When Stephen Mortenson asked his dad last year if he would help him with a paper route, neither of them realized what they were getting into.
What started as a 40-paper route in September 1988 has burgeoned to nearly 300 papers and now involves the entire family. And that's no small operation, since David and Debra Mortenson have 10 children. Actually, the two youngest, 2 1/2-year-old Telshia and 1-year-old Neal, are along primarily for moral support. But they're the carriers of the future, their dad said.The Mortensons deliver both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune, and that can get hectic on Sunday mornings when they have to stuff 500 big Sunday papers and the kids into their van.
But the children enjoy it, Mortenson said. "Sometimes one or two of them will say, `Daddy, when do we get to quit the paper routes?' And the other will say, `No, no. We want them.' And come payday, nobody wants to quit."
The money goes into savings accounts for missions and college education for the children, who, in addition to the two youngest, include Stephen, 14; Allan, 11; Amber, 11; David, 9; Autumn, 8; Crystal, 8, Zackery, 7; and Kira, 4.
The children's father has multiple sclerosis, and some days he isn't able to drive the van. On those days, Mrs. Mortenson takes over. She also takes turns driving on other days.
"We don't let anything really slow us down or stop us," he said. "We're just all fighters. We just keep going."
Sometimes the children will hold races, trying to beat their old times for getting all their papers delivered. "When we do we all go out for ice cream." Once, Mortenson said, "we delivered 150 newspapers in a half hour - actually 38 minutes."
"We've really got it down to a science. The kids know when we stop at a place how many papers to get out with, and they jump out running."
The Mortensons make a point of always getting each newspaper onto the customer's porch. "If you start porching people's papers you start seeing tips showing up on the weekend and at Christmas time," and people have been very generous to the children, their dad said.
"The people are really great. I think it's really given the children a great experience."