How porn and a value hike helped this newsagent’s son

After selling newspapers for two years 14-year-old Tony Barnett saved up $1,700 to take him to the 1975 International Scout Jamboree in Norway.

After promoting newspapers for 2 years 14-year-old Tony Barnett saved up $1,700 to take him to the 1975 International Scout Jamboree in Norway. Credit:Trevor James Robert Dallen.

Who is aware of whether or not, within the John Fairfax board room in Sydney, the sombre, deliberating gents understood the affect their pricing determination was about to have on the legions of paperboys and papergirls across the nation?

Within hours, we had been raking it in.

This week is National Newsagent Week, a part of a marketing campaign to have fun the various hundreds of newsagents who’ve spent a lifetime throwing newspapers over fences earlier than – like so many different companies – being clobbered by digitalisation.

My father was one in every of them. He purchased a newsagency in Canberra in 1971, at a time when printed newspapers had been nonetheless a dependable magnet, pulling prospects into the shop.

My father would faucet his noggin to appraise me of his intelligence, earlier than outlining his concept.

“The newspapers go right up at the back of the shop. You don’t make much profit from the papers, but the customer is required to walk past a whole aisle of Hallmark cards. That, son, is where we make the big mark-up.”

The greeting playing cards had a string of tiny numbers on the again, with the value hidden inside the code, however provided that you knew the place to look. This could also be why prospects so ceaselessly appeared aghast when informed the value of the common-or-garden birthday card they’d chosen.

People usually purchased a handful of things. Like each son and daughter of a newsagent, my arithmetic expertise had been honed by my means so as to add up the usual order of the day – a Daily Mirror, a packet of Winfield Reds and a field of Bex. To be exact: 10¢ plus 67¢ plus 15¢ = 92¢.

Oh, and a greeting card? That brings it to $5.92.

Cigarettes, headache powders and newspapers had been all huge sellers, as had been what they known as “partworks”. Do they even exist now? They’d be a History of World War II – in 52 collectable editions, or a Great Composers of the World, or a Children’s Science Encyclopedia.

The first two points can be low-cost, and usually embrace a horny free reward, however – as soon as that they had you of their clutches – the costs would soar skywards as quick as a spitfire within the Battle of Britain, an thrilling encounter to be lined in subsequent week’s version.

Behind the until, we’d have metallic drawers, full of pre-orders for partworks, plus the folders and binders by which to retailer them.

When we weren’t promoting partworks, we had been promoting pornography – the 1970s being the second when the floodgates burst and all kind of disgraceful materials may go on sale – albeit in a discreet curtained off space, tucked beneath the steps to my father’s workplace.

As a younger would-be progressive, I used to be embarrassed by my attendance at a personal faculty – the toffy Canberra Grammar – however no less than I knew the household secret: all of the charges had been paid for from my father’s controversial choice of “one-handed magazines”.

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If this all appears like a lifetime of merry profiteering, there was one other aspect to the enterprise – heaving within the stacks of papers within the pre-dawn, rolling every paper right into a throwable stick, by way of technique of a slim band of manila paper, then delivering them earlier than 7am.

Worst factor: needing to have your automotive window down, so you would pitch every paper, nonetheless chilly the Canberra air.

At the top of every day, there was a equally menial process: utilizing a one-sided razor blade to “head” the unsold papers – slicing off the masthead to show it was unsold, and thus worthy of a refund from the writer.

With magazines, it was the entrance cowl that was despatched again, which means you would all the time choose a newsagent’s household – or a newsagent’s greatest buddy – from the decapitated journal from which they’d be studying.

These days, newsagents depend on playing, working away at counters by which the air is heavy with scratch-lottery mud. They battle on – regardless of falling gross sales of virtually the whole lot on which we used to rely – cigarettes, greeting playing cards, newspapers, pornography and the long-banned headache powders.

Through all their travails, they deserve our assist. Whereas else are you able to get a sheet of colored cardboard excellent for an eight-year-old’s faculty venture, whereas additionally selecting up {a magazine}, a pack of gum and a $2 Scratchie?

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