Do you remember your milkman’s name?

Love that Rat Pack-era music. The only better sound is Doo Wop. Last night, Tony Bennett’s “Lullaby of Broadway” streamed from my boyfriend’s laptop … The milkman’s on his way. Wow, that’s something that doesn’t happen anymore, I said out loud, sparking a conversation about home deliveries in the good old days.

Sure, we now have more packages delivered to our doorsteps than ever, thanks to ebay and other online purchasing, but raise your hand if you know who put them there.

In the small Pennsylvania town where I grew up, a familiar cast of characters regularly showed up on our porch, occasionally opening the unlocked screen door and hollering for my mother if she didn’t answer their knocks right away. We got to know them all. Our milkman was Mr. Cordell, who deposited bottles of Sealtest milk in an aluminum box by the front door, often while we were sleeping. On frigid winter mornings, the cream on top would expand and pop open the cardboard lids.
Our milk truck looked like this, and so did our neighborhood.
Deliveries, milk truck

As late as the 1950s, horse-drawn wagons carried Abbott’s Dairies products through the narrow streets of my grandmother’s South Philadelphia neighborhood. I recall my grandmother standing on the curb in front of her rowhouse purchasing milk and eggs, and honestly, I believe even scrapple, from the driver. Yummy breakfasts on those days!
Familiar scene in Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore, thanks to Temple University Libraries
Deliveries Abbott's credit Temple University Libraries

Our breadman was Mr. Pechart, who drove a big truck full of Valley Pride Bakery products around town. Most Saturdays, Mr. Tedrick from Charles Chips came by selling potato chips and pretzels to refill cans like these:
Deliveries, charles chips
We used them to store all kinds of snacks for years after the deliveries stopped, even when the cans became dented and the lids stuck. I’m hoping one of my brothers still has them.

If no one was home, Mr. Washabaugh, driver for Modern Dry Cleaners, would hang our clean and pressed laundry between our two front doors and pick up dirty clothes that we would leave in the same spot. Generally someone was around to chat, as we did with all our regular deliverymen, who were all men back then, come to think of it. I don’t remember names of guys who sold vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias, but they showed up pretty often, too.

In today’s throwaway society, folks rarely fix broken TVs. Not so in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Our television repairman was Mr. Dittman, who patiently put up with my brothers and me gaping over his shoulders at the tubes, bulbs and wires he tinkered with. And often soon after he left, the picture started to roll again. Remember that? Three channels, no remote, rolling horizontal lines.
Deliveries, TV repair

And the most flamboyant, the Fuller Brush man! Mr. Rensch would burst into our living room with a “Hi, Little Lady,” as he patted me on the head. Next thing we knew brushes, mops, containers and numerous gadgets were displayed on every flat surface in sight. Fast forward several years when I interviewed him for the local newspaper. My column started with something like, “Now I’m ringing his doorbell.”
Red Skelton parodies a Fuller Brush man in a 1948 film:
Deliveries, red skelton fuller brush man

Our family physician, Dr. Bender, routinely made house calls, no matter how minor the ailment—such as when one of my brothers just didn’t feel like going to school. He still recalls Dr. Bender’s knowing wink.

Thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, most people still have neighborhood mail delivery. I appreciate the greetings and waves from the carriers who stop their vehicles at the mailbox at the end of my driveway. But that anticipation pales compared to the memory of sitting on my porch step watching for the mailman to ‘round the corner, hopefully with a letter for me in the pouch on his back.
Deliveries, mailman


About Lorrie DeFrank

Retired and relishing the time to write about anything concerning people 65 and older, which is everything.
This entry was posted in 65 plus and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Do you remember your milkman’s name?

  1. Phyllis White says:

    Lorrie, I do not remember our milkman’s name, but I remember him and the other delivery men in your blog. Two names I’ll never forget are Mr. Rensch, who also came to our house on Washington Street, and Harry Weaver, our Jewel Tea man ~ the dishes he sold are now collectors items! Thanks for bring back such fond memories of all the friendly delivery men and the treats/services they brought to our home. 🙂 Phyl

  2. Chris S says:

    I certainly remember our milkman’s name… He was my dear dad.. John Bolan.. Who worked for Dairymaid in Chambersburg for many years. Every now and then he would take me along on his route.. I loved every minute of being with him and observing him working hard and interacting with his customers.

  3. They are fun memories, Phyl. The Jewel Tea man did not come to our house, but I do remember Harry. Nice guy! We were lucky to have grown up in that safe, friendly place.

  4. And Chris, you have the best memories of all! Your dad was a dear. So funny! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing them.

  5. Susan says:

    Oh my this is so good…….even though I’m not from Cburg, I remember our bread truck driver and my Dad delivered feed for cattle in the Franklin County area. Like the reader above, he would take me on his deliveries and I was always impressed as a child at how many people knew “my Dad”. Well, we were the luckiest generation EVER!!!!! Just attended Donnie’s 50th Reunion last weekend, (Class of 1964) and we had a terrific time!!! I sent your blog to him as the memories keep flowing. Come home soon, can’t wait to see you!!!!

  6. Oh Susan, how true! I’ve often said we are the luckiest generation … music, innocence, just everything. Precious memories. Loved looking at the Class of ’64’s reunion photos, trying to figure out who people are. Our 50th is coming up soon. Yikes!

  7. mary says:

    Our milkman’s name was Mr. Stone—-I was 5-6 when the service ended—also recall him delivering little bottles to the school w/cardboard tops…ah, those were the days, Lorrie. You continue to capture my senses in your posts. never stop. love, mary

  8. Thanks for the ongoing encouragement, Mary. I remember the little milk bottles at school, too. Chocolate was everyone’s favorite.

  9. Fun comments from a hometown friend via email:

    The Valley Pride Bakery panel truck rumbled up and the guy came into the kitchen with a huge wire basket. I’m not sure Mom ever called him by name but I see his face this minute. We had a standing order of Montgomery Pies and Wet Shoofly and sticky pecan buns and of course breads but their details escape memory as I wouldn’t have taken note of mere plain loaves … Dad sold Compton’s Encyclopedias for years at night. Pure and sheer joy arrived along with those big brown — precious — tomes when he could finally manage a set for us … Mom still had some chip cans when they last moved which we used for other things as well.

  10. Jeff McCartney says:

    You guys who lived in Chambersburg sure were lucky. I don’t remember any home delivery of anything to those of us who live on Letterkenny Ordinance Depot. But then again LOD was a “gated community!” However, I do remember going along with my parents when they went to the commissary at Fort Richie in Maryland. Once a month they got tons of stuff for the freezer!

    p.s. Hi Christine!

    • Thanks for reading my blog, Jeff, and for the memories of the depot, where most of our parents worked. Now part business complex, it’s not gated anymore. But many of the familiar buildings are still there. Another fun childhood memory is going to the Letterkenny festivities each Armed Forces Day and riding on the tanks and jeeps.

  11. David Zwiebel says:

    Thanks for the nice memories.
    Cburg could have been the American Graffiti set.

  12. It sure could have! We do have great memories. Thanks for reading and commenting, David.

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