Paperboy delivered on horseback
Editor’s note: This is the first story in an occasional series about Guard newspaper carriers. To recommend a current or former carrier for an upcoming story, call Circulation Manager Christine Brown at (870) 793-2383.
In 1947 it wasn’t unusual to see horses being ridden through Batesville — but not delivering newspapers and eating ice cream.
As a teenager, Jimmy Hughes delivered the Batesville Daily Guard on his horse, Fred, who after just a short time, learned the paper route and when it was time to stop at the Sweden Creme restaurant for his daily ice cream.
At 13 years old Hughes was looking to earn some spending money when he got a job delivering newspapers for the Guard. Hughes said he had been trying for months before finally being hired for the six-day-a-week job. At the time, the Guard cost 3 cents an issue and consisted of just a few pages. Unlike today’s rolled-up papers that are thrown in yards, Hughes said back then, the papers were folded into a star shape so they would be easier to throw.
Hughes was uncertain as to how much he earned for being a paperboy.
“Seems like it paid $5 a week or every two weeks. But I know that was pretty good spending money back then,” he said.
Hughes sold his horse to buy a bicycle for his new job and in 1948 his uncle gave him Fred, a 4-year-old fox trotter.
“I broke him to ride,” Hughes said.
Looking for every opportunity to ride his new horse, he eventually replaced his bicycle for Fred. “I’m the only one I ever knew of delivering on a horse. I loved horses. In fact I would ride him to Newark on Saturday afternoons. ... I’d just take off and ride different places.”
Fred learned the paper route so well that after a while, he didn’t have to be guided.
“After a few months I’d just turn loose,” Hughes recalled.
Fred’s favorite place on the route had to be the Sweden Creme restaurant, which has long since closed but was on Central Avenue.
“I’d go by and get him a 5-cent ice cream,” Hughes said. “He loved ice cream and watermelon.”
Fred would eat his ice cream and get a drink and off they would go again to deliver papers.
“In the wintertime they closed Sweden Creme. He (Fred) didn’t understand that,” Hughes said with a laugh.
Nor could Fred probably understand why he couldn’t move one day. In January 1950, Hughes went out to the stable to saddle Fred but he wouldn’t move. As it turned out — Fred couldn’t move. Water had leaked into the stable and frozen his hooves to the ground. After freeing him, Hughes moved Fred to the garage.
Hughes said he had many people asking to buy Fred, including a Newark doctor, Oscar L. Bone, who took a special liking to Fred and told Hughes to name his price but Hughes wouldn’t sell.
In 1951, Hughes graduated high school and went to work full-time at the Guard. Fred was put out to pasture at his grandfather’s farm in Magness.
“It didn’t bother him to stop working,” Hughes said.
Being as Hughes wasn’t riding Fred anymore and knowing how much Bone wanted him, he offered Fred to Bone who offered to buy the horse.
“No. You just keep him as long as you want,” Hughes told Bone. “He fed him a half of a watermelon a day.”
Fred stayed with the Bones for six years until he grew too old to care for Fred. Bone called and asked Hughes to come get Fred. Bone was adamant that Hughes call before he came. Once there, Hughes knocked on the door, only to be told by Bone’s wife that he had left. Thinking Bone would want to be there to say his goodbyes to Fred, Hughes offered to wait but Bone’s wife explained that Bone had left on purpose.
“Doc didn’t want to see him leave,” Hughes said.
Hughes once again took Fred back to Magness and later let a friend take Fred, who eventually died.
“I think he was around 20 or 22 when he died,” Hughes said.
Hughes, who is celebrating his 80th birthday today, began working full-time at the Guard in 1952 in the casting room, moving up to making ads, building pages and running the press.
“Our press back then was eight pages,” he said. “Lucky to get 3,000 (copies) an hour, if you was lucky. ... That old letter press was hot and dirty.”
He went on to marry the former Bertha Wade on May 15, 1959; she is a retired cosmetologist, and the couple lives at Bethesda.
Hughes had worked his way up to production manager when the Guard office was robbed and subsequently burned Jan. 3, 1981.
“It was terrible,” he said. “It happened at night. Two boys broke in the building. The safe didn’t lock at the time. ... They walked in the back, threw a match in that paper, went back across the street and watched it burn.”
Hughes was called at 10 p.m. about the fire.
“That fire was terrible,” he said. “We lost everything. All the typesetting equipment — everything. It was a total loss.”
Hughes said the old building that was located at 114 N. Fourth St. had a false ceiling that hindered getting water to the fire.
“It burned on a Saturday night and we printed a paper on Monday. We owned the Arkansas Sun in Heber (Springs) at the time. Newport agreed to print for us.”
Hughes said he worked seven days a week for approximately three months after the fire.
Hughes worked for the Guard for 50 years before retiring in 1998.
“It was a good run,” he said.