Family Remembers ‘Baker Man’

December 1, 2010 • Local News

Fred and Clora Bartlett are pictured on the day of their 60th wedding anniversary (Courtesy Photo).

Fred Bartlett, code name “Baker Man,” knew the paper route like the back of his hand.

Zipping around in his olive green 1969 Ford Mustang in the wee hours of the morning, he flung more than 800 newspapers from his hot rod as he weaved through West Country Club Road to Berrendo Road, all the while entertaining his children and grandchildren buckled up in the back seat and talking over the CB radio with his wife, Clora, code name: “Lady Gold Dust.”

For 45 years, the [auth] former WWII veteran raced around the northeast and west quadrants of town trying to beat the 6 a.m. weekday deadline, stopping only to share a cup of coffee with gregarious early-rising customers. His efforts secured him fame in the community, faith in his employers and several Carrier of the Month honors. It also left him a legacy to bequeath his family, who five generations later continue working for the RDR.

“He really loved it,” Clora said, while sitting in her daughter’s living room on North Garden Avenue. “I miss it too.”

Barlett passed away last December, and as the anniversary of his death approaches, family members gather in Roswell to celebrate the life of their beloved patriarch. Everyone, including his two surviving children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, has fond memories to share about the newspaper carrier.

His granddaughter, Christabelle Abbott, recalls sliding around in a cardboard box with her siblings in the back seat of the car as she accompanied her parents on the paper route.

“I can remember my first paper route when I was 2 years old,” she said. ”He was always smiling and laughing.”

Another granddaughter, Melissa McKelvey, remembers how just about every customer on his route would give gifts to their reliable carrier — home-made bread, boxes of cigars and candy during the holiday season. She also remembers delivering papers on time with her Pop rain or shine.

“It didn’t matter if there was 10 feet of snow,” McKelvey said, chuckling.

Bartlett’s widow, Clora, was actually the first Bartlett to deliver papers. In 1965, the self-employed entrepreneur drew up a contract with the RDR that gave her a route with 200 customers. Over the years, she helped the list grow to over 800 customers.

Fred Bartlett began delivering papers full time in 1980 to help Clora with her paper routes after he retired from a 28-year career as a wrapping foreman, then salesman at Holsum Baking Company on Main Street. (He had previously worked with her part-time a couple nights a week for 20 years.) They took separate cars and split the routes in two. Each paper route took about three hours, and they covered about 68 miles a night.

Bartlett quickly found his newfound love and poured all his energy into becoming the best newspaper carrier in town. He learned all his customers names and learned whether they preferred having their newspaper delivered in their mailbox, driveway, or front door step.

“He was a hard worker, very friendly, and everybody who knew him liked him,” Clora, a native of Roswell, said.

He became recognized in Roswell as the most dependable carrier in town, and rarely missed a day of work in his 45 years delivering papers.

“Robert Beck, Sr. [former RDR owner and publisher] often said he was the most reliable carrier they ever had,” Abbott recalled.

Bartlett continued this tradition until he was in his late 70s and early 80s. Though he could barely stand and walk after suffering a stroke, he still resolved to drop off 52 papers every morning at each customer’s doorstep who lived in Peachtree Village.

Now, a year after his passing, relatives tear up in Abbott’s living room at the thought of his devotion, generosity and love.

“We made a good living doing that, and it was a lot of fun,” Clora said. “And we made it. Didn’t we?”

“Yup,” McKelvey said. “We sure did.”

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