF AN OCTOGENARIAN

On Sundays, I think of The Eagle. Let me explain.

Naturally I consider my grandkids, Charley and Michael, the best and the brightest to have ever walked the Earth. But I noticed when they were young, their expectations of their parents were startlingly different than in my generation of traditional Conservative values and beliefs. I got my first job delivering Brooklyn Eagle newspapers at 12. I was out every day at dawn through the shirt-sticking summers and skin-cracking winters of Brooklyn. Dogs, traffic—nothing could stop me. Within a year, I became Station Master, collating and handing out 2,000 newspapers to all the other delivery boys—the newsies. I used to get up at three in the morning on a Sunday to insert all the comic strips and magazines into the regular paper—we didn’t have robots to do that kind of task back then. I was the robot! Then I’d hand out the exact number of papers needed for every route. THEN I did my own route.

At some point, I got enterprising, figuring out I could run “outsourcing” contracts. I paid neighborhood kids a penny a paper to run parts of my route for me, say 7th, 8th, 9th, or 10th Street, Brooklyn. I took a 10-minute breather. I read the comics: Batman and Robin, Superman, Mickey Mouse, and the newbies, Archie and Walt Kelly’s Pogo. The war rationing of butter and sugar on the home front ended in 1947, and suddenly it rained junk food: Almond Joys, Junior Mints, Smarties, and Cheetos. I had just enough time to indulge. Then it was back to work. Afterward, I went to church, of course, and, finally, went with my father to help at his job. Most kids today are still in bed by the time I was finishing lunch.

My boss and mentor at the Eagle, Mr. Cavagna, noticed my hard work, and he made sure I knew that he knew it, too. I was voted the number one Eagle carrier of the year, having canvassed and signed up the most new customers of any delivery boy in Brooklyn. As a reward, Mr. Cavagna invited me to the Dodgers’ 1947 National League pennant celebration at Brooklyn Borough Hall. There was no greater honor – it was a waking dream – for a dyed-in-the-wool Brooklyn boy than meeting Jackie Robinson, Pete Reiser, Pee Wee, and the rest of the gang. My God, what a night. That’s what people of my generation mean when we say let’s return America to greatness.

You know the best part of that for me was that I EARNED it. Sweat, toil, and hustling as though my life depended on it. And entrepreneurship. Right there, I learned the greatest of American values firsthand. Personal responsibility, folks. I’d seen my father and mother work hard and continue to improve their station in life—and now I was doing it, too. My reward was that the players signed a baseball my brother had suggested I bring for autographs. I got Reese. Reiser. Carl Furillo, Dixie Walker, Duke Snider, Ed Stanky, Gil Hodges. And the great man who’d busted the color barrier, Jackie Robinson himself. Who is restoring fighting to restore American family values nowadays?

We need a national re-engineering project, People. We need to rebuild our great country from the ground up, one kid at a time. Let’s start on Sunday.

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