JOEL WARD'S "PORCH IT"

 

 

Joel Ward now is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army living in Arlington. Back in 1949 he was a 10 year old youngster who became a full fledged newspaper carrier for The Denison Herald. Little did he realize that this little job and the words “Porch It” would become a guiding force in his life.


Joel and his brother Neill, who was two and a half years older, attended Central Ward School on Sears Street where Joel said Neill was a straight “A” student and he was a straight “C”. Neill was the first to become a paperboy in 1947. The family lived at 1020 West Sears.


In 1948 Neill, who was a paper carries, told Joel there was a special paper route that was going to be available. Joel went to the Herald office and asked Burris Hughes for his first job which turned out to be delivering unrolled papers to newsstands and businesses along Main Street.


He stopped by drug stores, grocery stores, the bus station, the railroad depot, Hotel Denison and a few cafes. The best part was that as the youngest newsboy, he didn’t have to roll the papers or collect for them every week. The businesses paid at the office. He said he thought hiring him was an experiment and he was paid $2 a week that was great for him. Neill was making about $10 a week with a regular route.


Joel’s mother and Neill helped him build a two-wheel cart from an apple crate that he towed on the back of his bicycle to carry his unrolled papers up and down Main Street for almost two years.


In 1949 Neill got a larger route and Joel became a regular paper carrier. Now Joel was making $10 a week and Neill was making $20. Neill helped Joel learn his old route and at 11 Joel became a regular paper carrier.


With a regular route, Joel learned what Mr. Hughes’ favorite saying “Porch It” really meant. At first Joel said he didn’t take the words seriously, but later it taught him to do any assigned task as correctly and completely as he could.


The young carriers at that time rolled the papers and tied them by “stringing” them, which he calls a lost art today. He said “you had to be able to wrap the string around the rolled paper firmly and quickly then wet six inches of the lead end of a corn of string in your mouth while rolling the paper. Once it was tightly rolled, you would grab the string about 12 to 15 inches from your lips and fling it across the roll to make the wet end whip around the end of the paper several times.”


No plastic sleeves were available at that time thus Mr. Hughes’ instructions “Porch It” was the solution, especially on rainy days.


From his job he said he learned to be on time, be courteous, be honest and to porch it.


Times were simpler during those days. It was safe for youngsters to go directly from school to the newspaper office then throw their paper route. On Sundays it was safe for them to go downtown alone to pick up their papers before daylight. It was safe for carriers to go door to door to collect from customers after dark. You didn’t have to worry about the kind of people who lived on their route. Those were more innocent times, Joel said, and towns and neighborhoods were safer. Recently an older gentleman delivering papers in Sherman early in the morning wasn’t even safe.


Joel had some memorable experiences on his route. He said an elderly man asked him to put the paper on his porch swing. He also remembers a lady who could not bend to pick up the paper so he placed it in a low level fork in an old oak tree. One day he noticed that she hadn’t been collecting her papers. A neighbor told him that he hadn’t seen her in a few days. The two of them went in the unlocked front door and found her dead in her bed. Joel was very sad because he said she was a nice lady and always gave him fruitcake when he collected at Christmastime.


A couple of times he reported something unusual to the police, once when he saw an older teen running at full speed from a small grocery store near the elementary school on his route and another time when he saw a man climbing out of the window of a home at dusk. The kid was caught and charged with shoplifting and the man was committing a burglary but wasn’t caught.


Once he was throwing papers about 5:30 p.m. and saw a small house adjacent to the railroad tracks burst into flames. He was standing next to a fire alarm mounted on a telephone pole and triggered the alarm. He saw a family with two children run from the house into the nearby yard. Fire engines arrived and put out the flames. He waited to see if the fire department wanted to talk to him, but no one did. He said he was disappointed, but finished his route and went home.


Joel said that “Porch It” became a standard of excellence in his life, more than delivering newspapers. “It was a performance standard and a code of excellence,” he said. It was the first step in growing up and helped him through high school in Fort Worth and several part time jobs before becoming a blueprint clerk and helicopter plastic former. After graduating from college as a second lieutenant in the Army he thought about the example Burris Hughes set for him. The example was one he used to lead soldiers. Now as a retired colonel, he said he hopes that people who work with teenagers take this lesson to heart.


Not long ago Joel returned to Denison and went by the old Central Ward School on Sears Street. He found a vacated building that had been occupied by a commercial business. Even though the school ground was overgrown with weeds, just seeing the building brought back memories of his teachers – Maggie Sommerville, Edwardine McCoy, Eleanor Morris, Ruth Tignor, Miss Wilson, Mrs. Turbeville, Eunice Cook, and Mr. Beasley.


He really wanted to go inside and walk the halls just one more time, but he restrained himself.


Joel’s brother Neill became a senior computer consultant working with the Cray II mailframe computer in Minneapolis, at that time the world’s largest and latest state of the art computer. He died in 1987 of lung cancer when he was only 52. Joel said he often wondered what Neill would think about laptops today that have more computing power than the Cray II did then.


As it turns out, Joel is a great grandson of Thomas Volney Munson of Denison, well known horticulturist who is said to have saved the grape orchards of France. Marguerite Munson was the grandmother he never met because she died when his mother was only 12 years old. His grandfather, James W. Thompson and Marguerite were married in Denison in 1914 and lived at 1623 West Bond. Although he only had a third grade education, Thompson was an auditor for the Katy Railroad until the end of World War II.


Joel and his family attended the 25th year celebration of the dedication of the TV Munson Memorial Vineyard at Grayson County College, which he called a “one in a lifetime family reunion.”


(Information for this column was taken from an article, “Porch It” written by Joel to capture some of his long term memories over the last 50 years and to give his grandchildren something to know about him that they might not know.) - Donna Hunt

 

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