For me, the Southwest Journal paper route was like some kind of head-clearing therapy where I connected to the community I grew up in. For my son Albert, it was during the paper route that he discovered punk rock on his playlist and fell in love with his favorite band, the Minutemen. For my daughter, Maddy, the paper helped her pay for college and she will graduate from the U of M’s School of Journalism in spring 2021 and is currently a music journalist for Trash Mag.
My first job was subbing for my brother Sean’s paper route delivering the Minneapolis Star in Uptown in the afternoon. It was 1976 and I was 11 years old. He would pay me $1. On Sundays, we got up at 4 a.m. to deliver the Minneapolis Tribune. The truck would drop our bundles behind the Uptown Bar and we’d load up our big yellow carts and play bumper cars in the middle of Hennepin Avenue in the snow. To me, it was like a big Busby Berkeley dance number shot from above. Customers started calling our house at 6 a.m. if they hadn’t got their paper yet, or if it was in the wrong place! So my dad, tired of his phone waking him up, got us our own phone he dubbed “The Children’s Hotline.” It was a dial desk phone, in red of course!
So when my kids were about the same age, we got a Southwest Journal route for their first job. And yes, we got chased by dogs! Sometimes we missed our target and the paper ended up in someone’s garden or on their roof. And then there was that one time my boys Albert and Cullen ran into their buddy Theo while doing their route, and he just had to show off his firework display. An irate neighbor bothered by the noise, recognized the telltale bags and called the Southwest Journal to complain! Another time I made a movie with my kids about a kid with a dream … and a paper route. But the best part of delivering a community newspaper is that you are actually in the community the paper serves, out and about with your neighbors.
We will never forget the collective anger and grief that was felt by the entire city after the death of George Floyd. Buildings burning as we delivered our usual route in Kingfield on a Saturday morning. Neighbors were organizing for block safety, handing out water bottles and masks to protesters to keep them safe and to those cleaning up the aftermath of the riots.
The homemade election lawn signs were amazing this year, and we enjoyed seeing the creative ways people were able to do Halloween during a pandemic with candy tubes, clotheslines and treasures hidden throughout the yard,
The Southwest Journal was everything a community newspaper should be — covering local elections, school news, neighborhood happenings and giving the lowdown on businesses new and old. It’s the end of an era and it will be deeply missed by our family, friends and neighbors. A very special thanks to Marlo Johnson, our fearless leader, who coordinates distribution, all of the routes and delivery personnel.