From the Comforts of Home

A few blogs back I shared stories of people who once received food deliveries at their homes. That blog focused on products our families bought from local dairies and vendors like Charles Chips. Many readers related to those memories and I received more comments about the bygone days of home delivery. Today’s blog features a few of those remembrances, starting with one more Charles Chips story, this one told by Fultonian Tom Frawley.

“I vividly remember sitting on our back porch and waiting for our Charlie Chips deliveryman, Dick Hitchcock, to arrive,” Tom said. “One time, we opened the big can of chips while still on the porch and ate every one before bringing the empty can into the house. Mom was not happy.”

Fortunately, there were other deliveries to the Frawleys that pleased Tom’s mom. Like the loaves of rye bread delivered from Syracuse once a week. “I was very young,” Tom said, “but I recall being with my mom and standing outside my grandmother’s house, receiving the fresh rye bread out of the van. We toasted it at our coal/wood stove and it remains the gold standard for the best toast ever: singed on the outside and perfect inside.”

The Frawleys had their milk delivered by a Mr. Sheldon and Tom can still picture the wooden milk box lined with a thick layer of cardboard that sat just inside their kitchen door. But Mr. Sheldon delivered more than milk. “One hot and humid day, he’d pulled the paper tab on a pint bottle of ice cold chocolate milk and handed it to me. Best chocolate milk I ever had!”

There was one more memory Tom shared of their dairy delivery man. “Mr. Sheldon would often let us ride on the little running board on his pickup truck. Mind you, the ‘ride’ lasted for about 20 feet as he backed up before heading down our driveway, but it was so much fun.”

There was one entrepreneur who visited the Frawley home occasionally, but not to sell a product. “I recall the junkman coming to our farmhouse looking for rags, newspapers and metal,” Tom said. He also remembered a delivery of sorts that didn’t take place in the Frawley neighborhood, but it did make an appearance near his St. Mary’s School. “Once, Mom bought me an ice cream cone at the Mr. Softee truck, which would park on East Third Street. Ice cream was a rare treat when I was a kid, saved for special occasions like birthday parties, so getting a cone on a hot afternoon was a true memory maker.”

After hearing Tom’s home delivery memories and those of other Fultonians, I recalled a story we received for the Fulton Library’s Memoir Project. In 2014, the library was collecting stories about our city’s factories and businesses, and one of the most unusual memoirs about small companies focused on the once-popular home service known as Tupperware. Written by Ursula & Joe Wolcik, their story featured Ursula’s mother, who had a 40-year career selling Tupperware in Fulton.  The Wolcik’s recollection is packed with memories.

“In 1955, my mother, Ruth Miller, went to a Tupperware party,” Ursula recalled. “The dealer explained how you could have a tossed salad one night, put the leftovers in a small Wonderlier bowl, refrigerate it, and then have it again the next night. That Tupperware bowl would keep the salad just as crisp as the first night. Mom ordered the bowls and tried it. That sold her and though she was already working for an insurance company, Mom soon became a Tupperware agent.”

Eleven years later, Ruth left the insurance company to become a Tupperware manager and, as the Wolcik’s noted, there were advantages to be in management. “Every two years, you were given a brand new company car to use for your business. Over the course of her time as a Tupperware manager, Mom was awarded 15 cars, most of which were Ford station wagons.”

Tupperware offered their salespeople and managers many contests and challenges, with gifts awarded based on the volume sold. Each year, Ursula’s mom received a catalog, which Ursula described as “like a Sears catalog, but not as thick. It was filled with toys, kitchenware and other items. Mom told me to look through it and mark the items I wanted.”

Along with prizes, Tupperware helped Ruth keep a home, send her daughter to college and even helped pay for Ursula’s wedding. “My husband, Joe, remembers marrying into ‘The Tupperware Family,’” Ursula said, “but he didn’t realize what that meant until we were preparing to move into our first apartment. One night, we were at Mom’s house for dinner. Joe looked around the house at the many boxes of Tupperware displays and products and stated, ‘We aren’t going to have any of this stuff in our house.’ Mom and I smiled – there were already at least five boxes at our new apartment!”

In their memoir, Ursula and Joe cover Tupperware’s unique history, describing how plastic changed our lives. The company released new products every year. There were items specific to holidays, summer picnics and such. Ultimately, as the Wolciks explained, though Tupperware made its fortune in people’s homes, those memorable parties nearly disappeared when the company branched out to opening kiosks at malls and shopping centers. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I heard about someone hosting a Tupperware party. That’s one more reason why we should hold tight to our memories of when good food and friendly service came right to our front door.

To read Ursula and Joe Wolcik’s full memoir of Tupperware, visit the Fulton Public Library and ask to see the Memoir Project book, “Fulton: The Businesses and Schools That Built Our Community.”