Jim McMillen's Blog

Entries for August 2012

03

It’s always an adventure to sit in Seamus “Cootie” O’Brien’s barber chair. Cootie’s shop is an old-fashioned one—a throwback to the 1940s like those I remember as a boy. Shelves are lined with old hair tonics so seldom used that years of dust has collected on the bottles. Cootie has several straight-edge razors and a razor strap attached to the chair. I doubt if he can remember the last time he gave someone a shave. The seat on the shoeshine stand is covered with old magazines and hasn’t been used in 25 years.

“Why in hell’s name do we keep sending money to all those foreign countries where they hate us?” Cootie vented, soon after I was an audience in his chair.

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03

I spent 41 years in the newspaper business, being paid to do something I would have done as a hobby. Don’t let those who paid me all of those years know that. They might want their money back the way things are going in the newspaper business today.

My newspapering started at age seven. A kid who was several years older than me asked me if I wanted to take over his newspaper venture, since he was taking a “real” job as a grocery sack boy. Upon inquiring about what I’d be doing, he told me that I would collect old newspapers door-to-door and sell them to the local poultry hatchery where they would use them as cage-bottom lining. Having received a “new” wagon for Christmas, perfect for hauling old newspapers, I accepted and took over the boy’s operation. With World War II on, toys and other items made of steel were hard to come by. My Christmas-gift wagon was a used one, repainted red, the Radio Flyer emblem no longer visible. I don’t remember who gave it to me. Maybe it was Santa Claus.

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