June 14, 2011

Do you remember those vehicles that delivered food and other services to our doors? An ice cream truck driver named Cosmo was popular.


Cosmo and his Little Blue Bell ice cream truck roamed Levittown streets for decades. Dugan's, Krug and Good Humor were mainstays.

By FRANK BARNING

Most moms were housebound in the early days of Levittown. As a rule, families had only one car and dad drove it to work.

It was a huge help to the homemaker, known as "the little woman" in those days, that trucks delivered food and other products directly to her door. John Kinstrey, class of 1961, remembers a truck selling produce. I recall vehicles (many from Renken) selling milk, cream and butter. Borden's did a lot of business from its trucks. Milk came in glass, returnable bottles. On extremely cold days, milk would freeze and pop out of the top of the bottle, through the paper cap.

Bakery goods were peddled by Dugan's and Krug trucks. My mother, who had an off-beat sense of humor, referred to the bakery trucks as Krugan's. One of them had wonderful cupcakes. I can remember peeling off and devouring the delicious icing before eating the glorious yellow cake. The Dugan's cupcakes came with either chocolate, vanilla or strawberry icing, and the jellyrolls and coffee cakes were real treats.

If she wanted Dugan's to stop, mom put a D in a front window. There even were Dugan's toy trucks for sale, which I do not remember, but have seen offered on the internet.

Fuller Brush men vigorously worked the thousand lanes of Levittown. According to Wikipedia, "During the 1940s and 1950s, the ubiquitous Fuller Brush salesman became a cultural icon, inspiring comedy and jokes, movies, and at least one song." There was a 1948 movie starring Red Skelton called 'The Fuller Brush Man." The company is still in business and has kept up with the times, offering environmentally safe cleaning products that are nontoxic and biodegradable. I have no idea if they still have salesmen trudging door to door.

Since our homes were heated by oil, trucks delivered our fuel. Meenan Oil seemed to have a virtual monopoly and its big green trucks appeared to be everywhere in the winter. I can still smell the stench emitted by the big hose that poured out the precious black gold and can remember the foot prints that drivers left on our front lawn when there was snow on the ground. The company is still in business.

And, of course, Levittown had a virtual parade of ice cream trucks in warm weather. Bungalow Bar was my favorite, many preferred Good Humor, and there were lesser known brands that made a profit primarily on the personality of the driver. Midge Bollinger, class of 1960, remembers the Little Blue Boy ice cream truck driven by Cosmo. He only drove on the north side of Levittown and was around for decades. Midge remembers him from as far back as 1954 and recalled that he was around until around 2003.

After all these years, just about nothing tastes better than those scrumptious Dugan's cupcakes and Good Humor Toasted Almond bars. After a Google search, it was learned that Toasted Almond bars are still being manufactured by Good Humor. Walmart and other retailers stock them.

EARLY LEVITTOWNER MEMORIES

Wally Linder, class of 1961
Cosmo spoke with an Italian accent and was a constant on the north side of Levittown in the 1950s and beyond.

We used to play a lot of sports in the street; football, whiffle ball and even hose ball and Cosmo was always around in the warmer weather. If you were out of the house and roaming around Levittown, you would see him almost every day. He was interested in what the kids were doing and used to talk to us, while most adults didn't. He was a fixture at the pools.

Jon Buller, Al Greengold, Jerry Reichert, Jeff Peyton, John Fitzsimmons (all class of 1961) and I ran into Cosmo at the Azalea Road pool in 2000 during Division's 40th reunion weekend. That's when the above picture was taken. He told us then that when he retired he was going to donate his ice cream truck, to the Levittown Historical Society.

Polly Dwyer, president of the Levittown Historical Society
Cosmo offered his truck with some requests. Wanted it in the Levittown parades and on display whenever possible. Then when we thought about it, who would be the principal driver, where were we going to house it, and the insurance, registration would be costly.

We thought it all through and finally regretfully had to turn Cosmo down. It was such a part of Levittown that we were so sorry to have to let it go. I believe there was a happy ending for the truck though I don't know exactly what it was.

Susan Weldon, class of 1960
Yup, Dugan's. Yup, Meenan.

We had seltzer delivered in real glass spritzer bottles
and I named a cat after Cosmo.

Barbara Wittenberg Taylor, class of 1960
I remember Meenan Oil dominated Levittown, and their number one repairman was a very overweight man named Vito. When my Mother called for a repair, she always demanded Vito. I would sit in the kitchen of our Cape Cod home, 41 Sugar Maple Road, and watch in fascination as Vito would slowly squeeze his 300 pounds in between the stairs and the Bendix washer. There would be a moment when he seemed stuck, and then, "Plop!" he disappeared under the stairs. He oozed out the same way. It was a great show.

I remember the radiant heat in the concrete slab, the concrete weight on the trap door in the attic, the sound of "Cosie's" ice cream truck, the scissor sharpening truck with the loud cow bell, and the lingering smell of Honeysuckle that was all over the neighborhood in the Levittown of my youth. What a grand time it was, and will always remain in my heart.

Marilyn Monsrud Frese, class of 1963
Remember the glass milk bottles that had the top of the glass bottle shaped like a ball for the cream to rise into? My sister and I used to race for the new milk delivery to drink the cream out of the top of the bottle! UGH- sounds awful now, but we sure loved it! But then again, I also liked the cod liver oil my mom gave us every morning- we called it Fish Oil.

June Johnson, class of 1963
We had Dugan's delivery and also dairy delivery. I was a skinny kid and my mother would order "Golden Guernsey" milk that was thick with cream for me. I always loved milk and looked forward to the deliveries. Like Marilyn, I never had a problem with cod liver oil.

I had a crush on the kid who delivered Good Humor in the summer and would buy ice cream at home and then run to my friend's house to buy more!

Larry Bory, class of 1960
There were also cleaners who picked up and delivered clothes and a guy who sharpened knives who had a really creepy bell, not like the friendly Good Humor jingle.

Roanne Debbins, class of 1975
I still have a seltzer bottle delivered by Pinky! His name is on base of the spritzer.

Renee Howard Cassese
WOW! I remember Dugan's Bungalow Bar and Good Humor. And milk delivered to the side door, the Fuller Brush man and Beauty Counselor. Kids today don't know what they're missing!

Lilette Levy Bagwin, class of 1960
I not only remember Good Humor and Bungalow Bar, but I also remember Howard Johnson's coming in a truck that looked like a little house but fancier than the Bungalow Bar truck. Their ice cream had a special taste that was different than the others. I also remember Charles Chips delivering potato chips. My mom always felt they were
unhealthy but I used to eat them at other people's houses. They were so thin and delicious and fresh. Do they still come around?

Arnie Galeota, class of 1961
I remember seeing a diaper cleaning service picking up, taking and cleaning cloth diapers. General Diaper Service was the name of one company. Naturally this was before disposable diapers came in. Even the pharmacy would deliver prescriptions in special circumstances. There was the ever present insurance salesman usually by appointment in the evening hours when the man of the house was home from work. John Hancock was my parents' choice.

Toni Crescenzo Gelfer, class of 1968
The strongest memory I have of all those delivery men was Dugan's. When that man came by with a selection of baked goods, he had those delicious chocolate cupcakes with the marshmallowy filling. I thought I'd won a prize. Many days he was sold out before he made it to my house. I believe that those cupcakes were a precursor to the Devil Dogs I was addicted to in my teens. Loved those days!

Beth Cummings, class of 1960
We mustn't forget the Avon Lady. As I recall the radio jingle went like this:
(Doorbell) Ding-Dong
(Spoken) Avon calling


Song:(music in a dreamy, syrupy waltz style, arranged as if for, say, Doris Day or Patti Page)
Avon calling
Let beauty come in, let beauty begin
When your Avon representative brings a
Marvelous, glamorous, in your home collection
From the beauty-filled Avon collection
Avon calling
Avon calling on you.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love those Dugans cupcakes. Choclate being my favorite. Still love choclate. And of course Meenans and Cosmo.
Joan Bartels Signorelli"62

Anonymous said...

Tom Filiberto, class of 1963

Cosmo is still alive, he's is in his early 90's, living in Bethpage and grows tomatos.

MArilyn Monsrud Frese said...

What I always found amazing is that Cosmo (or Cozzy a we called him) had the ability to remember EVERY kids name!!! I swear he must have had a map of each street and house with the kids names on it hidden in his truck! I moved around the corner from where I grew up, and Cosmo was still working as our ice cream man. My kids got to buy their ice cream from Cosmo throughout their childhood too! One of the many benefits of staying in Levittown!!! Tom- do you have contact with Cosmo? I would love to go see him and take a photo for Franks blog!!!

jackie said...

I remember the truck that used to drive through the neighborhood and sharpen knives.

john kinstrey said...

I recall seeing the Meenan Oilers softball team playing at Jones Beach and how remember how they seemed to dominated the sports pages during the summers of the late 50s.

Anonymous said...

When I saw the "delivery truck" thing I thought of Cos right away- he made each person feel special and I'm a little surprised at how many people remember him fondly - I wonder if he's aware of that. What a treasure.

Sally

Anonymous said...

I grew up in North Merrick and we had Dugan's in our area as well. I do remember those cupcakes. After Dugan's disappeared, there was briefly a another truck called Daisy Donuts that made the rounds. With the various trucks making home delivery, you could get milk, butter, baked goods, ice cream, soda, and even beer delivered on a routine basis. Thanks for the memories.

Bill Yovino

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