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Read All About It…Get the News Hee-ya!!

Remember when there were newspaper boys and girls on almost every corner of the city each afternoon, at tram and bus stops, at traffic lights and scattered around the main intersections in the suburbs?

A newspsper boy in the 50s. I doubt that kids today would be able to do it. Quite apart from safety issues, there would be concerns and even accusations about childhood exploitation and mistreatment.

A newspsper boy in the 50s. I doubt that kids today would be able to do it. Quite apart from safety issues, there would be concerns and even accusations about childhood exploitation and mistreatment.

In those years, Adelaide was a Monday-to-Friday, 9am-to-5.30pm city, and as the shops and offices closed, there would be a mad scramble for the bus, tram or train.

The paperboys and girls would be yelling out at the top of their voices, thrusting the “Red Spot” (last edition) of afternoon paper The News at people hurrying by and fumbling in their change belts for the tuppence change, hoping the buyer would lose patience and mumble “Oh, keep the change” as they hurried to board their transport home.

The young paper sellers were generally aged about 10 to 12 and worked from one of the newspaper kiosks dotted around the city, or directly for a distribution company. For a lot of kids, it was an opportunity to earn a little pocket money and maybe help out with the family finances.

Many of the youngsters had to work their way up to sell at the best spots, such as outside the railway station on North Terrace, where it was possible to move up to 500 copies of The News a night.

They would start their “apprenticeship” in some of the less busy areas but – as they picked up their skills (and some tricks, too) – they would be moved to the heavier traffic corners with more sales and far more tips.

The job would start directly after school, with the young vendors riding their bikes into the city and picking up their first lot of papers, then working until about 6pm and, finally, walking back to the distribution company to cash in. They would count their money and return unsold newspapers before riding their bike home by 7pm, in time for tea, followed by homework and bed.Newspaper boys advertiser

I doubt that kids today would be able to do it. Quite apart from safety issues, there would be concerns and even accusations about childhood exploitation and mistreatment. And yet, talking to some of the then young boys and girls (now older adults), they look back on those years with a genuine affection.

The busy suburban intersections presented an excellent opportunity for sales. Ducking and weaving between cars waiting at red lights always produced customers but it was dangerous work.

The numbers of paperboys and girls began to diminish in the mid to late ’80s as reading habits began to change. In 1992, The News, which was the main driver of paper sales late in the day, finally closed down.

Over the next few years, the young paper sellers all but disappeared from the city and suburban streets.

Newspaper kiosks, which once were spread throughout the main city streets, also began to vanish and today have all gone. Well over 500,000 people read The Advertiser and Sunday Mail each week, but in this digital age, news is delivered throughout a 24-hour cycle.

Now, many people who enjoy a newspaper in the morning access their afternoon news and updates via their computers, tablets and mobile phones.


11 Responses to Read All About It…Get the News Hee-ya!!

  1. Rachael Norton January 6, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    That was me! I was one of those girls at the corner of Currie and King William Streets. Just in view of my father and so people did not have to stray slightly down Currie Street to my father’s paper stall.
    He was right next to the STA office where you could pop in and get your new timetable or if you were a ‘fella’ you could use the underground toilets under the STA office. They were all tiled and ornate, but the Council of the day backfilled them with concrete. Another loss to the city, considering you can watch programs about underground lost tunnels around the world….

    • James Lightoller December 14, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

      I seem to remember that you had to pay to use those toilets. Is that right? I’m thinking of the underground ones on the south side of Currie St just west of King William.

    • Mike J Hennessy December 29, 2020 at 8:38 pm #

      I sold “The News” from the north eastern corner of Hindmarsh Square and Grenfell Street, from mid 1972 to sometime late 1973 (school work started taking up too much of my time then). On the corner I worked from, yelling at the top of my voice “get your red spot news!”, was a pub and another one across the road on Grenfell Street, both of which I would do a circuit of, when sales had slowed from the path, through the front bar. In those days we were asked by our bosses to enter the front bars and sell as many papers as we could, although I was only 13-14 yo! Oh, and how generous the tips could be, sometimes more than what I got for the days work, but only if my transactions were completed before a barman didn’t put a stop to the tipping with a scowl! I like to think the barman did it to stop me ripping off his clientele, but my streetwise side thinks he did it to maximise the clienteles spending in their pub(s)! Every now and then a News ute would pull up and throw a couple of bales of papers at me so that I wouldn’t run out of papers. I think I made about $3-5 each day, after returning all the unsold papers, but sometimes I would run out.

  2. Warren Hutchins January 7, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    That was my introduction to a working life. Started out at the local suburban pub and then graduated to a round working the southeast corner of the city. I must of looked like a pack mule with the bags filled with The News, one over each shoulder as I rode my bike going to the businesses and the pubs in the area.
    It was mostly good fun and an excellent way to earn a few bob and gain a bit of independence.
    Not to be in this day and age.

  3. Simon January 17, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    Me too. I used to sell The News at the Broadway Hotel and the Holdfast Hotel at Glenelg in the mid 70’s. It was my first job and I don’t look back on it as being exploitation. I don’t remember being particularly fond of it but I was never harassed and the work wasn’t that hard really. It wasn’t exactly David Copperfieldish. I distinctly remember the smell of beer though, and all the old guys at the bar. They were busy places back then as I remember.

    I agree with the other commenters, it was a great way to earn a few extra dollars and gain a bit of confidence at an early age.

  4. Kym October 17, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    I started selling papers at the 5 ways at Gepps Cross in early 70s, worked my way up to Grand Junction Rd and then went to the city and worked my way up to the Charles street spot nxt to Johnies, woo hoo

  5. paul s March 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    I remember selling the news on the corner of kesters and bridge road back in the 60s after school for a newsagent called Alf Cole,He would leave the papers on the corner with a brick on top to stop them blowing away and he would leave some change for me, Papers were 5 cents at the time and i would save the money until Friday and then take it to his house , I got 1 cent per paper so bye friday you could maybe earn a few dollars but in the day i thought i was king of the hill Then o the weekends i would collect money from his customers for his home delivery run ,
    Imagine doing that today .But back then its what you did to earn money. Its funny but now ime sixty i realize ive been working practically ever since in one of my parents businesses or my own jobs
    How times have changed..

  6. Luke Gray November 8, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    This sounds exactly like my Mum! She used to tell me all about the newspaper boys. How things have changed!

  7. Mark Kirk May 31, 2017 at 11:53 pm #

    What a great blog post. I didn’t work on a corner selling papers but for several years i used to deliver the messenger paper for what would be a pittance into today’s day and age. I remember saving my money for a year to buy a toy. Back then you really had to earn your keep. Not saying that kids these days have it entirely easy but hard work builds character.

  8. Karl June 25, 2017 at 10:16 pm #

    Those newsboys were allowed to get on the bus for free to sell the papers to the passengers, when I was a kid. They’d get on at one stop and pretty much get off at the next. This was when conductors were on the busses, and when smoking was allowed at the back of the 3-door bus. My brother’s friend’s parents ran the local Campbelltown newsagent, and they would use their son and other kids to deliver papers by bike. Pocket money tasks of a by-gone era!
    Cheerful memories,

  9. ken August 1, 2017 at 5:25 am #

    I was 10 when I started selling papers, out side of the Goodwood hotel, and in that year they started to put up the stop lights, or the year after? We, my friend and I dodged cars, first when the Glenelg tram stopped the cars and then, when the stopped lights stopped them, our money went up then.
    We had to wear a registration badge, as to go into the hotel, The main time in those days were, 5:00pm to 6:00pm.(The Swill). 2 pence a paper and most gave three-penny bit, 1 penny tip. I sold papers until 15 yrs old, and made more money that my brother who worked full-time.
    Then the paper soled at three-pence, a flat time, but it went up to 4 pence, most wanted change but a lot gave me a zack, (six-pence) times were good.
    The two of us sold papers at GPO, close to the pie cart over the weekend, Saturday and Sunday I got to know the bus drivers, police, and some other characters. Hard work BUT fun.

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