Jesse Brin buried in newspaper

Jesse Brin sold greeting cards or seed packets in exchange for prizes, a job advertised in the back of comic books. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

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Jesse Brin is pragmatic when looking back at his work ethic in his younger years.

“It’d be nice to say I was always made to work, but, I wasn’t,” he says. “Being the baby, I got away with a lot.”

No, it wasn’t a shining need to prove himself, but an opportunity to get something he desperately desired that launched Brin into the working world. He was maybe 12, and like most boys in Preston Hollow the mid-1960s, he liked comic books. There, he found an ad for a classic business style of the era, in which children would sell greeting cards or seed packets in exchange for prizes.

“They didn’t pay you in money, they paid you in goods,” Brin recalls.

There on the page, he saw it: a Red Rider air rifle, just like the one Ralphie coveted in the iconic film “A Christmas Story.” Soon, he was schlepping door-to-door putting on his best sales pitch for neighbors, who bought greeting cards by the boxes.

“I wanted a BB gun really, really bad,” he laughs.

Brin was as basic a kid as you could imagine, growing up in Preston Hollow before it was a neighborhood dotted with celebrities and the politically powerful. He held every kid job you could imagine, from mowing lawns to tossing Dallas Morning News papers. It was another impulse buy that inspired his paper route.

“They had these Italian mini bikes that we would just lust over,” he says. After his buddy got one that they “rode the wheels off of,” he had to have his own. Soon, a friend was selling a motorcycle, a rung above mini bikes on the danger, and thus cool, scale.

“My mother was very against it,” he remembers. “I asked her, ‘If I get a job, can I buy it myself, with my own money?’ She said, ‘Sure.’ She didn’t think I could do it.”

It took a year and a half, but he did it. He says more than a dozen of his friends had their own paper routes that snaked across the neighborhood, but his territory was the roughly 30 blocks between Stitcher, Preston, Lakehurst and Hillcrest. He earned 75-cents per month for each house he covered, a decent wage for the day.

But the work was not easy. He never got used to the blare of his alarm in the pitch darkness of 3:30 a.m. Or the cold winter mornings when the frosty wind would slap his cheeks as he rode his route. He did get used to rolling newspapers, which is harder than you may think, especially on Sundays when the editions were extra thick. Like any new job, there was a learning curve, especially when it came to tossing papers.

At the time, he says a path spanned neighbors’ yards, used by mailmen and paper boys who needed access to the home’s porch but who did not want to endlessly crisscross from the sidewalk up the walkway and back. Brin was riding down the path, tossing papers when he heard the crash.

“I broke a window when I first started,” he laughs. “Like most kids, I acted like I didn’t hear it break, and just kept riding.”

It was a friend’s house, so he did go back to make amends. He paid to replace it himself, which cost him about a half-months wage.

But it was all worth it, because owning a motorcycle became a huge part of Brin’s identity. He went on to ride for decades, up until earlier this year when he had a bad crash.

“I broke my back in three places, now I’m retired,” he says.

But not before having some really amazing times. As a crusier of Forest Lane (for more on that, see last months cover story), he was intimately entangled in the local car culture. After the paper route earned him a motorcycle, he learned his way around an engine, and soon was fixing up other teens’ cars for extra cash.

“I had a lot of rich friends who wanted cars that went fast,” he laughs.

Preston Hollow looks very different now from when Brin was a boy, but that paper route from Preston to Hillcrest taught him skills he still taps into today, as a success in the tech field.

“We learned to be independent at a very young age,” he says. “It was great preparation for life.”

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