Before Facebook, social networking in Maine meant chatting with the bread man.
- By: Joshua F. Moore
Photograph Courtesy Old York Historical Society
Let’s admit it: Not everything was more of a challenge back in the day. Before World War II, for instance, many Mainers still enjoyed the luxury of having necessities like bread and milk delivered right to your door, even if you lived on an unpaved road like this one in York. Beyond the convenience of receiving four fresh loaves of Butereg bread — “Rough ridin’ cowboys need the extra nutrition of Butereg bread” — such deliveries gave people the chance to chat with drivers like this unidentified fellow. Imagine that: Connecting with a friend in person instead of online.
For York photographer Philip A. Gordon, capturing moments like this one around 1940 was literally his bread and butter. In addition to recording everything from school photos to candid scenes around York Harbor and York Village, Gordon took every opportunity to make commercial shots like this one, in the hope that he might then sell the image to companies like Calderwood’s Bakery in Portland, for whom this driver works. (While Gordon does not appear to have ever sold this photograph, he might have been amused that Calderwood’s still influences photographers today; the Bakery Photographic Collective, now located in Westbrook, takes its name from its first location — the Calderwood Bakery building on Pleasant Street.)
Judging by the dust that covers this unidentified driver’s International Harvester Metro van, he’d been making his rounds in York for hours, having set out from Portland before dawn. In addition to scheduled deliveries to local stores, he also hawked his tasty products door-to-door, including at the farmhouse at far right, where a wooden barrel rests on its side beneath trees not yet bursting with spring blooms. Calderwood drivers had to use every trick they could to compete with Cushman’s Bakery, which also sent deliveries from Portland down to York County. “When I was living on Munjoy Hill in the early eighties, it was great — you could smell the bread baking at Cushman’s,” says William David Barry, a researcher at Maine Historical Society. “I think it smelled better than it tasted.”
Lest anyone get too nostalgic, it’s worth noting one olfactory detail captured here that has thankfully been blown away on the wind. Conversations with deliverymen like this one might be sorely missed in today’s hustle-bustle world, but the acrid smoke that drifts from the cigarette in his right hand — and no doubt permeates the warm loaves in his hand — most certainly is not.
- By: Joshua F. Moore