Newt Wallace delivers the Winters Express in Winters, Calif. He bought the paper shortly after World War II. Now his son runs it.

Max Whittaker, New York Times

Survivor of vanishing era still delivering newspapers at age 93

  • New York Times
  • March 2, 2013 - 7:06 PM


In the troubled newspaper industry, where steady layoffs mean that gray-haired reporters have disappeared from newsrooms as quickly as the typewriters that preceded them, Newt Wallace, a broad-shouldered 93-year-old, has held on.

Every Wednesday morning, he heads to the dusty offices of the Winters Express in Winters, Calif., population 6,600. He starts his day by placing labels on the freshly printed copies of the 2,300-circulation weekly, slips a carrier bag stuffed with several dozen papers over his shoulder, pulls on his baseball cap and starts his route.

Wallace, one of eight carriers for the paper, has been walking the same blocks of downtown Winters since 1947. On foot, he briskly delivers the papers to downtown businesses.

“I don’t hunt or play golf; I deliver papers,” Wallace said recently as he walked his route. “I like delivering papers. I get to see the people I know.”

Wallace’s tenure has made him a contender for the world’s oldest newspaper delivery person. The Guinness World Record title is held by Ted Ingram, who turned 93 on Feb. 14 and who delivers the Dorset Echo to his neighbors in the English hamlet of Winterborne Monkton. But according to Guinness, Wallace is older than Ingram by eight months. The transfer of the record title depends on Wallace’s son Charley, the paper’s publisher, finishing the paperwork that Guinness officials sent him five weeks ago.

“We’re not in any hurry,” said the younger Wallace, adding that his father’s mother lived to 98.

Newt Wallace, who speaks about delivering newspapers the way some people speak of a first love, offers a glimpse into how important news delivery used to be. Around the turn of the 20th century, newspaper delivery boys were a powerful workforce, said David Nasaw, the author of “Children of the City,” a book that helped inspire the Broadway musical “Newsies.” “They not only sold the papers, but they were the major form of advertising, because in order to sell the paper, they had to scream the headlines.”

Paperboy badge of honor

“Paperboy” is also a title that often crops up in the biographies of some of the nation’s most powerful men. Members of the Newspaper Association of America’s News Carrier Hall of Fame include honorees such as Warren Buffett, John Wayne and Tom Brokaw. Buffett said that, even though he had turned down dozens of honorary titles over the years, he accepted recognition for his position as paperboy because “that one hit my heart.”

Wallace still remembers the thrill of shouting “Extra, extra, read all about it!” on street corners in Muskogee, Okla., in 1930 and being the primary news source for locals who did not have radios. By 1931, at age 12, he had a route delivering the Muskogee Times-Democrat’s afternoon edition.

Purchased for $13,500

In the winter of 1946, Wallace, who had recently finished a stint in the military at the shipyard in Long Beach, Calif., heard that the Winters Express was for sale. He took the overnight train from Los Angeles to Davis, Calif., and walked 10 miles through the area’s walnut orchards to downtown Winters. He bought the paper and the building that housed it for $13,500, running it until 1983, when his son became publisher. After retiring, he continued to type columns. Now he focuses on delivery.

The job can be tiring, and Wallace has thought about giving it up. “He’s tried to quit, but I tell him, ‘Show me three friends who are your age, retired and still alive,”’ Charley Wallace said. “He thinks about it and goes back to his desk.”

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