It was an exciting day when the peddler came. He had boxed in the bed of his small truck and built shelves to hold assorted items from his store in town. There was hardly room to step up inside, but to me it was grand.
I knew where the candy bars were usually placed, and I checked out the selection right away. I would need time to decide which one I would buy. If he had Baby Ruth and Butterfinger, my choice was between those two. Mama liked Three Musketeers best, so she spent her time picking out a can of salmon or sliced pineapple to add a little variety to our meals.
It must be noted that those candy bars were much bigger than the ones we have in stores today. I might even save part of mine to eat later.
Good salesman that he was, the peddler pointed out first one item and then another, trying to interest my mother in buying. Sometimes he would buy eggs from his customers and had the square wooden crates with cardboad dividers to layer the eggs. He also might have a slated chicken crate roped to the outside of his truck for holding hens or roosters that he bartered in trade.
A thin layer of dust accumulated on the peddler’s wares, stirred up on the dirt roads that he traveled. However, I don’t remember that being a deterrent to sales. We just blew it off.
The ice man was as welcome as the peddler. Before electricity came to rural areas and enabled the magic of refrigerator freezers, we had no ice. Sucking on a shard of ice on a hot summer day was better than any lollipop. Our parents told the ice man the size block we wanted, and I stood close as he chipped away, hoping a piece would fly in my direction.
Many folks had an icebox that he chipped a block to fit, but we simply banked our block against the back porch wall and covered it with layers of newspapers, grass sacks and old quilts.
When Papa ordered extra pounds, I knew we were planning for ice cream. After the handle of the freezer got too hard to turn and the ice cream was packed to harden further, we rinsed the brine off the larger pieces of ice and put them back under the covers to use in our tea glasses.
I did not benefit as directly from “traveling salesmen” as they were known, but watching them demonstrate and praise their products was always interesting. Mama didn’t deviate from getting flavoring extracts from the “Raleigh man,” no matter what was offered on store shelves. We weren’t heavy liniment users, but the “Watkins man” had the best balm for cows’ udders and mules’ swollen joints, or so Papa thought.
A visit from the peddler, the ice man or the door-to-door salesman made for an exciting day.