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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Star-Bulletin closing

Life can be hard
on paper trail

ONE corollary effect on staff members of the uncertain future of this newspaper has been repeated runs down memory lane. Clumps of writers will gather to talk about whether the Star-Bulletin will ultimately survive or be snuffed out and the conversation often turns to our careers in journalism: How long have we been in the business and how many papers have we worked for?

It's sort of a slow-motion version of having your life pass before your eyes during a near-death experience. It's been almost a year since the paper's owner strolled into the newsroom and announced our imminent demise. It turned out that the Grim Reaper on the Pale Horse had to be taken back to the barn to cool heels and hooves while lawyers smacked each other around with subpoenas and writs and other expensive stacks of paper. That gave the staff even more time to contemplate their pasts and futures, which isn't as much fun as it sounds.

I have worked for only four papers, if you count the Oregon State University Barometer, which was the school's daily newspaper. Before coming to the Star-Bulletin 20 years ago, I also had worked at the Wheeling Intelligencer in West Virginia and the Pacific Daily News in Guam. I went from being hip-high in rain to being hip-high in snow to being hip-high in heat and humidity, not to mention occasional brown tree snakes.

But if you want to get technical about it, the first newspaper I worked for was the Honolulu Advertiser, via the Hawaii Newspaper Agency, as a paper delivery boy.

Thirty years ago, we didn't deliver papers on motorized scooters; we used bikes. I had one of those bikes with high, sweeping Harley-Davidson handlebars, which, when you attached a canvas bag with 70 rolled-up newspapers, was like sitting on the neck of a water buffalo and trying to steer with his horns. Plus, the bike had no brakes, which added a zany aspect to newspaper delivery in Aiea Heights, where the topography ranged from steep to perpendicular. I got a hardship allowance that didn't quite pay for the number of tennis shoes I wore out trying to stop.

I was one of the few kids who actually looked forward to going to school. After a hair-raising morning of pedaling in the dark and through the rain while trying to survive vicious dogs and terminal velocity speed runs, the idea of sitting at a stationary, dry and relatively accident-free desk was appealing.

Oh, and did I mention that the money sucked? I mean it sucked when I could actually get my hands on it. Back then, we paper boys had to collect the money from our "clients" who were pretty good at not being home every time we came around. I don't know how many jerks there are in Hawaii who would stiff a paper boy, but about 70 of them were on my route.

My dad said working for the paper built character, but after several months I quit and went to work at Steven's Super Service gas station on Kamehameha Highway. I still had to go to work in the dark, but I didn't have jump out from behind shrubbery in order to get paid. And I stayed dry. (Staying dry became a non-negotiable requirement for all my future jobs.)

It's funny. The trauma of my first newspaper job eventually wore off, but the trauma of the current one continues. What my fellow staffers and I are going to do with the truckloads of character we're accumulating, I don't know.

Bulletin closing archive

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to

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