I never actually knew which house was Lorne’s. We both lived on Wellington Street, but in two different worlds.
Nor do I recall ever seeing him inside a store, at school, or any building for that matter. Only riding his bike – a sturdy old rattling thing with wide handlebars – or standing at our front door, collecting money with a focused frowned, clipping holes in our payment card.
Lorne delivered the daily Sarnia paper (except Sunday). With two overstuffed canvas bags criss-crossed over his shoulders, he’d sling papers from the sidewalk like a hook shot, always landing them neatly on the front porch.
Each newspaper was rolled tight with the ends tucked in. So we could open the storm door and bring it inside before it got really wet, even in a downpour.
Lorne was a genuine go-getter, admired by adults in the neighbourhood for his go-getter-ness. But in a world of bright red headlines he was also the dull dust of everyday hard work.
He was a part of our lives for so long we simply got used to him. His clothes weren’t quite scruffy, but well used.
Most of the time we saw only the top of his head, looking down at the nickel-plated coin changer hooked to his belt. After counting the payment, he dispensed the exact change from its four barrels: pennies, nickels, dimes and quarter.
I don’t recall anyone ever tipping paper carriers, except maybe at Christmas.
Lorne had more than 130 subscribers. I, on the other hand, delivered a grand total of 18 copies every day (except Sunday) of what was then referred to as the Toronto Daily Star. The route featured 12 new subscriptions (that I won an award for selling) and six inherited addresses.
I would go to the tiny office located near Perry’s Fish & Chips on East Street and pay for my newspapers. Then I’d roll them up as best I could – they were pretty thick – and deliver them.
One dark winter evening Lorne was at our front door. He was crying. He’d won a contest for a week’s vacation to somewhere exotic, warm and sunny but couldn’t find anyone to take his route.
My parents volunteered me. No objections entertained.
So for that week I delivered both papers, grumbled, learned a little about being a good neighbour, and made some extra money.
And for Lorne, the universe unfolded as it should.
Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer of stories, articles and light verse