Last of the walking carriers

May 1, 2015

By Mike Francingues
Reporter | The Daily Iberian, New Iberia, LA

JEANERETTE, LA—Most people hardly walk a mile per day, much less four of them, but Elsie Charpentier, 79, has done so every day for the past 24 years, delivering The Daily Iberian along her route in Jeanerette. 

Starting at her house on Felix Street, Charpentier’s route meandered down Glover Street, up to Main and then back to Second Street, she said. 

“It was tiresome, but I made it,” Charpentier said. “The last house was the Richards on Second Street.” 

Charpentier was operator of the last walking paper route The Daily Iberian had. With the growth of the paper, the majority of routes are now delivered by car, said John Poirer, circulation manager at the Iberian. 

“Devoted comes to mind,” replied Poirer when asked what he thought of Charpentier’s service. “Rain or shine, we never once had to fill in for her route. She took care of business. If she couldn’t make it, her son would take off of work and deliver them himself.” 

The route was actually contracted out to Charpentier’s son, Carl Charpentier, who work’s at Simoneaud’s Grocery & Market in New Iberia. She delivered the papers for him while he was working. 

He started delivering the paper in high school, and when he began working, his mother took over the route for him. 

“When he started working, that’s when I wanted to help, so I went and done it for him,” she said. “It was all done by the time he knocked off.” 

Unfortunately, Charpentier stopped delivering her papers in February, for the first time in those 24 years, after her doctors told her they think she may have cancer, bringing an end not only to her paper route but an era of time when people knew and recognized their newspaper delivery person. Charpentier knew almost all of her subscribers personally, she said. 

“They say they miss me because I don’t deliver the paper no more and it’s not the same,” she said. 

Poirer agreed that something is lost when a route makes the switch from a person to a vehicle.

“They were able to satisfy needs that you can’t get from a car route,” he said. “Some people like their papers placed in certain areas, on their doorstep or on their mailbox. It’s that little extra that makes great personal service. That’s something I think curbside delivery has taken away.” 

Of course, dealing with the customers wasn’t always as pleasant as would be preferred, she said, joking about the difficulty of making collections. 

“Sometimes I’d have to go back to a house three or four times to get the checks to get paid,” she noted. 

It wasn’t bad, though, she said. In fact, the customers are what she misses most about the route. 

“I’m already missing them,” she said. “I sure miss seeing the folks. They was all so nice to me.” As for being sick, Charpentier said the doctors weren’t sure what type of cancer she may have yet, but she’s got her faith placed firmly above her doctors. 

“I’ll put that in God’s hands,” she said.

© Reprinted with permission from The Daily Iberian 2015