The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 17, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Ding dong, Avon calling

Our parent's generation was infamous for boasting about their sacrifices and how life was so much tougher for them than it is for us. We have all heard the stories of walking ten miles to school and ten miles home - uphill both ways. Meat was supposedly a luxury they saw on rare occasions with six siblings sharing the rump end of a tiny roast. They worked 15 hours a day for 50 cents an hour. Everything was a struggle, but they overcame each one without whining… Whatever!

Times may have been tough for our parents, but they had their fair share of conveniences. Today, we enjoy drive-thru everything including fast food, ATM's, pharmacies and dry cleaners. Our parents may not have had those conveniences; actually, they had something better - home delivery and door-to-door service. Think I am kidding? Who remembers these?

Avon - Mom didn't have to leave the house to get all gussied up. The Avon lady showed up each week with a new book advertising the latest campaign. Mom invited her in for a cup of coffee and the latest neighborhood gossip. Eventually she would skim the book and place her order and the Avon lady would head next door and do the same thing all over again. A week later, Mrs. Avon showed up with a white paper bag filled with perfumes, soaps, lipsticks and some tiny little samples that sometimes got passed down to my sisters and me. The sample lipsticks were the best.

Dairy - The milkman brought a lot more than milk. Mom would leave note in the milk box with her order. It might include eggs, butter and cheese in addition to the milk. I can still recall the sound of the milkman coming up the front stoop, milk bottles clanking, and the sound of the milk box lid dropping as he scurried back down the steps to his truck.

Dugan's Donuts - If you grew up on Long Island, you were familiar with Dugan's Donuts. The company actually started out in the late 1800's delivering baked goods with a horse and wagon. But by the 1960's, the company had been sold and the new owners expanded the business by delivering the products on trucks. These were donuts that would put Dunkins, Bess Eaton and Krispy Kreme to shame. When the Dugan's man made a delivery, those donuts were practically still warm out of the oven. It was a treat and a special occasion when mom placed an order for Dugan's, so we savored every bite. This tradition came to an abrupt end when mom got a Sunbeam electric frying pan and decided she could make her own donuts. Of course this was the same time that her investment in large cans of Crisco went up.

Charles Chips - oh the memories of that pale yellow can. I'm not sure what a 16 oz can of chips set you back, but I would guess it was in the range of $2-3. My mother kept the can on a shelf above the cupboards. It required a chair to reach it. It was understood that anything on that shelf was off limits unless doled out by mom. When you got a handful of those crispy chips, you took your time nibbling them. When the can was empty, mom would turn it in for a refill. I bet a can lasted at least a month in our house. It was definitely a luxury item.

Ice Cream Trucks - Neighborhood ice cream routes were very competitive in the 60s. In my neighborhood, it was Bungalow Bar versus Good Humor.  I was a BB girl - never stopped the GH truck, not once. BB had fudgicles, ice pops, brown bonnets and Dixie cups. All you needed was a thin dime. But all hell broke loose when Mr. Softee debuted. Soft serve ice cream out of a truck - this was a real technological advance. The vanilla-chocolate swirl cone was not just a dessert, it was an art form.

Fuller Brushes - probably the most well-known door-to-door product. I never saw a Fuller brush in our house which means they must have been expensive.

Encyclopedia - there was actually a time when a person could make a living selling hard cover encyclopedia sets door-to-door. There was no internet (yes boys and girls, and there was a time there were no remote controls or microwave ovens either) and school children needed these reference books to do research for reports. Typically you signed up to buy a set, getting one book a week or a month or whatever you could afford. Many school children spent their school years writing reports only on topics that started with an A or a B as parents weren't able to make the payments on the rest of the volumes.

Door-to-door sales are not very popular these days. For one thing, we are suspicious of anyone coming to our door immediately suspecting home invasion. Instead, we hop on the internet and peruse Amazon or park in front of the TV placing orders on HSN. An innocuous box appears on our doorstep a day later, compliments of the UPS man.

I have already caught myself whining to my daughters about how much tougher life was for me compared to the conveniences they enjoy. Of course they think the idea of a lady bringing mascara and lipstick to their doorstep sounds pretty amazing.  Too bad they never tasted a Dugan's Donut.

Contact me at