Harpenden institution Joe calls it a day after 40 years of selling the Sunday papers

ILL health has forced a much-loved Harpenden newspaper vendor to retire after 40 years of selling Sunday rags come rain or shine on the High Street.

The recent retirement of Joe Thrussell has saddened his customers, with one describing him as “a Harpenden institution.”

The 74-year-old former Harpenden resident has thanked his many loyal clients whom he considered as “friends rather than customers.”

He said: “I really enjoyed it for the whole 40 years. It was great getting to know those people.”

Joe obviously has ink in the blood as he followed in the footsteps of both his grandfather and father who were also in the newspaper industry in Harpenden.

At the turn of last century his granddad George Thrussell sold papers from a stand outside the George Hotel and Joe’s father, also named George, was the local agent for Sunday papers, supplying Harpenden outlets.

Joe, who used to work on the rewinding machine for an adhesive tape manufacturer, said: “It’s just one of those things you carry on. When Dad retired I thought I would give it a go.”

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His Sunday news-stand was outside the Hockadays news agency for 15 years, before he moved his pitch outside the head office of Charles Wilson Engineers Limited, 86 High Street, until his recent retirement following a heart attack.

Selling a wide range of Sunday papers, he delighted in customers recalling childhood memories of accompanying their parents to his pitch decades ago. Joe said customers’ favourite newspapers were the Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday.

However Joe decided to give up his news-stand after suffering ill health. Joe credits quick-acting paramedics for “saving my life” when he had a heart attack, after he mistook chest pains for heartburn.

He recently had a quadruple bypass at Harefield Hospital and is now feeling “about 90 percent better.”

He explained: “I would have kept going if it hadn’t been for my heart attack. I enjoyed it, I made friends with people over 40 years, and people stopped and chatted - mostly the men stopped and talked for about 15 minutes about sport.

“There is no doubt I miss the company, and the chance to talk to people. I certainly miss the talking because I used to stand there for seven hours.”

His retirement has saddened regular customer Maureen Poupard, who has lived in Harpenden since 1974. She said: “We always bought our Sunday papers from Joe. He was a Harpenden institution, a one-off. Joe deserves to put his feet up now but we shall miss him.

“On cold mornings Joe took refuge in his car and his flask of coffee. There would always be a cheery word, a smile and a laugh and a joke from Joe, who had very many regulars who had known him for years.”

Joe confirmed: “It did get cold there at times. I’d have a flask of coffee and sandwiches in my car to have when it was quiet.”