When I was 10, my dad agreed I was old enough to manage a newspaper route. I was inspired by the adventures the paperboys I knew had related.

My brothers and I had our Oregon Journal routes through Station 7, an old storefront situated along the Northeast 21st Avenue overpass right off Wasco Street. For a kid, it was a good bicycle ride from our house near Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. We could have found paper routes closer to home, but my dad thought it wasn’t wise to do business with people we knew in our own neighborhood, should things not work out. One of the greatest things about Station 7 was the charismatic station manager who really knew how to reach out to and rally the paperboys.

Bob Lavorato was a good-looking 30-something energetic little Italian guy who wore sharp-looking sports jackets and drove a red Camaro, a poor man’s Corvette. The son of Italian immigrants, Bob was a photographer and lived in a houseboat on the Columbia River with his attractive wife, Millie, and his conscientious son, Randy.

I thought Bob was the coolest guy on earth. I can just see him walking down the sidewalk, arm around a disgruntled paperboy, telling the adolescent he needed to be more patient and try to get along better with his mother. I can hear Bob at a Station 7 meeting, calling out the delinquent Smith brother twins, telling them that 12 is too young to be smoking and to straighten up and fly right. I remember Bob repeatedly dropping dimes and nickels into the flickering light of the pop machine at the station, treating all in attendance to his favorite beverage — a small bottle of Coca Cola.

Bob would take the paperboys out to sell new subscriptions door-to-door. I recall one night during the Christmas season when we went out soliciting with some rough kids from Station 4 in North Portland. I was working with a boy named Reid who talked me into breaking Christmas lights with him in front yards.

Despite the hijinks, I got four new orders that night and Bob awarded me a spiffy flashlight with emergency flashers. I didn't feel I deserved it, and had a difficult time enjoying it considering the crimes I’d carried out. I’d made Bob happy with the four new subscriptions but felt like I really betrayed his trust by committing an act worse than anything the Smith twins could dream up. It almost made me sick to my stomach.

One Saturday, I confessed my offenses to a priest. For my penance, he told me to buy Christmas lightbulbs and go back to the houses where I broke the lights and explain to these people what I had done and present them with the bulbs.

So, I scraped together 79 cents for a box of light bulbs. My mom asked me what I was doing. I explained to her what I had done and informed her of my penance. My mom advised me not to go through with it. I asked her if she feared these people might call the police on me. “No,” she replied. “They'll probably call a psychiatrist.”

I didn’t listen to my mother and went to the store and purchased a box of Christmas lightbulbs anyway. The following Saturday afternoon, I rode my bicycle up to what I thought was North Portland, only later realizing I had no idea where those houses were. I got extremely lost. After a few daunting hours, I finally gave up. Disappointed, I turned for home, stopping at a St. Vincent de Paul collection site in the Hollywood District and donating the box of lightbulbs. I spent that Christmas chastened but unfulfilled.

Van der Hout, who graduated from All Saints School, lives in Southeast Portland.