In This Issue:

Remembering Charles Robinson

The Paperboy

Another Year

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The Paperboy

By Rev. Gregory S. Smith

 

The beauty of being in your 50’s is that you engage in reflective wisdom yet are still young enough to effect change.

 

As I reflect upon my life growing up in the Witherspoon Jackson community during the late 70’s and early 80’s, I think that some of my most formative life lessons were derived from my experiences as a young paper boy.

 

It’s sad that the role of a paper boy is a deceased profession. Delivering papers taught me so many important lessons about life. I developed living principles without even realizing it. It was there that I learned important characteristics about human nature, development, and life. It further provided glimpses into the lives of the people I served. Those embedded glimpses come to me at the most interesting times and now are the keys that I rely upon to unlock the challenges of today’s life situations.

 

Each Friday evening when it was time to collect, I had the privilege to delve into the intimate lives of common folk. I smelled the sweet aroma of good soul food and even sampled exotic cuisines. I witnessed marital bliss as well as strife, and I saw the joys of privilege and hardships of financial struggles. On occasion I felt wrath or avoidance, but mostly I received generosity, kindness, and unconditional love. People bore their unique idiosyncrasies, their dependencies, their vulnerabilities, and it was all so curiously absorbed through the eyes of someone young, impressionable, and who stood ever so blessed to receive.

 

Over the years I held paper routes for the morning Trentonian and evening Trenton Times, delivering papers across various parts of the Princeton community. For several years I had a route beginning from the Wine and Game shop liquor store that spanned well past Williams Street. Delivering to a variety of businesses, I began with the warm greeting from Binky Fisher (my surrogate grandpa) who was always dressed impeccably in a pressed shirt and sweater, bow tie, Khakis, and penny loafers. He would offer a much-needed hug and send me on my journey.

 

Then, onto Palmer Square where Mr. Prezioso would be making homemade lasagna. You could smell the authentic tomato sauce at the door as he rolled out fresh noodles. I delivered to St. Paul rectory where father — or one of the nuns would be sure to give me the envelope with payment plus a tip. Then, I faithfully stopped at Hoagie Haven for my weekly free bacon cheeseburger (California style, with hot peppers) and topped it off with a tall glass of ginger ale with cherry on top, served by Dickie himself, while sitting at the bar with adults at the Ivy Inn.

 

I remember delivering papers to Mrs. Woodbridge, a young mother then with two small children. Her husband Dick Woodbridge was at the time a newly elected councilman. They represented Princeton’s Camelot. I loved their youthful life which represented a changing of the old guard. Mrs. Woodbridge inspired my love for how the historic can meet the new, as they brought new life to their charming historic brick home on Charlton Street. I would then deliver the Trenton Times to Princeton University Press and Mr. Richards who fixed electronics on the corner of Williams and Charlton Street. He would divulge life stories to me about World War II and the depression, and I would gladly listen with limited interest but mainly to gain the additional warmth of his shop as I prepared for the walk back to Maclean Street amid torrential rain, wind, and snow but, joyfully, with an empty sack).

 

Once during the blizzard of ‘78, after completing my route, I returned home only to be informed by my mom that Mr. Richards had already called asking me to return because he hadn’t received the paper in his door as he always instructed, and it was nowhere to be found. My mother, who was clearly conflicted, bid me go; it was a valuable lesson because it was my business, my responsibility, and because Mr. Richards needed so desperately to connect to the outside world while buried in the solitude of his vast collection of radio parts.

 

There were even more lessons served in the Witherspoon-Jackson community. Mrs. Lili Taylor loved having her paper on the chair inside the shop so that she could take a moment between hair appointments to read. Bessie Christian insisted on playing a hymn to prove that her recent stroke hadn’t impeded her gifts and passion for music. Mrs. Carter was a beautiful young beautiful Vietnamese woman with several young babies who always seemed happy despite having numerous laborious roles as a housewife and mother. She also made the best fried chicken I ever tasted!

 

There were two older sisters who had adjoining houses on John Street. They spoke of their humble beginnings in the south and their journey to Princeton from the rural south in search of a better life. There was Mr. Emmanuel Rhodes, who always had a war story while Mrs. Rhodes was getting my tip. The Vanzandt/Douglas sisters always spoke with the King’s English and had a pristine house of beautiful antiques. They rarely let you in, always meeting me on the porch as I took the risk of a full glimpse inside. Their vintage stockings with striped seams and long wool skirts always connected me to what life must’ve been like in the 20’s.

 

Then, there was Don and Lula Venable, a striking couple who somehow seemed etched in time. When you entered their home, they always had light dinner music playing. They were such a handsome couple who could’ve been on any magazine cover and always seemed so poised and together. Yet to me, there always seemed something amiss; Mr. Venable kept a glass of scotch dangling in his hand, and he seemed so sad sitting comfortably in his lounge chair while Mrs. Venable met me at the door.

 

Mr. and “Sis” Brown, who always welcomed me in from the cold let me sit at the kitchen table to get warm for a moment, reminded me of the “cool” grandparents. You could feel the love between them. Fannie Floyd’s sisters had contradictory personalities; one was quiet while the other was filled with jokes. And who could forget Lloyd Banks who was always “feeling good” and would ensure that I got an extra tip even beyond the generous one I had just received from his wife.

 

These were the people who taught me about relationships; these were the people who inspired me to do better; these were the people who cultivated a strong work ethic; these were the people who taught me the value of community; and these were the people who taught me love.

 

I often hope I will be able to return a mere fraction of what they embedded in me. I wonder if the youth of today feel as connected in my world as I did in the worlds of the people who surrounded me and shared a glimpse of their lives. I celebrate them in this writing, but I further encourage us all to reflect on the gifts of the similar memories I know we all can share. Ask yourself, “What can I now do with the gifts of my own memories that can serve the next generation?”

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Community Calendar

WJHCS Trustees Accomplishments and Honors:

 

Honoree: Leighton Newlin

Date: January 5, 2022

Elected: Princeton Councilmember

 

Honoree: Rev. Gregory Smith

Award: Ordination and Installation as Pastor

Date: November 20, 2021

Awarded By: Second Calvary Baptist Church, Hopewell, NJ

 

Honoree: Shirley Satterfield

Award: Community Engagement Award

Date: November 17, 2021

Awarded By: Princeton University and Pace Center for Civic Engagement

 

Honoree: Shirley Satterfield

Award: Liz Erickson Impact Award

Date: October 28, 2021

Awarded By: NonProfit Connection

 

 

Honoree: Bob Hillier, FAIA

Award: Reginald F. Lewis Community Service Award for Excellence in Business

Date: February 12, 2021

Awarded By: First Baptist Church of Princeton

 

Honoree: Shirley A. Satterfield

Award: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award

Date: January 16, 2021

Awarded By: New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)

 

Honoree: Rev. David McAlpin

Award: Recognition Celebration

Date: January 30, 2021

Awarded By: Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church

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