From midnight to 4 a.m., while most of Omaha is sleeping, Bob Dropinski is awake, walking the same route he has walked for 50 years.
An old satchel slung over his shoulder holds freshly printed copies of the The World-Herald. As he walks, he places newspapers on porches, in between screen doors or on front steps — wherever the residents prefer it to be in the morning.
By the time he’s completed his routes, he has walked over 6 miles and is ready to finally go to bed just as the rest of the city is waking up.
Dropinski doesn’t mind the unusual schedule — he loves what he does.
“I’ve just done it so long. I don’t know what I would do without it,” he said. “It’s just been part of my life.”
Dropinski delivered his first World-Herald on Sept. 3, 1972, when he was just 9 years old. He and his siblings all decided to take a route, but Dropinski was the only one who has stuck with it.
“I said we’ll try it and see what happens, and now it’s 50 years later,” he said.
He’s old fashioned, he said, and is one of few carriers who still walks his routes, rather than driving them.
He starts his day at his mother’s house in central Omaha with the same route he had as a child. Then, he moves on to two different neighborhoods before he’s done.
Since his start, a lot has changed with the job, from collecting payments door to door to the size of the newspaper itself. The biggest change, however, was the switch from delivering newspapers in the afternoon to the morning.
In 2016, The World-Herald moved from having both a morning and afternoon daily paper to only publishing one early edition. It was the last major U.S. newspaper producing two daily print editions.
The change meant Dropinski had to switch from his usual afternoon shift to an early morning one.
It was less than ideal at first, he said. His favorite part of the job has always been meeting and befriending people while on his route.
“The people were always good to me and I’d see them all the time,” he said. “I’m shocked at how many people I still see in the morning, either by accident or on purpose, people who wait up for me.”
Outside of delivering newspapers, Dropinski spends a lot of time in the community, lending a helpful hand wherever he can.
“He and his little red truck and his dog are in the neighborhood almost every day helping people,” said Dona Hoskinson, who Dropinski has delivered papers to since 1977.
He is frequently seen mowing lawns, scooping snow from driveways, raking leaves and assisting anyone in need, according to Hoskinson.
“He’s just an all-around good guy. He’ll do anything for anyone. Everyone in this neighborhood knows him,” Hoskinson said.
Dropinski has only missed one morning since 2019. Before that he hadn’t missed a day since 1993 when he flew across the country to be on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
At the time, Dropinski had also been working as a grocery bagger at Baker’s in Omaha. On a whim, he joined a grocery bagging competition and was crowned “best grocery bagger in the nation.”
“Somehow I was the quickest and I did it the best way and I won the national championship,” he said. “It’s something that I’ll never ever forget.”
The title earned him a spot on the popular late night show, but caused him to lose his streak of never missing a single day of work.
Since then, Dropinski said he has worked hard to show up everyday, rain or shine, despite his dislike for bad weather.
“I hate, hate, hate winter,” he said. “There’s been times when you have to trudge through snow while you try to get the papers and get them delivered. I think: Why am I doing this? But then I make it through and then I just go on.”
Still, Dropinski said he still has no plans to quit.
“I don’t want to retire yet,” he said. “Fifty years down and 50 to go.”
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“I’ve just done it so long. I don't know what I would do without it. It's just been part of my life.”
Starting Monday, all World-Herald subscribers will get their newspaper in the morning. Today’s afternoon paper is not only the last of its kind in Omaha, but it also apparently represents the end of a major U.S. daily having both morning and afternoon editions.
Known as the “green sheet” or, briefly in its final years, as the Green Streak, the newspaper’s late-afternoon Wall Street Edition carried daily closing stock market prices and commentary for investors in the days when they weren’t wired electronically into the market’s ups and downs.