Not an ordinary life

Ann C. Sandt
Reader Contribution for Senior Scene

My early childhood was interesting and different from the other kids I knew.  Their fathers went to work and their mothers stayed home and kept house and took care of their children.  My father, mother, big sister and I delivered papers.
In Los Angeles, the Shopping News was a newspaper that carried the ads for the the popular stores of the 1940s: Woolworths, Bullocks, Robinsons and many I have forgotten.
The paper came out twice a week and my parents were fortunate enough to get a job delivering them.
They started with one route and steadily progressed to about five.
A paper had to be placed at the door step of every house. My sister would grab a stack of papers swing off of the back of the truck and run across the street and drop a paper in front of each door.  My mother would take a stack and do the houses on the right side of the street.  I was about 6 so I would get one or two and walk up to a door.  I couldn’t swing on and off of the back of the stake bed truck like my mom and sister could; the truck had to be stopped so I could get in and out of it.
That experience gave me an education that few other kids had.  We drove all over the Los Angeles area and I learned the names of all the streets, which way they ran, where they were and how to get to them.  My mother was a whiz for routing and could plan our route so that there was no backtracking, or waste of time or gasoline. I’m sure that’s where my skill and habit of plotting my course before I set out to run my errands came from.
I would look at the pictures on the pages of the papers in astonishment, I had never seen women and children dressed in such beautiful clothing.  There were ladies in perfectly fitted suits and dresses with hats, gloves, purses, and high heeled shoes.  Little girls with glistening curly hair stood smiling in fluffy dresses and shiny shoes with straps and buckles. Did the people that lived in these houses have clothes like that?
We would go through residential neighborhoods of simple 1000 square foot houses.  Sometimes some of the ladies would be out waiting for their papers and they would chat for a minute or two.  There might be children playing on the grass.  We delivered to a couple of residential hotels and some apartment houses. I met a little girl named Patty at one of the hotels who would later become my best friend in first grade.
There were streets with rows of white cottages, I always liked those, they were so pretty and friendly looking.  There would be six or eight cottages facing each other with one at the end facing the center.  A cement walk, horseshoe shaped would pass in front of all of the buildings.   The area between the walks was all grass.  By the porch of each cottage grew shrubs and blooming flowers in every color.
There was one neighborhood that seemed like a dream.  The houses were mostly brick and they looked like castles.  Their immaculate lawns seemed to spread out in every direction for a block before getting to the houses.  Flowers grew in manicured beds at the bases of the giant trees.  There were fancy street lights lining the streets.  Some of the houses had black wrought iron fences with intricate designs on the towering gates.  I wanted to get out of the truck and play on those lush, rich, green lawns.
As I grew older and started school I began to realize all the knowledge I had acquired during those paper delivery days.  We had to drive through a business district to get to one of the neighborhoods, and we passed a book store.  My mother went in one day and bought a couple of small books for me.  From then on as we drove she taught me to read.  She made me learn to spell every new word I learned. I learned to add and subtract, multiply and divide using the papers.
At the time, to me, my life was normal.  I was with my family and I had a good time.  My father would let me steer the truck and taught me to shift gears.  Sometimes I would get to roll down a big grassy hill and laugh all the way down to the bottom.  And once in awhile I would get a quarter to buy delicious, little chocolates from a fancy candy store.

Ann Sandt was raised in LA.  Her family moved to Des Moines, WA in 1978.  Four years ago, she started a business buying, refurbishing and selling distressed houses.  Recently she bought a small tent trailer and plans to hit the road with her daughter.