I am preparing Susan's income tax - and, aside from New Zealand Superannuation, her sole income this last tax year was from delivering the Franklin County News. In 2013, Sue is continuing something which began in, I think, about 1985 or -6.
During the 27 or 28 years since then, our family has delivered the New Zealand Herald (both Johnny and Eddie - for several years each), junk mail - for, I think, about ten years - and the County News.
The junk mail run was not only money for us; it had, I think, a good deal to do with bringing us together as a family. It may be that my children will respond to this post with protests! How they hated doing it may be a theme.
It may - yet it was also simply fun and enjoyable. The junk mail (advertising circulars) must have been something we did on a Saturday, I think, because I was usually involved. On a typical Saturday we might have been given half a dozen different circulars: ads for Woolworth's, ads for this or that store. How many papers did we have? I do not remember - perhaps five or six hundred of each.
The dining room table was prep time. We were forbidden to nest papers inside one another; we did it that way, regardless. I don't think there could have been any other practical method. Naturally each advertiser wanted its material separate from the others. Just as naturally, we needed to be able to thrust a single packet of material into each letter box.
So the first step was collation, around the dining room table. "I need another Woolworth's" - "who has a Farmer's?"
Once collated, we walked the streets. I can't even remember how we carried them - in bags, I suppose, parking the car in a street and each of us - everyone worked! - carrying a load around.
You may infer that I remember those days with pleasure. Now, when I see a man and woman and two or three children doing the deliveries, I am struck with real nostalgia.
We stopped the junk mail run when the pressure increased. They wanted Sunday deliveries. We didn't want to do them. They wanted special during-the-week deliveries. We declined. The pay was pretty poor - and the time required too much.
The other paper deliveries were individual. The Herald, of course, was each of the boys' own run - and they started very early in the morning. But I think each of our four children had a County News run. The County News is a free (advertising-sponsored) local newspaper. Thus, unlike the Herald, which was delivered to subscribers only, the County News was simply delivered along a set of streets, one to each letterbox (except those labelled "No Junk Mail!"). This was true for all the runs except one.
That one - and whose was it, initially? I cannot remember - was the 'town run.'
Delivering in the main street (King Street) and its side feeders was, even then, a little more complicated. This delivery was to the shops, most of which were the ones who advertised in the paper. They were paying for it. They wanted to get it reliably, and, in some cases, multiple copies.
When the children grew out of doing these deliveries, the residential runs were handed over to others. The town run became Susan's.
At the time she inherited it, it was, I think, about 350 papers. It was also the best-paid of the deliveries, because, again, it was somewhat more complex - and the level of responsibility was higher, since it was to the advertisers. Sue continued the run for some years. Then the County News was bought by PMP - which is a big company running a number of periodical services (and, I think, a part of the monster Fairfax group). All changed.
When the County News was a small local company (started by a colleague of mine at the University of Auckland), it was very much a community affair. The children (they were mostly children) who did the deliveries were paid in cash. No PAYE (tax withholding) was taken out. At Christmas the children were entertained at a party by the company. The pay, for the sort of work it was, was not bad.
PMP took over. When? Not sure, perhaps about 2000. They told Susan she would have to be a private contractor. And they lowered her wage.
She and I talked about it. It is a demanding job. It seemed to us just not worthwhile any longer. She told them it wasn't worth it for her at that wage.
OK, they said, not a problem, we'll get someone else to do it.
Two weeks or so later they called Susan in. They begged her to come back. The shop owners were complaining: "We want Susan back!" Sue said it wasn't worth it to her at that rate. How much did she want, they asked? Oh, the same as before. No, they said - we will pay you more!
Susan is in demand!
A few years - maybe five? - ago she was out doing the papers. There, going along the street, was the boss of the company, delivering (to some places that were not on Sue's run)! What was he doing?!
There was an additional town run, which also included quite a lot of rural territory as well. The deliverer - an old man - who had been doing that other part had died. Greg - the boss - had tried one or another person doing the run. No good. They were not responsible. Would Susan - please!! - consider taking it over?
After some negotiation, she did. Today she delivers 737 papers, twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday). The run is quite complex, and constantly changing. We tried, once or twice, to get others to do it for her when she wanted to go away. We have given up on that. Now, if Sue goes on retreat, or to visit one of the children, she has a well-trained substitute: me. I take annual leave. I manage. Sue starts the run at 6AM, and, weather permitting, has finished by about 10:30AM. I start at 5:30, and, with luck, finish at 11AM - such is the power of her experience and expertise at the job.