THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“Grandpa Bob delivered wisdom, heart, the Herald”
The Boston Herald — March 15, 2006
If you’re ever lucky enough to approach your 90th birthday, do you
think you’d fondly reminisce about the job you have now? Do you think
you’d even remember the names of your co-workers?
In his words, circulation driver Abraham “Bob” Tubin proudly
“schlepped” newspapers for the Boston Herald from 1949-1979. One shift
would change the Revere native’s life forever. On a rainy Saturday
night in 1954, his truck was slammed from behind by a drunk driver,
burying him in an avalanche of newspaper bundles.
This was a few years before Ralph Nader taught the world about auto
safety. No protective cages separated the drivers from their cargo.
The accident left Tubin with a lifetime of excruciating pain and
seemingly endless hip and hernia operations. Astoundingly, in
retirement, he’d often mention how much he loved his job – how he
would show up early and leave late just to hang out with the guys off
Tubin was my Grandpa Bob. He died last Tuesday at age 88 after a long
bout with heart and respiratory problems.
Grandpa carried his Herald ID in his wallet for the rest of his life.
Sandwiched in between family pictures and his subway pass was also the
tattered business card of the late Joe McLaughlin, a star columnist
for the Herald Traveler in the 1960s and 1970s.
The popularity of McLaughlin’s “Tell it to Joe” column — which
resolved a wide range of readers’ problems — gave him celebrity
status in the city. The Herald plastered his face on the side of
delivery trucks and on billboards. Although it was extremely unusual
for loading dock “grunts” to socialize with the newsroom elite, my
grandfather and McLaughlin became close friends.
Their friendship stood the test of time. According to retired
circulation driver Tony Luongo, many of the Herald columnist’s buddies
disappeared once he lost his tremendous clout. “Everybody liked Joe
McLaughlin when he could do something for them,” Luongo says. “Bob was
one of the few guys who visited him during his darkest hours.”
Grandpa delivered toys to orphanages for the “Tell it to Joe”
Christmas drives. Thank you letters from the Jimmy Fund describe him
as the “spark plug” behind the Herald Traveler drivers’ annual
collections. He also generated additional buzz (and dinero) each year
by driving a donated taxi for a day and giving all his fares and tips
He was a huge fan of “Take Your Child To Work Day” decades before it
became trendy. Son Bradley often joined him on his newspaper route,
usually punctuated by a triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich and a
mocha ice cream frappe. Years earlier, when he ran a Revere Beach
hamburger stand called “Sloppy Joe’s,” he proudly displayed his
daughters Iris and Barbara on the counter top. The girls thought they
were sitting on a throne.
Revere Beach was his second home. It is where he courted his future
wife Beatrice (“Grandma Bea”) when the shore was brimming with dance
halls and amusement park rides. It is where he later “borrowed” and
meticulously sifted sand for his grandchildren’s first sandbox. And,
it was fittingly the backdrop to his funeral procession route.
Next to inhaling the salty air, his favorite pastime was reading
newspapers. When I was a kid, at least two years of papers were
stacked in his front porch — a mountainous archive where I mined for
old Red Sox boxscores and Sunday funnies to press with Silly Putty. I
credit his newsprint addiction for fueling my desire to become a
writer – and also for my reluctance to throw anything away.
Ultimately, my grandfather’s legacy goes far beyond my ink-stained
fingers. When I think of him, I’m reminded that sometimes what we do
for a living is not our most important job.
Grandpa Bob was in the hospital recuperating from a hip operation when
my son (his third great-grandchild at the time) was born a few years
ago. He was beaming when he looked at the pictures.
“Darren,” he said, “This is the greatest thing you will ever do.”
Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. Story tips from the workplace are welcomed via email at
heraldstiff (at) gmail.com