One hundred twenty-five years. That’s five-fourths of a centennial and five-sixths of a sesquicentennial. I don’t know the term for 125 years but wanted to slip in that overblown sesquipedalian term anyway.
Saturday, employees of the Optic, dressed in their finest regalia, will observe the celebration, the details of which have been beslubbered over our pages for weeks. There’ll be booths, treats, fun, entertainment, speeches and a chance to meet the Optic staff.
One of our quests was to locate and recognize former Optic carrier boys, referred to as “Little Merchants.” As a business, the Optic made it possible for many youths in Las Vegas to earn spending money. Some, with more lucrative routes, may have even financed a semester of college.
One of my recollections was Saturday morning collections, a hazardous activity. Here’s why: Dogs remained the biggest menace on the planet. When delivering papers, at least we had a chance to outrace a dog on our bikes or feel safe that Rover was locked inside the yard. But Saturday mornings, when we needed to enter Fido’s yard and get past him in order to ring the bell, well, that was scary.
Carrying all of 90 pounds on my frame, I once got it from two dogs, each one grabbing a leg. I swear one of them said, in Dog-speak, “tastes great,” while the other growled “less filling.”
At a carriers’ meeting, one of us asked why we couldn’t combine Saturday’s delivery and collection. The boss insisted we collect in the morning in order not to delay that afternoon’s deliveries.
At the Optic, we began our day of reckoning, at which time we spilled all our coins on the desk of Manuel (Milkey) Maese, the circulation manager. We’d pay for the week’s papers and sometimes have enough left over for a sandwich.
At the time, nearby East Lincoln Avenue was what we called “Whiskey Alley.” It contained the Sportsman’s Bar, at the corner of Lincoln and Grand, and across the street, La Cantina (still in business), the Casanova Bar and Grill, two doors down, and the Casino, at Lincoln and Railroad.
After I’d reckoned with Milkey, he gave me 30 cents and asked me to run to the Casanova to order him a hamburger with fries. “And tell them it’s for Milkey.” For emphasis, he reminded me, “Be SURE to tell them it’s for Milkey.” Was he related to the restaurant management?
I didn’t forget, and while there I asked them to make the same order for me. The waitress carefully wrote Milkey’s name on the paper bag and even stapled it. I soon discovered that my boss’s hamburger outweighed mine by about three to one. That’s why to this day, my left arm is two inches longer than my right.
I’d gotten a mini-burger, and for the same price, Milkey got something comparable to a quadruple Big Mac.
Well, the unfairness of the dealing couldn’t be kept a secret. Soon I told two buddies of the patently unfair treatment of a kid who wasn’t part of the restaurant “in” crowd. One would expect some commiseration from confidants. The next week, it was my good fortune to serve as Milkey’s courier one more time. Fearing the restaurateur would again make mine a child’s portion, I suggested to Milkey, “Why don’t you make it a double order?”
That got nowhere. He wasn’t in the sharing, let’s-split-the-check mood. So I went back to the Casanova hoping to convince them that “Milkey wants TWO burgers, and he wants them in separate bags–one for now and one for later.” I didn’t get far. It turns out that Paul and Freddie, the two boys to whom I’d told my woeful tale, decided to cash in on the scheme. They’d gotten to the Casanova 15 minutes before me and they ordered “two burgers with fries, for Milkey.” Yeah, right! They’d told one big whopper in order to get two. As they swallowed their power lunches at Lions’ Park, I decided to attempt placing the original order anyway. “I guess Milkey’s really hungry today,” the waitperson said. “Does he really want FOUR hamburgers for lunch?” I left there humiliated, betrayed and without the jumbo burgers, an action that caused Milkey considerable consternation, not to mention stomach grumbling.
Because some of us took that trick to the well a few too many times, and because someone failed to keep a secret, Milkey needed to leave the office and pick up his order himself. He did that for years.
As for the rest of us carriers, we took our business to the Columbia Cafe, across the street. Not as good, but a nickel cheaper.