This morning I read this interesting item in the 1913 Caddo Herald:
I have secured the services of Mr. Lon Morrow as soda dispenser at my fountain. Mr. Morrow has had fifteen years experience in the fountain business and is expert in his line…W. F. Dodd
Although I understand that Mr. Morrow did much more than pour sarsaparilla in a glass, the item still reminded me of some of the nearly-extinct jobs that people commonly did when I was a child.
The first one that comes to mind is elevator operator. They usually wore a uniform and in some fancier buildings, gloves. When I was very young my father worked for a large hotel and we often encountered this man. I loved to tell him what floor we wanted! Gary’s cousin was an elevator operator for over twenty years.
I can’t recall that we ever had a milk man when I was a child. We usually kept our own direct source of milk. But when Gary and I first married we signed up for milk delivery. It was very trendy at the time! In addition to milk, the delivery man carried sweet concoctions that we probably wouldn’t have purchased in the store. I realize this is a service that is still available in many communities, but it has been decades since I’ve personally seen a milkman.
We seldom had a telephone, but I do recall asking the operator to dial a long-distance number when it was time for our Christmas call to grandmother. For years the switchboard operator was essential for getting any kind of service. And many businesses also required telephone operators. My mother worked for a while as a switchboard operator for a store. So did I.
When my father was a teenager he worked as a movie theater usher. He said the worst part was seeing the same movie several times a day for a week. I remember going to the movies as a teen and the usher not only shined his flashlight to make sure we got to our seats, but didn’t hesitate to tell us to “hush” if we talked too loudly.
My friend, Doris, took me along with her to one of the first “self-service” gas stations in our city. She was so proud of the fact that she had learned such a manly skill! Before self-service became the norm a whole team of gas station attendants rushed out to fill the tank, check the oil and tires, wash the windows, and give candy to the kids.
Those were just a few of the services people once provided that are no longer needed. There are dozens more: bowling pin re-setter, vacuum cleaner salesman, ice man, encyclopedia salesman…What do you remember?