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Around The Sun: Who Needs Roller Skates?

Steve Harrison joins the stern 5 am world of work.

For earlier episodes of Steve's story please click on Around The Sun in the menu on this page.


The only things which ever have any real meaning in life are the things you’ve earned by the sweat of your brow – saying to justify the following story.

Eighteen shillings and six pence. That sum was the barrier between a new pair of roller skates and my happiness.

There were the skates, in the window of the local Post Office. My nose left a greasy pressure mark on the window every time I stopped to stare in at them. I was determined to have those skates, no matter what the cost.

Putting eighteen shillings and sixpence down on the Post Office counter was of course out of the question. Members of my family never bought anything outright. We didn't have enough money to do so. But the shopkeeper, who had known me all my life, assured me he would keep the skates until I could afford to buy them.

I was 12 years old at the time, and I managed to get a job. I became a paperboy. It involved getting up at 5 am. I now shudder at the thought. Did I really do that? I got up at that time on weekends, as well as during the week. I delivered newspapers to houses in the district where I lived - receiving two shillings and sixpence a week for doing so.

Often I started out on my round before the sun had risen. In rain, sleet or snow the newspapers had to get through. I reassured myself that in a couple of months the skates would be mine. Of course I had forgotten to take account of the cost of a daily intake of iced buns, and occasional visits to the local fleapit cinema.

I don't know exactly how long it took, but eventually I had enough money to buy the skates. To this day I cannot recall ever using them. Or indeed I cannot think of a place near our home where I could have used them.

Thoughts of skating were now overshadowed by my newspaper delivery job. I enjoyed earning my own money. I was determined from then on to only buy things that I could pay for in cash. And I was determined to earn lots of cash.

For the rest of my school days I was a newspaper boy.

Let me tell you, those newspapers were heavy. I can still smell them, fresh ink on paper. If you weren't careful your hands would be black and inky. I carefully loaded the papers into a big canvas bag according to the street and house number which was written on every one. On Sundays the papers contained twice as many pages as they did during the week. Consquently they were twice as heavy.

I was passionate about my work. In some strange way I actually enjoyed getting out of a warm bed, bare toes encountering cold linoleum. And yes, I enjoyed trudging through mud and puddles.

Who needed roller skates? I was a boy with a mission. The newspaper boy!

What matter if I had to dry the insides of my shoes by stuffing old newspapers into them after many a wet and chilly round!


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