Diocesan News

Former Brooklyn Man Proud of Paperboy Days With The Tablet

Left: James Hayes on the stoop of his Flatlands home in 1983 with his daughter and son. Above: James Hayes with Father Jim Cunningham (left) and Father William Sweeney (right) at the first Communion of his grandson, Chester Hayes O’Leary, in 2021 at St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor. (Photos: Courtesy of James Hayes)

BLUFFTON, South Carolina — The year was 1961, and a gallon of gas cost 27 cents, eggs were 30 cents a dozen, a new car would set you back just over $2,000…and The Tablet cost 10 cents. 

One of James Hayes’ first jobs was as a Tablet newspaper delivery boy. He also sold the paper outside the St. Jerome Church after Sunday morning Masses. And after all these years, even after relocating to his new home in South Carolina, Hayes still carries a torch for The Tablet and reads it from cover to cover every week. 

Hayes, the oldest of six children, grew up one block away from the Flatbush parish, where he lived until he got married. He vividly remembers how proud he was to be selling a newspaper that was always a fixture in his household, and he recalls how the experience taught him valuable lessons and helped hone his entrepreneurial skills. 

Hayes recalled being in the seventh grade at St. Jerome School when he first started selling The Tablet. 

“The sisters were in charge of everything at the time and managed The Tablet deliveries,” he remembers. “I approached the sister in charge and told her I wanted to be a Tablet delivery boy. The paper would arrive on Friday afternoon in stacks of 50, then taken to a room in the back of the auditorium where there would be numerous bundles of The Tablet.” 

The former altar server said he “negotiated a deal” with the sisters at the school who managed The Tablet deliveries, in which he would sell the paper for a dime and get to keep 3 cents for himself: “I sold a lot of papers … between 1961 and 1963 and did pretty well for myself.” 

He said the paper was a broadsheet back then, much like the New York Times is today. The delivery boys would take as many bundles as they could and place them in burlap bags, along with linen pouches for collecting money for their deliveries. 

Hayes said that he managed to pick up a good number of papers, more than enough to impress the sister in charge. The job was so lucrative that he had to file for working papers before accumulating more delivery routes. 

“On my route, I would meet people who had elderly parents who could not go to church, so I would offer to personally deliver a copy of The Tablet to them,” Hayes explained. “What that developed into was my own private paper route, and that was probably the beginning of evangelization because it spread, and more elderly people heard about it and were able to receive the paper.” 

He also said that selling The Tablet when he was in his early teens gave him a new insight into adults, many of whom he stayed in touch with for many years. 

Hayes also credits The Tablet with helping him and his late wife Catherine find their first apartment. 

“It was a beautiful garden apartment, but the owner of the building was known to be selective of whom he chose to rent it to,” he said. “He had been advertising the apartment in The Tablet and was looking for a Catholic couple to rent it to.” 

“When we went to meet him, we told him that we had seen the ad for the apartment in The Tablet and that Bishop [Charles] Mulrooney was going to marry us. It was a slam dunk,” he laughed. 

After the couple married, they became parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Flatlands. 

Hayes, now 74, has had an illustrious career and considers himself blessed. After graduating from high school, he took a job with Chase Manhattan bank. After a few years, he accepted a clerk position with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department. 

Hayes remained with the service for 47 years and retired in 2013 from the position of deputy chief in charge of seaport operations for the Port of New York. 

Hayes’ retirement party, held at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, brought out family, friends, co-workers, and some local luminaries. Among those in attendance was Msgr. Sean Ogle, chairman of DeSales Media Group, the ministry that produces The Tablet. 

Msgr. Ogle was a seminarian with Hayes’ brother Joseph, who is now an Abbot of St. Michael’s Norbertine Abbey in Silverado, California. 

“I went to Jim’s retirement party some years ago. He was a top official for the federal agency that supervises the ports of New York and New Jersey. He was really up there and universally respected,” Msgr. Ogle recalled. 

“His brother and I were good friends in the seminary. I remember at Jimmy’s retirement party, all the people he worked with were calling him St. James. ” 

Father Hayes said that his brother was loyal to every Church and institution that he has been involved with. 

“Whether it was serving at St. Jerome’s as one of the servers of Bishop Mulrooney and selling The Tablet, of course. He has always been loyal, industrious, and extremely generous.” 

Hayes was married for 32 years to his wife Catherine, who passed away in 2004. He has two children, his son James Hayes, Jr., who lives in Georgia with his wife Leigh, and his daughter Regina O’Leary, and he has two grandchildren. 

Hayes recently left Brooklyn to live near his daughter and her retired NYPD husband Chester, and 9-year-old grandson Chester James O’Leary in Bluffton, South Carolina. 

Hayes still makes periodic visits to Brooklyn and continues to look forward to receiving his weekly copy of The Tablet in the mail. 

And while the 10-cent cover price of the paper may have increased over the years, for Hayes, you can’t put a price on how much The Tablet has meant to him.

2 thoughts on “Former Brooklyn Man Proud of Paperboy Days With The Tablet

  1. WOW, such an wonderful story!! What a great reflection on the importance of The Tablet’s continued delivery of good news to the faithful. Mr. Hayes’s life and family history sounds very interesting. The article sounds like the opening to a great book! I love these types of living history novels!