everywhere. People from all walks of life take advantage of on-line shopping for
necessities and luxury items. We use them to order hardware and electronic parts
that are not readily available in our small town. Many small businesses and folks
who work from home rely on pickups and deliveries. Anything from a spark-plug,
a box of kitty litter, a prom dress or a gourmet cheesecake can be delivered to your
door, often with next day service.
During Covid-19 lock-down and social distancing, people were unable or reluctant to
shop in traditional ways. Curbside pickup was available for groceries, many hardware
and building products and prepared restaurant meals. Many people were unable to get
supplies and materials to work at home, do hobbies and carry on doing whatever
they do, isolated at home. Many turned to the internet and large supply companies like
Amazon to order things and those items were duly delivered to front porches, lobbies
I thought back to my days growing up in the 1960's and 1970's remembering the
Delivery Services that we loved. My favourite was The Egg Man who drove his own
pickup truck and brought our standing order of one dozen, every week. I have no
recollection of what the eggs looked like or how they tasted. Instead, it was the Egg
Man himself that I remember with great fondness. From his overalls and checkered
shirt to his dusty boots, he was the epitome of a real farmer, the first one I actually
got to know a little bit. He invited our family to visit his farm and after seeing the
chickens, watching the other livestock, playing in the barn and drinking homemade
lemonade in the farmhouse; I was sold, I wanted to be a farmer's daughter. One
vivid memory I have of that day is seeing Mark fall from the hayloft into the
cow stalls below. We had been warned about running and about the hole in the floor
where hay bales would be tossed down but that meant nothing to my carefree
brother. At first I was horrified that Mark may have broken a leg or even have hit
his head. Finding him safely lying in some hay, I was very relieved but had to
hide my inward "big sister" told-ya-so smile. The Egg Man delivered more than eggs,
he brought me one of my earliest memories and love of the country life.
The neighbourhood Bread Man brought fresh loaves and sometimes donuts to our
front door. Once and awhile Mom would have me follow him out to the van with
the next order, written in pencil on a small scrap of paper. That was the method for
ordering eggs, bread and milk. I suppose the delivery chaps had a large notebook
to record all the orders.
Built in to the side wall of our house was a small box with a twist-latch and mail slot,
the milk-box, where bottles of milk and cream were delivered. We had an inside door
to retrieve our goods without having to deal with weather.
Silverwoods Dairy serviced our neighbourhood. If we did not hear The Milkman
arrive on the street we would know he was there by the sounds of clinking bottles being
carefully placed into the box. It was important in warm weather to get the milk into the
refrigerator as soon as possible. If we forgot to collect the milk early on colder days,
the milk would freeze and push up the paper cap on a small white column of icy cream.
The milkman was extra special because my grandfather, Mom's Dad delivered milk in
Toronto back when milk carts were horse drawn. Mom used to talk of her
excitement when her Dad visited her Crawford Street home and she was allowed to
pat the horses.
The Mailman used the same box to deliver letters and small packages. Of course,
mail delivery in various forms, continues today.
The milk-box came in handy a couple of times when Mark and I were accidentally
locked out of the house. Mark was tiny enough to climb into the box, feet first,
maneuver around to avoid falling down the stairs and unlock the door for me. After
a couple of these entrances, Dad realized that burglars could easily break in that way
too and he sealed up the milk box door forever.
I always loved the glass milk bottles, especially the cream toppers and their special
bent spoons, ingeniously designed to hold back the milk while the cream was poured
off. I have one now that Chris gifted me a few birthdays ago plus the creamer spoon
that I grew up with and I love them.
Newspapers have been delivered to porches and lobbies for years. The image of a
young boy tossing a rolled newspaper onto a porch from his bicycle is iconic. The
first Paperboy was hired in New York City in 1833! The papers cost six cents each
so we can only imagine how much the boys were paid. I had a few friends, boys and
girls, who delivered newspapers as their first job. I helped my neighbour Linda with
her route sometimes and found it fun but challenging, especially since I knew that she
would be paid money for candy and I was doing it to be nice.
There were also the Unscheduled Service Deliveries. With no particular itinerary, keen
individuals would walk or drive up our road delivering goods that they knew we wanted
but had not actually ordered. They had their products at hand like the Yummy Man,
as we called him, and his ice cream truck whose song alerted the 'sweet-tooths" that
frozen treats were just a few houses away.
The Knife Sharpeners were unique individuals who operated in the cities and suburbs
from bicycle mounted grinders to more sophisticated equipment in vans. The fellow in
our neighbourhood pulled a cart with one hand and rang his bell with the other. His bell
was rung with precision da-dung-da-dunggg, da-dung-da-dunggg, so loudly, that we
knew he was a couple of blocks away. He looked very forlorn and bedraggled, I imagined
him fitting well into a Dickens story. I remember Dad telling us that he'd felt sorry for
him and brought out some scissors to be serviced. The grinding stone left the shears
unusable and we hoped he was able to eek out a living doing knives.
I always loved to follow my Granddad down into his cellar where he would hand crank
his grinding wheel to high speed and sharpen the knives. I loved the smell, the sound
and the look of the sparks flashing off the shiny metal. I loved to sneak down the
basement, grasp the wooden handle tightly and send the stone spinning so fast that it
hummed loudly and shook the workbench.
I also loved to watch Dad sharpen the carving knife, slapping it rhythmically back and
forth against the honing steel. I certainly wish I had been taught those skills from any of
those three "sharp guys" so that I could hone my own most essential kitchen tool.
Another brand of Delivery Service were the various sales people who went door to door
convincing people that they needed various items. They demonstrated the items and if
they were cunning enough, take the order and deliver it to the front door a week or so
after. Many families housed a hundred pounds of knowledge on their bookshelves in the
form of Encyclopedias that a salesperson convinced them they needed and later delivered.
Who could forget the slogan "Avon Calling!" Women wearing foundation, eye liner and
lipstick perfectly applied, would peruse the Avon Book with a client and "help" them decide
which products they "needed" to transform themselves and feel more "beautiful". A crisp
white paper bag packed with fragrance, eye shadow, mascara and nail polish and promises
would be delivered by that same Avon Lady.
How many brushes did one household need? According to the Fuller Brush Man, there
were many varieties and styles that consumers "needed". A movie was even made about
the relationship that developed between actors Janet Blair (customer) and Red Skelton
(salesman)! I must rush to see that, not!
China in search of a source for pig bristles to use in the brush manufacturing company
he was starting in Boston. While he was there, he met my Great Aunt Elva who was
in China working as a Christian missionary. The two were married and lived in their
Boston home in winter and gorgeous ocean side home in Mattapoisett in summer.
My Aunt Elva was an inspiration to me, creating amazing meals, baking and preserves,
growing incredible perennial gardens with all types of berries and living alone in the
cottage in her late seventies. When the cottage burned down one winter, Aunt Elva
was in her eighties. She rented a trailer and stayed on the property to supervise the
rebuilding of her beloved summer home. Elva had a small pump organ and would
beam widely whenever she played it. An authentic German cuckoo clock that became
the tradition before bed when we visited the summer home with three year old Danielle.
Dad would hold Dani up to wait for the cuckoo to emerge eight times with its infamous
call and then it was off to bed.
Eventually the larger companies particularly the Department Stores, marketed their
wares in catalogues that showed images, included a brief description and the item price.
Customers would phone in their orders and Delivery Trucks painted with distinctive
company colours and logos delivered the products. When I was young, there were two
major competitors in Toronto, Eatons and Simpsons.
Families supported one of the two so our neighbours were either "Eatons or Simpsons
households". We were Eatons loyalists for reasons unknown to me, maybe their two stores,
one on College and the other on Queen Street but more likely the T.Eaton Company's
beloved annual Punkinhead themed Santa Claus Parade and toyland. Dad worked
painting and assembling floats for at least two of the iconic parades. My Aunt Jean
worked for Eatons and we once visited her amazingly huge office. My vivid and
treasured memories highlight the elevators, whose slatted metal doors were controlled
by an elevator operator; the amazing wooden floors that seemed to stretch for miles;
the twenty foot high ceilings and the water cooler where we filled our little cone-shaped
paper cups from the giant gurgling glass bottle.
There were many companies that jumped on the "Delivery Band Wagon". Phone
orders could be placed, as they are today, for food like Pizza and Chinese dishes
to be delivered hot and ready to eat.
Florists have been delivering bouquets for birthdays, bereavement, holidays,
milestones, love and apologies for a hundred years.
Once, while my boyfriend and I sat at our kitchen table at home, a delivery of
white roses arrived for me from another admirer. Mom saved the day whisking
them away and hid them in her bedroom for me to enjoy later. Over the years,
I have received many beautiful bouquets but that was the only one that was
delivered to my door and I remember it fondly.
We supported the Pop Shoppe who delivered cases of flavoured soda. Imagine
the excitement for two young teenagers and their Dad when a variety case of
pop was carried to the cold cellar for storage and one bottle was place in the
refrigerator for consumption. Today the red delivery cases, glass bottles and
bottle openers are all considered Vintage items and fetch a fine dollar on Ebay.
I suppose that I am Vintage too; wonder how much I would sell for?
My bestie Wendy's family had The Chip King deliver potato chips to their family. I
suppose with five kids, they needed a large can of snack food. The image below
is the container that Wendy has saved as a memento of those Delivery Days.