All of our Servants While Growing Up Poor

Okay, now that the title has grabbed you, I was not exactly poor growing up, mostly lower middle class, but money was scarce and tight, and since it was an upwardly mobile community, I was often feeling lacking compared with what others had. As an example I have written about having fake weejun loafers and foaming at the mouth wanting a John Romain purse. I have written about wanting a Chatty Cathy, an Easy Bake Oven and any number of toys I never got. I started working (babysitting) at age 10 and basically never stopped working since then.

Yet recently reminiscing with some people on Facebook, where it is SO fun to reminisce, I remembered the number of service people that were constantly at my beck and call at my own home or even on my street.

I had a milkman, a postal man, a Chips man (yes, a man delivered tins of Charles Chips and do not ask me why there was a necessity for a Chips man). There was the Water Ice Truck man, the Ice Cream Truck man, gas station attendants washing our windows and filling our car’s tank with gas. We had a garbage man. There was an amusement truck man that came to my street with a carnival ride in a truck – called The Whip.

At times there was the Fuller Brush man, and the doctor, who came to our home to take care of us when we were sick. There was even a Salvage man who went around the neighborhood buying used clothing for his thrift store. I can hear his thick Yiddish accent through our driveway, “I’m Buying Men’s Clothing.”

There was the man who came around to do car washes, the man who came around to sell encyclopedias and the tailor who would make house calls.

Once my mom went back to work, we had what we called back then, a “cleaning lady.” I remember her to this day, her name was Barbara and I adored her.

It is a wonder I didn’t grow up thinking that the world would just turn up and serve me everything I needed with just a snap of my fingers.

It makes me wistful that the only two people coming to my home in my adult years are the post man and the garbage man. Oh, occasionally an errant ice cream truck will appear out of nowhere, once every three or four years in my neighborhood in Houston. But certainly not Good Humor or Mr. Softee. And we would never have a water ice truck here.

The rest of the life I left behind is very different from the one I lead, the one that I have purposely created by getting an education and being a successful career person. One might look at me and say I have various servants now, but I don’t think of them as such. My Viki, who cleans our home and is like an extended family member, because while I like a neat and orderly home, I don’t want to spend the time and labor getting it that way. We have our lawn guy, who annoys me when his workers blow leaves and debris under my bushes since no one knows of a rake anymore. I am looking for a new pool guy now that our pool is renovated and back in use.

So I am calling on you, my readers. Did I miss anyone from the list above? Who delivered to you? Who came by your home? Let’s reminisce together!


  • We had the “huckster” who drove a rickety old truck up our rowhouse driveway every Saturday morning yelling “tomatoes four pounds for $1. “ we also had a beer delivery guy who would leave a case of beer and pick up the empties from last time (retro recycling). My parents life insurance was $3 a month paid to a visiting agent who would sit on the couch, open a big book, and record the payment.

  • How about the person who would paint your address on your curb.

  • We had Izzy, our Fruit Man. He was not just the produce guy, he was your friend. He helped my mom search for me when I wandered away but the most memorable day was the day JFK was assassinated. He came, as usual, having no idea what was going on. He didn’t understand why the kids were out of school and when my mom told him, he just broke down in tears and we joined him. We also had the seltzer/soda man who would pick up the empties and replace them with full bottles.

  • We had “Bondie” the bread man, along with an insurance guy who came to collect monthly payments!

  • We also had the bread man:)

  • My parents had fresh bagels delivered once a month. I’d open our front door on Passmore Street and the white sack filled with luscious circles of fresh dough would be dangling from our door knob. Surely lox and cream cheese would be served not long after. I’ll also never forget the first slice of pizza I ever had. It came from a pizza truck that came riding down our street. Neighbors I’d never seen before came flying out of their homes to buy a slice. I couldn’t wait to try my own – it had to be heavenly, right, if so many people clamored for it? Truth be told, I took my first bite and I hated it. Bleh! Maybe it was the cheap/rancid tomato sauce? No worries though eventually i did learn to love pizza!

  • Jackie Wedelich

    There was a main with a pony for pictures. I habe one of me and my sister sitting on it. Avon came to the door “Avon calling!” Yesterday, I had someone ready to preach which I did not want at my door. Starting a new Mahjong group with people I didn’t know I thought they were there too play and invited them in. Hahaha!

    • My dad has a photo of himself in a tiny car. A guy used to go around his neighborhood taking photos of kids in the tiny car! And how could I forget AVON!!!!!!

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