to porch a newspaper
Porches adorned American homes, like a holiday window display in department stores. A front porch stretching across the residence presented a wide smile and extended a personable greeting to folks walking past, plus owners waved to anyone in the vicinity. Gracing the home with white wicker chairs, bright red geraniums, a swing, a trellis of fragrant honeysuckle with a bird’s nest tucked in the corner, the space (more public than private) offered a place for relaxation, talk and laughter. In an afternoon rain shower the ceiling granted a large umbrella shared with anyone needing cover. Folks sat a spell, on furniture as comfy as the fit of worn shoes, and read all the town news—after reading the comics.
A paperboy on a bicycle, riding no hands, routinely rolled his papers to fling a missile 30 feet, maybe 40 and “porched” the news pages right to the door, or there abouts. Sometimes porched papers propelled into the bush, birdbath, on the roof, in the house.
A tight flying missile broke through screens, storm doors, front windows. A porched paper also broke the profit line for the paper carrier since broken windows cost more than broken milk bottles or Christmas ornaments.
When porching a paper, did you or your newsboy break items or windows scattering glass like confetti? Did the porched papers ever splatter fresh porch paint, varnish, shellac, or worse, that tightly folded paper strike a resident?
The same as the youthful paperboy of the twentieth century, porches were so common one glanced past them. Then the automobile intervened. As more families became two and three car owners with several large garage doors covering the front of the house, it proved difficult to hang a porch swing on a solid garage door.
Doug Coleburn, publisher of the Courier-Record in Virginia, understood how readers enjoyed the culture of porch life as he wrote his column “On the Front Porch.” He had been a paper carrier back in 1940 who made sure his newspapers were delivered on time to the subscriber. Like Doug, a child doing collection rounds appreciated the friendly porch light in the early dark of winter. He stood waiting for his money, his stomach growling as he savored the aroma of simmering or baking supper that drifted out the door.
Front porches, an American icon, draw nostalgic memories, the kind resurrected in a Currier and Ives or Norman Rockwell picture. The loss of porch gatherings is similar to the loss of the local newspaper, the friendly cheerful paperboy, a town’s central post office. Such losses diminish the heart and strength of the community.