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
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.
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