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Carrying the Central Oregonian
Lori Ontko reflects on when she delivered the local news
Former Central Oregonian newspaper carrier Lori Ontko.
October 08, 2012
Many people know Lori Ontko as the Assistant Facilities Manager at Meadow Lakes Golf Course — a position she’s held for almost 20 years — but they might not know that as a child in the mid-‘70s, her first job was as a paper carrier for the Central Oregonian.
Ontko came by the job through a roundabout series of events evocative of that era.
“When I was a little kid,” says Ontko, “I was the first girl in Prineville ever to play on a boy’s baseball team.” This was just around the time Title IX was implemented, requiring girls to have the same opportunities as boys to play sports.
Ontko’s team was called the Junior Police, but was sponsored by Erickson’s Department Store. Because she was on its baseball team, the store asked her to be part of a back-to-school advertising spread in the newspaper, but, somewhat ironically, they had her model dresses.
While doing the spread, a junior reporter for the Central Oregonian suggested that she become a paper carrier and so she did. Ontko delivered papers for two summers and the intervening school year.
Ontko found the job to be very rewarding. Although she did not make much money, she enjoyed having a little extra spending money. “I could go to the store and buy a soda or candy,” she said. “I could put new tires on my bike.”
More importantly, she says, “It taught me good values about work.” She had to be on time because, “Everyone depended on me,” she said.
As with any job, there were some pros and cons. “I do remember getting bitten by a dog,” Ontko said. She was walking away from a house and did not see the Dalmatian before it bit her on the back of the leg.
Even so, most of Ontko’s memories of delivering the paper are pleasant. She particularly enjoyed getting to visit the neighbors on her paper route. “I loved going to the houses and talking to the older people,” she said.
Eventually, Ontko gave up working for the Central Oregonian because she started babysitting, but over the years the newspaper has continued to play a role in her life.
When as a young adult she worked for a spell in California, her mother got Ontko a subscription to the Central Oregonian so she could keep up on the news from home. Ontko enjoyed the hometown connection so much that she did the same for her daughters when they went away to college.
Ontko still reads the Central Oregonian to help her follow the activities of family and friends.
“Newspapers most definitely have a role in the community — it’s a very positive thing for the community because there would be no local news without it,” she said.