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Hancock, Ol' Dan deliver the news

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

ALBANY, Ga. -- In the late '40s and early '50s, Charlie Hancock remembers standing patiently with Ol' Dan by the side of U.S. Highway 82 near Acree.

They were waiting for the airplane.

"I'd watch Ol' Dan's ears," Hancock, who was 11 then, said of the big black horse he got as a Christmas gift. "I could always tell when the plane was coming because his ears would go forward and as the plane got closer Dan would begin snorting. He never did like that plane."

The plane, a Piper Cub with no doors, would come roaring from the west at 150 feet off the highway, making its daily run of dropping newspapers to the carriers.

"We had this clearing off 82 where he'd make the drop," Hancock, now 71, recalled. "The papers were packed into green duffel bags and he'd kick mine out and wave at me as he flew over. The bag would bounce once then slide through the dirt.

"Then he'd fly all the way to, I think, Tifton, dropping those bags all along the way. I never will forget that."

For nearly four years, Hancock and Ol' Dan delivered 40 newspapers every day.

"Dan knew the route," Hancock said. "It was automatic for him. The only problem we had was when someone stopped getting the paper. Dan always wanted to go up the driveway anyway. But he was always ready to go.

"I did have to ride a bike every now and then. Back then, everybody had a big dog and they could be a problem. But they never bothered me and Dan because he would kick the hell out of 'em."

Things were going well until young Hancock received his first lesson in economic reality when he got a call from The Herald's long-time circulation director, A.J. Nobles.

"Mr. Nobles called and asked me to make sure I was paying the state sales tax on my papers," Hancock said. "When I took the route, they never mentioned sales tax to me. But I told him 'oh, yes' anyway.

"After that, every time I got off the bus after school I would look and see if there was a strange car sitting in the driveway because I was worried about the Department of Revenue coming after me."

Hancock gave up the route in the mid-'50s, then spent 28 years as the comptroller at Coats and Clark. He spent another 38 years as a football official with the Georgia High School Athletic Association, calling six state championship games in the Georgia Dome.

"I loved being a football referee," Hancock said. "You'd get five or six of your best buddies in the truck and see some really good football with good friends."

And to think -- it all started with green bags dropping out of the sky.

"I think the biggest lesson I took from that first job was that it was great in the beginning, but I soon learned that it was an everyday, seven-day-a-week kind of thing," said Hancock, who is currently the manager of Pine Forest Racquet Club.

"It taught me that when you commit to a job, you do it as best you can. That helped me in every job I had for the rest of my life."