The former Cleveland Daily Banner carrier remembers when the paper was only 5 cents a copy. In 1966, at the age of 12, Choplin delivered the paper, collected the premium and generated new sales on his first route with only 45 customers.
The Cleveland native was so industrious he was awarded “Carrier of the Month” in one of the 12 months from 1966-68. He also received “Carrier of the Year” in 1968. According to Choplin, “It was a growth of your route in getting new customers, not having complaints and delivering your papers on time” to qualify as “Carrier of the Month” which earned him an engraved trophy and a $10 bonus.
At age 15, Choplin was voted by his peers as “Carrier of the Year,” earning him a much larger trophy and a $25 bonus.
“That was a lot of money back then for a kid,” said Choplin, one of the youngest recipients of the award in his day. “The Carrier of the Year was presented at a banquet in January of the new year. We’d have a big dinner, the circulation manager would be there and we’d always have a speaker.”
Choplin said he was proud to earn his own money for purchasing school clothes and other items as a youth who was coming of age, and remembers when he retired from his paper route as an adult in 1981.
“I had gotten married in 1975 to my wife, Linda, and I was working at M&M Mars on swing shift,” said Choplin. “My route consisted of Dalton Pike going down into Red Clay. That was the last route I did. The reason I gave it up was my wife was pregnant with our third child. She had to do my route from time to time.
“I was working second shift and we had one of those hot summers in 1981 like we’re having now. You can’t run air conditioning when you do a paper route. You have to have the windows down. It was 100-degree weather and so stuffy — my wife was unable to cope with the heat. So we gave that up.”
Although Choplin and his wife had already started an outreach ministry in 1975, in 1991 he received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from New World Bible Seminary, a Baptist school in Texas.
In June 1991, he visited the largest maximum security federal prison in the U.S. at the time — Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas. Unlike the initial thrill of a paper route, Choplin admits when he first went to prison to share the gospel, he was “scared to death.”
“When the doors slammed behind me, it was a strange feeling,” he said. But those feelings melted into a prison ministry that “pressed upon my heart,” said Choplin, who pursued his love of reaching out to the forgotten in prison and jails from Bradley, Meigs and Polk counties.
“Recently I have been working with a local church called Corner Stone Church of God in Cleveland,” said Choplin, who is up for ordination. “I just received an earned doctorate in divinity from Cambridge Theological Seminary in Byesville, Ohio.”
Choplin said he ministers with the local pastor, fills in when the pastor is gone and is part of the church council who ministers to the congregation.
While Choplin said he enjoyed delivering newspapers in Cleveland, becoming a man who delivers the Bible in his later years is what he calls “spiritually the best and will always be the one that counts.”
Although the days when teenage boys had paper routes to earn enough money for school lunches, going to the movies and buying their own clothes are all but gone, Choplin said he would still recommend this line of work as an extensive form of education in today’s work force.
“Kids don’t get involved in paper routes. It’s always adults,” Choplin said. “A paper route makes kids responsible. It helps them in life to be able to count money and to budget. It helped me to grow up.”
Choplin said his paper route taught him people skills, made him less timid and more sociable. It also taught him the importance of being tactful and courteous to others since he had to collect money and converse with his customers.
“I would say to kids today that young people need to work. Whether it be a paper route, fast-food (restaurants), janitorial work — whatever it might be — do something,” said Choplin. The Bradley Central High School graduate said he never forgot the lessons learned on his paper route and enjoys spreading good news to a greater number of people on a much larger “route.”