Doctors: House Calls for Children!
My first memory of doctors was
not pleasant, though greatly revealing of the safety and security in which many children of that time were indulged.
Before I started school, I somehow
managed to catch measles, chicken pox, mumps, and German measles. Probably from the huge amount of children around then,
and lots of children who were just the same age as you. No shortage of freinds to play with on your backyard swing sets,
or small inflatable rubber swimming pools.
I remembered the doctor being ushered into my bedroom with my mother right beside him, carrying his
important black medical bag, and my mother reassuring me, about having to pull up my pyjamas.
"Don't worry about this," she
said, though I was shy, and quite horrified at anyone seeing my body, except for my mother. "Doctors see hundreds of children
- it's nothing special. I am right here, with you, anyway."
This advice was to go against other advice my mother would soon give to me, "Don't let anyone touch
you, inside swim suit lines - and if they do, just start screaming! Better safe than sorry."
It is hard now to imagine that
parents had enough money to pay for these Home Doctor Visits, on just one salary, the pay of the father, and that my father
did not have a university degree, not at first, though he was soon to go to night school and acquire a degree.
We also lived then in our first
house, a duplex, with two bedrooms upstairs, one bedroom downstairs that my father used as a study where he taught me to read
at the age of three. We had a basement, a back yard, and a front yard.
Many services came to our houses then, and punctuated
the days with small excitements and a sense of community. The day went like this for:
The first visit was the milk
man, who used glass bottles, and mostly brought plain white milk. We left out the empty bottles the night before, a
ritual picturized in many cartoons and comic books, such as Dagwood and Blondie, or Felix the Cat.
Next was the paper boy, who tossed
the Montreal Star or the Montreal Gazette against our doorway, with its large diagonal glass pane, inviting burglars openly,
in a more trusting Canada.
My favourite was the third visitor, the Pom Bakery Truck man, with his green truck, and the logo of
white hatted bakers. This truck rolled majestically up our streets, pausing slowly every few houses, when the driver
hopped out and opened the back of the truck.
Housewives actually walked out into the city streets, to select whatever baked goods they wanted with
their morning coffee.
Some types of food we ate:
donuts with chocolate
donuts with white confectioners sugar
hot cross buns at Easter
coffee pot bubbling away in our kitchen is a memory that accompanies this bakery trucks, as sometimes our mothers stopped
their housework and invited themselves into one another's spotless kitchens.
Our coffee pot was not
a recent electric one with a plug, nor a filter one that uses paper triangles. It was a percolator, that caused the
coffee to bubble upwards, smelling delicious, and preparing me for a later addiction to coffee, as well as a knowledge that
coffee and certain food treats were an important part of life in our cultural identity. They were rewards or motivators
for people who worked alone, as well, as mothers and artists do.
After this festival of sugar, the
other deliveries were more pedestrian. There were the trucks from department stores, delivering inexpensive outfits
that Mom ordered from the back pages of newspaper ads, and dry cleaning trucks, quite common, delivering the white shirts
and dark business suits of our fathers.
There were door to door sales and religious folk, treated
quite tolerantly, as I remember opening the door myself many times, to both Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons, feeling sympathy
for them, though I wondered as a pre-school child, why they thought I needed their religion of God and Jesus Christ, as I
was already with God and Jesus Christ already.
I can remember whole trains of my own thoughts from
earliest childhood, and am still in touch with this person.
"No, thanks," I said sweetly, "We already
have a religion." As though it was a chocolate cake, or swing set, and felt shy to add the obvious, "And it's the same
as yours!" I did not want to hurt the feelings of Religious Sales People, as I could see how very special the gifts
they carried were to them.
The Ice Cream Truck man was also very popular in Montreal, with the ringing
bell, that alerted children more keenly than any Pied Piper. Sugar and dairy combined was truly an inducement to drop
everything, and run out into the streets, after obtaining the necessary change.
My favourite of all
was the Peanut Man, who actually dressed up as a Peanut. He gave out small bags of peanuts, and I cannot remember the
price of those peanuts, or whether this was a promotional gimmick. His peanut costume enclosed him from the head to the knees,
and the sense of whimsy and innocence that this picture conveys -
What was given to us so freely,
our way of life, our days of customs and rituals - after the historical traumas of World War One, the Great Depression, and
World War Two, our parents and our country of Canada and our God in heaven finally came through for us and allowed us to have
a healing period.