Loaves of bread wrapped at the bakery could be bought at the grocery store and brought home to be sliced. It was an exciting time when the bakeries began to provide loaves already sliced.
Exciting, too, was the discovery that ice cream could be bought in packages at the grocery store, made possible by electric refrigeration. Before that, ice cream could be had only at the ice cream store, kept cold by means of real ice. As the packaging got better, the taste and quality improved.
These are recollections from the seventh African American teacher in Cambridge. I think historical reflections of daily life come across more vividly when you recognize the locations in them.
In the 1920s the horse and wagon were an important part of life in Cambridge. That was how we received our daily supply of milk and cream early each morning, left on our back doorstep. If the day was very cold and we were slow in taking it in, the bottle of milk might have a stovepipe hat; the cream would rise to the top, freeze, and push the cap up. Homogenized milk had yet to be invented.
The ice man brought huge cakes of ice on his wagon. His nine-by-nine-inch card in our front window would tell him the size of the pieces we needed by its position. He would cut the piece, carry it on his back into our kitchen or pantry, and use his huge tongs to place it on top of our oaken ice chest.
The fresh fish man came on certain days, and always on Fridays. The vegetable man also had a regular schedule. But most spectacular of all was the ragman, who rode through the streets calling, “Rags, rags, any old rags.” He bought old newspaper, too, paying a few cents a pound for each.
This reminds me of A) the recent resurgence of specialized goods delivery (with probably worse labor conditions than in the ‘20s—not sure the fish man had to pee in a bottle) and B) the robot masters from Mega Man, just because of the naming.