Chaplain in New Shoes

At the dawning of the 1970s I was a newspaper boy, delivering “The Oneonta Star” in the Catskill Mountain town of Stamford, NY. When you’re thirteen years old and you have to get up at 5:00 a.m. you invariably learn to become a “morning” person, which I am to this day.

There seemed to be a lot more snow back then and I used to envy my mutt-of-a-dog, Tep (that’s “Pet” as in Pettingell, spelled backwards), for her fur coat and ability to rise and shine, without having to get out of bed, get dressed and then get bundled up. This is leading somewhere, honest.

By 5:15 Tep and I would be trudging the mile or so to the Star’s drop-off spot where we’d meet up with the Van Hueson brothers (the other two paper boys, neither of whom made it into adulthood) and their dogs. And after filling our newspaper bags, we’d all venture across the street to the coffee shop next to the Western Union, where we three would chat over hot chocolate, while the proprietor fed the dogs stale donuts, as they patiently waited for us outside in the elements.

When the clock struck 6:00 we’d take turns paying the tab and head out in three different directions for our appointed rounds.

In addition to a Survival Coat parka and a fine pair of mukluks, one of the Christmas presents I received around about then was a transistor radio that you could clip to your belt.  It was high-tech for the time, but in rural, mountainous Delaware County, NY pretty much the only radio station I could get was WGY (AM 810) out of Schenectady.  One of the oldest stations in the country, WGY was then the Flagship Station of General Electric’s Broadcasting Group and featured an eclectic mixture of “Easy Listening” and “Soft Rock.”

“That explains a lot,” I hear you say, and perhaps it does. Anyway, mine was a long, circuitous route and the only way to deliver newspapers in winter was by foot. Because Stamford lies in the shade of Mt. Utsayantha (aka “The Queen of the Catskills”) and because I kinda’ needed my hands for the job, I would often have to walk sideways, or even backwards if I was to maintain the WGY signal on the radio clipped to my belt.

Having laid this all out, perhaps you can understand why this high stepping Chet Atkins number called “Chaplain in New Shoes” was a favorite, as one can imagine a little chaplain, light on his feet and pleased as punch with his new shoes. A splendid newspaper delivery song, it comes from the great picker’s 1971 album, “For the Good Times.”

 LISTEN TO THIS SONG – Sunday 17 February


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