Life In Our Town Was Never Dull


In the 1920s it seemed as if everyone in town had a job.  A kid could get a fine education just watching folks work.  Men at their labor didn’t seem to mind a ring of kids watching every move.  Take the red-headed iceman, McIntyre, he could fling a fifty pound chunk of his ware onto the pad of his broad shoulders and hike up hills and driveways and even a flight of stairs to get to somebody’s kitchen.


Boys on bicycles delivered the daily newspaper, but they did not have the style of Bob Brown.  Bob’s uncle owned the clothes cleaners so Bob was his delivery boy.  Most afternoons you could see Bob on his bicycle riding “no hands,” because he was holding, shoulder high, the finished dresses and suits in long paper bags.


Some boys worked in the shoe store as “shine kids” standing in sort of a pit so they could polish the footwear of the men who sat above them.  Mr. Lazarus had his repair machines in the back of the store and he liked an audience.


From your window you could see men sweeping the streets or climbing telephone poles, but it was better to answer the door and meet folks selling tomatoes or black raspberries in their tan boxes.  A favorite salesman was Mr. Puppe, who offered honeycomb from his hives.  One time Mrs. Puppe came with him to sell sprigs of bittersweet.


Old Eli was the garbage man.  The horse that pulled his cart was so skinny that wags in town said it was fed - not oats, but excelsior.  Eli made many trips through town and you could follow his cart clear down to the dump by the river, if you had a free afternoon.


Ice cream Joe had a spanking-white horse and wagon and in a spotless uniform Joe dished out nickel ice cream cones to those who heard his bell


Most of agreed that watching Stanley work was the best fun of all, he was what people nowadays might call “challenged,” but he had arms big as tree trunks and a dogged devotion to his job.  Springtime, folks hired Stanley to come in their houses and drag out their rugs.  Stanley would put the carpets on the backyard grass and sitting the middle would whack away with a metal tool called a rug beater.  It got the dirt out all right because Stanley had not only strength, but persistence.  You could hear him way over in your own backyard.


Alas, deliveries began to be made by automobiles, refrigeration was invented and the pin boys down at the bowling alley lost their jobs of setting up and getting out of the way.  Progress meant that Stanley disappeared with the appearance of the vacuum cleaner.


Live may have become faster, but kids in our town never thought it was dull.


Mary Elizabeth Mruzik

Pacific, Missouri