Jackie Shelley and Jane Burtnett

Jackie Shelley and Jane Burtnett were one of very few female carriers for the Progress back in the ’60 and ‘70s. (Kimberly Carrillo/Progress Staff Photographer)

On the cover of the Scottsdale Progress' May 7, 1962, issue, a black-and-white-photo depicts a group of 29 newspaper carrier boys smiling widely for the camera and excitedly gathered onto one school bus.

The carriers, including former Scottsdale resident Kenneth Benson, were on their way to spend the weekend at Disneyland in California on the Progress’ dime because they all obtained 15 or more new subscribers.

"The bus was full," recalled Benson, a paperboy from 10 to 14 years old whose route was from 68th Street up to the canal and from Earll Drive over to Osborn Road. "I went to Disneyland quite a few times, sometimes with my parents and sometimes with the paper.”

It was a weekend Benson never forgot.

But glaringly left off that bus?


Chances are if you know somebody who grew up in Scottsdale in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they once had a newspaper route.

Chances are even higher those carriers were boys.

“Girls weren’t allowed to have paper routes,” said southern Scottsdale resident, Jane Burtnett. “Basically the attitude toward female carriers was it wasn't an option.”

In the ‘60s and early ‘70s, it was rare to see a female carrier for any publication. So, some girls – like Burtnett’s sister, Anne – had to sneakily snag routes.

“My brother was one, and my sister wanted to be one, but they wouldn't let her because she was a girl,” Jane recalled. “So, my father signed up as the carrier and then my sister was the permanent substitute.”

Anne was great at it, too; so good, she even won a sales award and a trip to Disneyland.

But she couldn’t go because of her gender, Jane said.

Jane eventually took over her sister’s route along 5th Avenue when she was around 12.

“I could keep up on the news because I got paper every day, so I could read the headlines,” Jane said.

The life of a carrier was seemingly simple: After school, they’d hop on their bike, ride their route, toss papers and collect money from subscribers – through rain or scorching, 110-degree temps.

Those who were able to get a certain number of new subscribers received sales awards, like now-Gilbert resident Jackie Shelley, chief development officer of United Food Bank.

Shelley, who grew up in Scottsdale and had a route from Palm Lane to Oak Street and 68th Street to Scottsdale Road from 1979 through 1983, was the Gold Star Carrier of the Year in 1982.

Shelley had a similar experience as Jane; she took over a family friend’s route.

“My parents said, ‘We'll let you give it a shot and see how it goes,’” Shelley recalled.

Not only was it unusual that she was a female carrier, she said, but she was also very young – and small – compared to her fellow carriers. Shelley started delivering papers when she was 11.

“It wasn't necessarily because I was a girl as much as it was I was a little girl amongst some teenage boys,” Shelley said. “It was just typical bully type stuff, the older kid thing. Some of them were like, ‘Jackie, you’re a little girl, you're not gonna make it.’ They just treated me like a little kid.”

Benson can attest to the boys’ behavior.

“Yeah, before picking our papers up, the other lads would be running around having a bad fights and stuff like that, while we waited for the paper,” he recalled.

But Shelley and Jane had their respective neighborhoods look after them.

“My customers loved the fact that I was a girl,” Shelley said. “A lot of times they'd meet me outside over the summer. They would make sure that I was drinking enough water. One person would make sure that she was out there everyday about the time I'd get there with lemonade.”

The Progress staff kept a ever-watchful eye on the kids.

“The paper took very good care. They came out to the drop spot, they looked to see what was going on and had a really good conversation with everybody and then [bullying] subsided,” Shelley said.

For Jane and Shelley, the resistance didn’t hold them back. They held their own for several years before they moved on to other high school jobs.

“Even though my parents instilled a really good work ethic in me and they were very supportive, I think that I probably got my work ethic from that route,” Shelley said. “You’d have to go do your collections on time and the money was great.”

In 1975, Progress carriers with 40 customers made a profit of $7 every week, and carriers who had 60 customers made a profit of $10.50.

Carriers also had the opportunity to earn points throughout the week, and once they racked up a certain number of points, they could order items from a catalog of prizes.

“I got really cool headphones for my stereo and this little strobe light disco light – because that was the thing in the ‘70s and ‘80s – and just a whole bunch of other little things that I wouldn't have gone out and bought for myself,” Shelley said.

And, of course, the biggest prize of them all was the trip to Disneyland – Benson’s favorite memory of being a carrier.

It’s a story Jimmy Brower, owner of the Coach House in southern Scottsdale, likes to retell as well.

Brower had a route in historic Scottsdale in the ‘60s, delivering six days a week.

“I'd have to collect every week on Fridays. Your bill for the whole week would be 35 cents,” he recalled. “People would argue, ‘We paid you last week!’ They’d argue about those 35 cents all day. I hated that.”

He was one of the boys who had the most new subscriptions – though, he admits he might’ve cheated his way there.

“My dad was behind the bar and he just had all the guys sign up and then cancel it,” he said with a laugh.

Brower and his friend, Kenny Messinger of Messinger Mortuary in southern Scottsdale, had a different Disneyland experience compared to Benson. They were picked up by a limousine, driven to the airport and flown out to California.

“They treated us like we're some movie star. I got to drive the boat, pictures with Mickey, and then they put us back in the car,” Brower recalled.

Following Shelley, Brower, Benson and Jane’s respective time as carriers, the number of newspaper carriers under the age of 18 plunged.

According to the International Association of Circulation Managers, from 1980 to 1990, young carriers dropped 66 percent, from nearly 825,000 to just over 360,000.

The number of newspaper carriers overall, however, declined from 912,534 to 551,356, while the number of papers printed each day, about 62 million, stayed the same.

And, in 1994, more than half of carriers – 57 percent of them – were under the age of 18, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

From then on, the identity of the newspaper carrier became a more anonymous one, shifting from the familiar neighborhood kid on a bicycle to adult independent contractors zooming by in cars.

For Benson, being a paperboy in the carrier heyday taught him money management.

“Young fellows don't always have the greatest management of money abilities, but you learn that whether you know it or not,” Benson said.

It taught Shelley at a very young age confidence and persistence.

One of her customers had two Dobermans that would hop over the fence and chase after her on her bike.

“So I told him, ‘I'll throw your paper up to your door, but I'm not going to come up in your driveway,’” Shelley recalled. But the customers complained to the Progress, claiming she didn’t deliver the paper.

“I fought really hard to make sure that that complaint did not get logged because I had no other complaints,” she said, adding that she won in the end.

Being a paperboy or papergirl may have been Shelley, Jane, Benson and Brower’s first job, but it’s undoubtedly one that’s left them with unforgettable memories, unbelievable stories (Jane thinks she was stalked by a man in an orange Mustang, for instance) and lessons they continue to apply to their lives to this day.