Carrying the Canadian
Andrew Hoffert checks out the 20 Questions column while delivering papers along 51st Ave. Leah Simonot/Camrose Canadian
Delivering the Camrose Canadian was Andrew Hoffert’s first job coming out of high school.
He was drawn to the printed word by his interest in writing for a living. Although novels are more his style, writing for a newspaper was not off the table. Plus, it would earn him a little extra cash while he saved up for university.
Thirteen years later, Hoffert makes his way down 51st Ave. from 57th Street with a stack of the latest Canadian balanced in the crook of his arm. Earlier in the day, he dropped bundles of them off at different points along his route. Now, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Broadway, “Dear Evan Hansen,” plays through his earbuds as he begins the first leg of his route in the heat of the July sun. Blue dragonflies hover above the sidewalk ahead of his steps. Windchimes sing and the scents of various flowers collide and waft through the neighbourhood together. An orange Tabby cat pads by.
When he reaches the end of the block, Hoffert crosses the road and makes his way up the other side. He checks out the 20 Questions column and the political cartoon when there’s a stretch between mailboxes. In two and a half hours, he will have delivered roughly 300 papers along routes 4A and 5.
Today, he delivers the final issue of the Camrose Canadian.
“It was a good first job. It’s disappointing that they’re closing. I would have liked to keep doing it,” said Hoffert in July. “If I moved, maybe, but other than that, I can’t think of anything that would have stopped me.”
Hoffert is one of 46 paper carriers.
Michael Elder carried the Canadian for about 20 years before a knee injury forced him to take a break last spring. He was ready to return when news broke of the paper’s impending closure.
“We were actually just about to come back and see if you had any openings or if anybody needed a substitute once in a while,” said Brad Barsi, a support worker with the Camrose Association for Community Living who has known Elder for 15 years and often accompanied him on his route.
Delivering papers was a big part of Elder’s life.
“He loved it,” said Barsi. “It kept him busy, it gave him some extra money and, of course, it was highly important that the paper was delivered to people. You find that out just in talking with people and interacting with people … you find out just how important it was to their lives.”
Elder and Barsi have delivered in weather ranging from plus-40 C to minus-40 C, and without complaint.
“[We] just dressed appropriately and we had a job to do,” said Barsi. “It seemed to be a job that he (Elder) really excelled at. He’s had other jobs on a farm and different things like that and kind of lost interest really quickly. But with the papers, he always really enjoyed it and we were able to do it long-term.”
Moreover, the job connected him to the community.
“We met lots of people — a lot of interesting stories,” said Barsi.
Elder said he will miss the paper.
A few things have changed since Hoffert started his route in 2006. In the neighbourhood he delivers in, people have come and gone and City Hall was added to the skyline. One apartment implemented the paper-weight method, whereby Hoffert is to stack their papers beneath a brick outside the door, as opposed to buzzing a resident to access the paper rack in the lobby. He also notes the shift from cash payment to direct deposit, the switch in distribution days from Sunday to Thursday, and the Canadian’s move to its most recent office on 49th Street.
A constant throughout his paper carrying days is the flexibility: Hoffert holds his position with the Canadian while working full time at Superstore and gradually working on an English degree by correspondence through Athabasca University.
There is, further, the joy of working outdoors; Hoffert said it is the walking that really hooked him.
“There’re days where you’re like, ‘Ugh. Do I have to go and do this today?’ But once you’re out there, it’s like, ‘OK, I am just being silly,’” he said.
“Usually, I’m not very outgoing. I’m very quiet, reserved, until I get to know people. So I liked doing the paper because I was pretty much just by myself. I can listen to my music in the one ear and just go about it. If people say hello, it’s not hard to say hello.”
Of course, he has had a fair deal of unfavourable weather. One winter day about three years into the gig, he embarked in full-on winter gear — “Tuque, scarf and facemask and everything.” — on a snowy run that took double his usual time to complete. He has, on occasion, had to wait out the rain so as to avoid delivering soggy papers.
Overall, however, he said he has lucked out.
As was quoted in the Broadway musical, Newsies: “Summer stinks and winter’s freezing when you work outdoors. Start out sweating and end up sneezing, in between it pours! Still, it’s a fine life carrying the banner.”