The Corner Forum
Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003
Issue #58

Snow Can't Stop the Newspaper Delivery Man

An interview with Wallace Powell

by Libo Liu, 500 block of 14th St. NE

Washingtonians have ushered in the first snow of the season. Several inches of wet snow covered the neighborhood Saturday morning around 8.

As I walked down Emerald Street to take in the view, a man pushed a cart up the street while expertly picking plastic-wrapped newspapers from the cart and tossing them to people's front yards.

His name is Wallace Powell, and he is the Washington Post delivery man for three of the six blocks in the Corner Forum area. He has been serving our neighborhood for the last 20 years.

I caught up with him on 1300 block of E Street and started asking him questions. Our conversation ended in front of his house on the 1100 block of Park Street NE, when Mr. Powell finished the delivery for the day.

Are you cold, Mr. Powell? You are not wearing gloves?

I am all right. You get used to it.

It is so cold out here, and it is snowing. You still deliver paper?

Oh yeah. I do it every day, 365 days a week, rain or shine, snow or not. I don't get no vacation.

How many papers do you deliver everyday? How big an area do you cover?

I deliver about 240 papers on weekends, and about 190 on weekdays. My area is C Street, Park Street, D, E, Emerald, F, G, 13th, 14th, 15th, Maryland Avenue and 14th Place — [the 1100, 1200 and 1300 blocks of C; Park Street; the 1200 block of D; the 1300 block of E; Emerald; the 300, 500 and 600 blocks of 13th Street; the 1300 and 1400 blocks of F; the 1300 and 1400 blocks of G; the 500 and 600 blocks of 14th; the 600 and 700 blocks of 15th; the 1200, 1300 and 1400 blocks of Maryland Avenue; and the 600 block of 14th Place.]

I see you now have just a few newspapers to deliver? You must have started very early?

I usually get up three o'clock in the morning, start delivering around 3:30 or 4 o'clock. By six, I am all done.

So I guest you are running a little bit late because of the snow. But you normally finish by six. What do you do for the rest of the day?

In the summer, I cut grass for homeowners. But in the winter, I just stay home and watch television or something. I have to fight with my wife over what channel to watch, though.

Everybody on the street says hi to you. How long have you been living around here? And how long have you been delivering papers for us?

Yeah, I know everybody. I have lived here for at least 50 years. I started delivering the paper before I retired in 1988, so it has been 20 years since I started doing that.

What did you do before you retired?

I picked up trash for a trash-removing company — a private company.

Do you mind if I ask you how much you make a month delivering newspaper?

I make about $560 a month delivering paper. Then I have about $314 Social Security money.

That is not much. It is less than $900 a month. Can you make ends meet?

Yeah, you'll make do with what you have. I can get by all right.

You look very healthy. How old are you?

I am 70 years old. I was born in 1933 and just had my birthday in November.

You don't look like you are 70 years old at all. What's the secret?

Coming out and delivering newspaper has been real good to my health. I quit smoking 40 years ago and quit drinking after I had my surgery 16 years ago.

Good for you. Do you have any complaints? I notice you don't have a list with you. How do you know who gets a paper?

I don't need no list. I know everybody. I remember who gets the paper and who doesn't. Sometimes, people complain their paper got stolen, that's about it.

Okay, you are home now. You take care, and thank you for talking to me.

Okay, see you. §