By Bobbi Bruce, Downey Historical Society
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, some of the men who came to homes in Downey were the Ice Man who brought 25 and 50 pound blocks of ice for the icebox. (Don’t forget people had to dispose of the ice water, especially in the summertime.)
Garbage men dumped garbage from your can into his truck -- paper items were burned in your incinerator.
Cleaners had panel trucks and the truck driver picked up dirty clothes and returned them freshly cleaned, laundered and pressed.
The milk man delivered dairy products to your front porch or to the cooler built into the side of the house. Glass bottles with cardboard caps were used for the liquids.
The junk man came to the house to buy newspapers and rags by the pound.
A produce truck brought fruits and vegetables to your front door.
The Good Humor Truck had tinkling bells to attract customers to buy ice cream bars coated with chocolate.
The scissors, grinder and knife sharpener man came around to keep your household and yard items sharpened.
The Fuller Brush Man, Watkins Man and Jewel Tea Man sold and delivered goods from their catalogues.
One of the most exciting visits was from the Helms Bakery Truck. It had a very familiar whistle and its sweet- smelling, fresh-baked items were well received by Downey customers. If you wanted service from Helms you had a card that you would display in your window and the bakery truck would stop at your house. Service was every day except Sunday and Thursday. Helms stated that their bakers were artists specializing in birthdays, anniversaries, and wedding cakes. Their card stated “Save a trip to the store…just walk to your front door.”
In Helms' final year of operation, a clever marketing campaign netted Helms a contract to furnish the first bread on the moon via the Apollo 11 space mission.
Helms' method of neighborhood delivery was doomed both by the expenses of sending their coaches (trucks) hundreds of miles each week and by the rise of supermarkets. Helms Company ceased operations in 1969.
One of the Helms coaches is on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
If you want to know more about the men who came to your house in Downey in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s 50’s and 60’s, come to the History Center.