It is 3:00 in the morning and there is a sliver of light showing bright under my closed door. There is movement in the bathroom. Princess stirs from her sleep at my feet and growls softly. Out the window the street light revealed a skiff of snow on the window sill, and further upon the streets of Englewood, Colorado.
A flush of the toilet signals the last of Dad’s preparations for his workday. Soon, the smell of brewed coffee, then the muted closing of the screen door, tells me that I still have hours before school. The last interruption; the reluctant crank of the old Ford, that had grown tired of the daily trip… but for Dad’s insistence.
Fifteen minutes later the big billboard on Spear Boulevard facing Cherry Creek, announces “Happy Home Bakery”. It has a picture of a mom, dad, and two children with big grins; announcing their joy over baked goods displayed before them.
The Ford rolls into line with some thirty other early- risers; all “Breadmen” who will soon guide their bread-wagons up to the dimly lighted loading platforms.
Dad struggles down the stable-way with the heavy harnesses and collars to hang them on pegs in front of Bill and Bonnie’s stalls. They are brother and sister with the same white markings on their noses and sides. Bonnie is older with an added splash of white on her hind quarters. And,she is the smart one. Both had been fed and tidied up in preparation for their day on the street as representatives pulling the big spoke-wheeled wagon; with the same happy family declaration on the side and the words; “Donaldson’s Bakery”
The breadmen had smoked and exchanged greetings, commenting upon the challenge of the slippery streets and snarled traffic.The flakes were getting bigger and beginning to stick on the pavement. All agreed that there was somewhere they would rather be. Dad reminded them that it might well be good for business, particularly if a number of customers stayed home. As for him, he had bread to sell. As the covered wagon was being loaded, he made sure that things were organized according to the route plan and customer preference; sweet stuff up front.
The delivery process was the ringing of the bell at intervals all along the block; then many stops along the way. Folks would often appear (more often women) in their bathrobe to signal and talk about their needs. Some, who had standard orders, would provide storage boxes out front with a note or settle for “regular”.
Dad always had his stocked basket in hand, with the standards, but with a supply of “specials” that he offered to build the sale, and a story about a a sweet that he had personally tasted and could not help but recommend. It was always a great day when he returned empty; but the route was often finished before he was. He sometimes ran the rout backwards to pick up those quota-beating sales; perhaps adding an hour or two to his trip back to the bakery and those happy faces. Later that day those faces were obscured by the heavy snow and little was to seen of the smiles.
A “good” bread route had always between a priority thing. Dad’s was a good one; earned by good performance, day in day out.
Today, it took much longer, and there were heavy coats replacing bathrobes, and more little notes in the porch boxes. Dad carefully noted all of the deliveries, since he was accountable for every item. He could take two day old things home free. We enjoyed the mature sweet rolls heated with butter on them. What does a hungry six year old care? Later in the day, school children would run alongside and beg for a two day old pastry. He would supply them if he had them.
Dad’s dogged performance and friendly sales-making attitude, made Happy Home happier. So much so, that he was promoted at age 25 to sales manager. His job was to encourage each driver to meet sales goals. With clever incentives he built continued growth in wales and wonderful friendships with his men who frequently visited our home. He still made visits in the company car to motivate and run product to drivers who had run short.
Dad would return from work, now regular hours, honk the horn on his sporty ford coupe, and I would climb into his lap and drive to our rented garage at the end of the street. It was a happy time for me. I respected my hard working dad who gave me his time and love on a daily basis.
Fast forward to 1941……..
It is 5:00 in the morning in Louisville, Kentucky. A soft, warm rain is puddling on the dark streets of the parkway. I had dressed n my rain gear, and had climbed on my Kelly green Sears bike. I had a big wooden basket on the front, Most carriers used canvass bags slung over their shoulders. My basket would have held more, but it was already hard to steer with 150 papers tightly folded inside. I had to be careful to remain seated until the inventory dropped or I would lose control. I could hit most every porch with these missiles while moving quickly. As the light improved, I improved.
The papers were folded in an unheated, creepy old building near the route. They were dropped off during the night. This was not the Courier Journals finest venue. Some morning I felt like Tiny Tim (n the story) until I hit the streets. Then, I became a major league pitcher with all the moves. The route finished up around 7:00.
I never thought much about why I was doing this as a 12 year old. I guess I thought that this was just the way things work. I was proud to have my own money (often $3.00 a week). This was big in the early forties. The “take” varied depending upon the collections that were made every other Saturday. Some folks skipped, some never seemed to be at home for weeks. From that time on, I never recall asking for an allowance, and although money was never short in our family; it was just a work ethic thing.
I am reminded; “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”.
One might think that “our daily bread” is delivered to us by our Lord’s grace, and it certainly is. I further believe that bread can come in the form of loving lessons given by those who set us on our way. I know this as a son, now father; that our own gifts are the spark for provision to feed our own souls. One which may even wake us in the early morning light to prepare us for the most common tasks and dedications… to be the bread for our future needs and responsibilities.
Thank you Dad, my favorite bearer of bread, who certainly made our home a most happy one.