Sin City, circa 1940

The “Sin City” label is a pretty new (and, all things considered, pretty lame) tag for Las Vegas. In the 1940s and 1950s, several cities held claim to the title, including Phenix City, Alabama. Really. From the Shelbyville (TN) Times-Gazette:

Jack Culpepper’s first run-in with the steamier side of Phenix City life occurred in the 1930s, at the age of 11, while he was making money like many boys did in those days — delivering newspapers. He and his lifelong friend Joe Freeman would head across the river to Columbus, Ga., to pick up the papers for delivery in the wee hours of the morning.

It was a routine the pair would repeat for years: catching a midnight show at the movies, doing their delivery job and then in bed by 4 in the morning. This explains why a boy of that age would be in a sleazy honky-tonk at 3 a.m. on a Sunday.

“I was just a kid and they only messed with me that one time,” Jack said. He would cross the 14th Street bridge on his bicycle, which led into where most of the criminal activity was centered. While Joe attended to his deliveries across the street, Jack entered the Blue Bonnet Cafe and was only there to collect his two dimes for the papers when suddenly he heard. “Look, it’s a virgin, let’s get him!”

Someone grabbed him and thrust him into the lap of a woman who obviously made her living with her body.

“Scared the daylights out of me,” Jack remembered. Just as quickly, he heard “Leave him alone, he’s just a kid,” at which point other women of ill repute set upon the one who had grabbed Jack.

“I left a pile of ’em in the floor … of women … working her over, I guess.”

But while it was the only time the criminal element would deliberately accost the young Jack, another early morning newspaper delivery at the age of 13 would leave quite an impression on him.

Entering the “Merry-Go-Round” to deliver his papers, Jack found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. Apparently, two drunken soldiers decided to reenact a scene that made the archer William Tell famous throughout the ages, except instead of using an apple and a bow and arrow, the pair chose a shot glass and a .45 automatic pistol.

However, the solider with the .45 shot a bit lower than he intended and Jack was splattered with brains, blood and pieces of skull from the unfortunate man with the shot glass on top of his head. “I didn’t witness it, I felt it!” Jack said. “Part of his head hit my shoulder!”

Shelbyville Times-Gazette: Story: Death, prostitution and the paper boy

Somebody pay that editor a bonus: “Death, Prostitution, and the Paper Boy” is the best headline I’ve seen in a while.

I never was a paper boy, but I tried playing that Paperboy video game a few times. I always crashed just trying to get down Easy Street…man was that game tough.

Anyway, it would have been a much cooler game if it had had things like the prostitute catfight and fatal head shooting as obstacles instead of dogs and break dancers.

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