Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wife and I

I don’t know what triggered it, but the other day we had some fun talking about our memories of growing up in the 1940’s and in Southern California. Born only 3 years apart and living in the same small town, our memories are similar. We both spent our early childhood days in Los Angeles itself, and then, when we were about 5 years old, we moved to Manhattan Beach. A very rural suburb and about a two hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. There were no freeways in 1945. And in Manhattan Beach, we had some unique experiences…the Helms man came by every day to deliver bread. Our mother had a blue cardboard sign that went in the front window of the house on the days that she wanted ‘Ken’ to stop at our house. If Ken saw no signs, he would slow down and blow a silver whistle that hung around his neck, to alert any housewife that may have have forgotten about him. And all of the children on the block would be waiting for Ken to stop; when he did, we would surround the back of the truck as he opened the doors and rolled out the long, paper lined oak shelves that held cookies and donuts and bread, of course. Our hope was that Ken or a mother would take pity on us and buy us a donut. Once in awhile we had our own nickel and we could be the shopper. Ken was very patient and waited as long as it took for us to decide which donut we wanted.

But Ken wasn’t the only delivery man; our milk, dairy and eggs came early in the morning and were left on our front porch. Later in the day, Tony, the vegetable man came by, ringing a bell as he drove slowly down the street. His truck was loaded with all sorts of fruits and vegetables. And, occasionally, we saw the ice man. He delivered ice to the few remaining houses without refrigerators. He came by about once a week and we would pester him for chips of ice. I can still remember watching him split huge blocks of ice with his ice pick and then, using ice tongs, sling the block up onto a rubber pad he had over his shoulders.

What was the point of these stories? None…it was just one of those rare moments when you realize how much the world has changed. Was it a better world back then? No. It was different and that’s all you can say for it. It might be fun to remember it, but I wouldn’t want to relive it!

The images? They were all stolen by using Bing to search for old photos.


  1. I tend to think it WAS a better word back then, i.e. friendlier people. I miss having my milk and cheese put on my back porch! I miss hearing children play outside w/o fear of being kidnapped or harmed. I miss living in a town where people didn't try to run over you if you crossed the street or crash into you if you made a turn in front of them.

  2. I'm a big believer in perception being our reality and these are mine...I find that people are still as friendly as ever. Children are safer, statistically, now, rather than back then. But in 1950, we didn't have the 6 O'clock news telling us terrible stories in an attempt to win an audience. I blame most of the lies being perpetuated around the world by the 'talking heads' and our weird belief that whatever they say on television (or the internet) is true.

    Cynicism is power!

  3. Kitty7:08 AM

    I only remember the milk man and of course the Helms man. Taking a tour of the Helms Bakery was very memorable but that whistle and the beautiful wooden sliding drawers of the Helms truck were the best! Made me think of the Good Humor Man too, with his white uniform and hat. Think of wearing that hat and sticking your head in and out of that little square hole to get ice cream for the kids. The hat never came off! Amazing.

  4. I was going to include the Good Humor Man but forgot...

    Yes, he really had an all-white uniform. Very distinguished looking!

  5. Have you read Maile Meloy's Liars and Saints? It's an outstanding California novel, the first part of which is set in the 40's and 50's. If you're a Catholic or recovering Catholic, it's even better. Highly recommended.

  6. I will order the book from the library...thanks.

  7. I still measure all chocolate chip cookies by the standard set by the Helms bakery.