NORMAN — Legendary newspaper seller Calvin Steves is like the preacher who has to go two counties away to let his hair down. Sit with him in a restaurant or walk down the street and everyone calls out his name. He gets free drinks and free rides and isn’t bashful about making a sale.
“Barry Switzer, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Joe Washington and me. Everybody knows my name. What can I say? I’m a celebrity,” said Calvin, 51. He’s been an independent contractor selling The Transcript since he was 11 years old.
He thinks his notoriety helps, especially when drunks or people who don’t know his history give him trouble.
“If people try to mess with me, there’s a lot of people in this town who will back me up and take up for me,” he said. “That’s what I like about Norman.”
Calvin, who moved here at age 4 from upstate New York, is one of the most recognizable people in Norman and sells up to 125 Transcript papers on any given weekday and up to 300 on OU football game days.
He walks up to 10 miles a day, delivering to regular customers downtown, on Campus Corner and as far west as Brookhaven Village.
He said football, storms, wrecks and fires help sell newspapers in Norman. He picks up news around the city and calls the editor at all hours, day or night. He also gets asked the same question every day.
“Calvin, what’s in the news? I tell them I don’t tell the news. I sell the news,” he said.
In the 1990s, the newspaper considered terminating its relationship with Calvin because of his health. A petition drive, organized by Calvin with the help of local attorneys, generated hundreds of supporting signatures. The newspaper management at the time backed down.