Home delivery

In the 1950s home delivery was almost universal in most cities, towns, and villages. In the early 50s, I remember icemen delivering 50-pound blocks of ice for my Grandma Extine’s icebox. Many people had coal delivered, often with someone shoveling it down an open chute to their basement.

Certainly, we had mail delivery, by carriers who walked door-to-door, carrying large leather satchels strung over their shoulders. Every few blocks stood mail bins, for which the carriers had keys. They would swap outgoing mail for more to be delivered. Christmas mail was so abundant that we received two deliveries each day.

Of course we still have mail carriers; the difference was in what they brought. We actually received hand-written letters, some bills, and relatively little junk mail. Mail arrival was a highlight of each day. Long distance phone calls were expensive and rare. Hand-written letters were true treasures. Communication is different when writers have time to think through what they want to express. Many of those letters and postcards were saved, and became family heirlooms. [More about some of ours later.]

Newspapers were usually delivered by paperboys (There probably were paper girls, I just don’t recall ever seeing one), usually pedaling bicycles. The best could accurately throw the paper onto a porch without slowing down. They carried their rolled up papers in a huge canvass bag, similar to the postman’s satchel. I never had a paper route, but did sub for a friend whenever he was on vacation.

Meadow Gold LidQuart jars of Meadow Gold milk were delivered to our doorstep by horse-drawn wagons well into the 50s. The horses knew their routes so well the milkman would carry a rack of a half-dozen quarts to several adjacent houses. His horse would slowly proceed, arriving in exacting the correct spot just as the man arrived. Don’t fret; the horses wore manure catchers, which usually worked well.

The bread man arrived several times a week, carrying a large rack of fresh breads, rolls, cakes, and other goodies. Mom rarely bought more than bread. She was very good baker, and they wouldn’t have met her standards on most desserts.

Our parents bought $500 life insurance policies for Don and me. The insurance man would come by every week with a huge notebook. She would pay him a dollar every for each policy, and he would put check marks next to our names.

Boys peddled ice cream carts through the neighborhood in the summer. The 1950s were the heyday for doo-to-door sales. Seldom were they scorned. Many made a fairly good living peddling their wares and services. I previously mentioned the rag and old iron guy. We had the Fuller brush man, encyclopedia vendors, fruit and vegetable trucks, and Avon calling. I reported earlier that I had some success selling greeting cards to our neighbors and friends. When I was about six, I decided to peddle newspapers door to door. Unfortunately, they were our used newspapers. My parents were quite embarrassed and immediately put me out of business.