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Rockwellian ‘paperboys' no dying breed in Valley

June 11, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — "Bark!"

A councilman waves "Hello."

Newspaper hits porch.

Gabriel Uribe pedals around Calexico, tossing papers, dodging dogs and skirting cars from City Hall to the border fence.

The lanky 17-year-old delivers three routes for the Imperial Valley Press on Sundays through Fridays.

Gabriel is becoming unique in the newspaper business as more and more newspapers throughout the country are delivered by guys driving small trucks in the pitch black of morning.

The Norman Rockwell era of paperboys delivering the evening gazette with a "Hi there, Mrs. Smith!" has given way to guys in Toyotas and vastly more morning papers than evening editions, according to industry surveys.

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Not in the Imperial Valley — well, not yet.

Ed Navarro, circulation manager for the Imperial Valley Press, said evening deliveries and papers tossed by kids is working out great.

"We have more than 200 paper carriers (including papergirls) and 20 adult carriers," Navarro said.

Tony Banuelos is one of the adult carriers. He drives a Ford Ranger, not a Toyota, he noted.

A Los Angeles Dodger fan, Banuelos said he considers his job therapy and enjoys talking to the customers on his route.

He delivers to rural areas surrounding Holtville. The 85- mile route takes him three and a half hours.

If the Press starts morning deliveries, Banuelos' manner of delivery, by truck instead of bike, will be the norm not the exception.

Navarro said the Press hasn't decided if it is going to become a morning paper.

He praised the kids and adults who deliver the evening paper in spite of the heat, wind and dogs.

"They're doing a great job," Navarro said.

Navarro mulled the theories about why evening papers and paperboys are declining.

He said it could be because of cost concerns and possibly because of changing reading patterns.

Gabriel doesn't sit back and contemplate changes in the newspaper industry or reading patterns.

He isn't concerned the first job for millions of people this past century could become as antiquated as barbershop quartets.

He's got papers to roll.

For an hour after school he sits on the floor of his family apartment rolling, rolling, rolling. His hands smeared with ink, he snaps rubber bands once, twice around the rolls.

Newspapers pile around him.

He fills two canvas sacks emblazoned with "IMPERIAL VALLEY PRESS" in red block letters. Once his sacks are full he loads his bike.

He wraps the straps of the sacks around the handlebars of his deep purple 18-speed mountain bike and pushes the bike through his family's black security door.

He pedals away in the heat of a Calexico afternoon, about 97 degrees.

For 40 minutes he pedals, tosses, pedals, tosses, pedals, stops, walks up steps, pedals and tosses to 75 homes.

At the beginning of his route he rounds a corner and a little brown dog barks at him.

He said the worst experience he has had in his three-year delivering career was "the Rottweiler." The little brown dog is nothing compared to "the Rottweiler," he added.

The black hulking cujo that chased him lives off of a dusty alley near the border fence.

Gabriel said one day the dog was loose. That's right. Someone let the dog out.

Gabriel rode away as fast as he could, screaming at the top of his lungs.

The dog, maybe pitying the youngster, let him go.

Gabriel explained, "If you scream at a dog the dog will leave you alone." He added, "We're friends now."

Gabriel's customers, including the Rottweiler owner, pay $9 for a month of deliveries.

He pockets about 33 percent of that. He says he got into delivering papers because of the money.

He got a raise last October, 33 cents worth, when the cost of a subscription per month jumped from $8.

His favorite part of the job are promotions the Press runs.

Last year Gabriel got to go to Universal Studios. Saturday the Press threw a party at Bucklin Park for Gabriel and the other carriers.

Navarro said the kids enjoyed carne asada, games and a dunking booth featuring the carrier's bosses.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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