Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Deliverymen

In these days of supermarket shopping and combined malls, where we expect to have to go and pick up groceries ourselves (except for the new services over the Internet, of course!), we know little of the days when butchers, bakers, dairymen and grocers would all have deliverymen and boys who would bring your order out to your door -- and sometimes even to the kitchen bench.

Albert Mason (left) was one such deliveryman, carting the bread from out of the Gibson Bakery (later Burton's) on Great North Road to all across Avondale, Waterview and Rosebank in the 1920s to 1930s. His son Ron would help him after school had finished for the day, and fondly remembered the days of horses, carts, stables, and the bread:

"My Dad was a man, with so much Horse
He taught me the Ropes, at the Stables of course
I could handle the Horses, almost like Dad.
Considering I was only a lad.

He taught me to pick, their moods by sight
By the crafty look in their eye
And when to expect, a kick or a bite
And to sense, when a horse might shy.

My father’s name was Albert, but he was Dad to me
To Avondale & New Lynn folk, he was just Alby.
He delivered their daily bread with a smile that all could see,
I shan’t forget how he called me “Son” whatever his mood might be."
(from "Dad" by Ron Mason)

There are tales to be had of the delivery horses who would bolt and pulled the customers gate behind them as they cantered back for home, cart and all (the Amos' "One-Eye") And of black Nugget, Alby Mason's horse with the wicked temper, who bit his arm one day almost to the bone. I've heard recounted how Rosebank Road was quite spooky during the escaped leopard scare of 1925, when every shadow could be imagined to conceal the fugitive big cat.

In the days of rutted roads and little or no personal transport other than feet -- the deliverymen reigned supreme. But with the coming of the motorcar and sealed thoroughfares, the days of the billy can at the gate and the meat and grocery parcels wrapped and delivered right to your door were over.

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