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Former RE paper boy wins 'Newsies' contest

Craig Zemke (second from left) poses on stage with "Newsies" cast members Tanner Hagen, Aleks Knezevich, Jessica Fredrickson. The former local Red Wing newspaper carrier won a contest to see the production, which runs through Sept. 29 at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre

Craig Zemke's memories of delivering newspapers in Red Wing in the late 1950s won him two tickets to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to see the Disney-based production of "Newsies."

"My wife knew my stories about delivering newspapers and decided it would be interesting to get tickets for my birthday," said Zemke, who used to deliver the Minneapolis Star and the Republican Eagle with brother Al. "She went on the website to order tickets and saw a notice about the contest."

They decided to write Zemke's memories and enter the contest. A week later, he received an email that he was one of the winners.

"The play is about the turn of the century when the young kids would go get newspapers and sell them on the street corners," Zemke said. "It is a little bit of a different situation, but it did bring back some of the memories."

Zemke joined the other winners and guests at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre for a recent production. Near the end of the first act, the lights in the theater went out.

"At first, we couldn't figure out if that was part of the play or not," Zemke said. "The actors were still on the stage, and their microphones were off."

Emergency lights came on and an announcer directed the actors to return backstage. When theater management realized they could not continue the play, they gave everyone passes to attend another performance and took the writing contest winners on stage to meet the actors and have pictures taken with them.

"They made a big deal about this to make sure we were recognized," Zemke said. "Then to have the power go out was unfortunate for them."

Zemke traded memories with the other contest winners about their newspaper delivering experiences. One of his favorite memories came from working with his brother.

"He didn't like to collect money from his customers," Zemke said. "He would collect just enough so he could pay his weekly bill. I remember my parents and I looking at his book. Back then, you had a book of tickets, and we looked in his books and here were these coupons for weeks and weeks on end, because he had never collected."

Zemke told his brother he would collect for him as long as he got a percentage. "I said I would go out and do it, because it didn't bother me at all. I think that might have started my 40-year banking career."

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

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