Sunday, May 1, 2011

Storytelling Sunday: The Helms Bread Man

Before sharing my story for Sian's Storytelling Sunday (discussed here), a few words about the design inspiration for my art journal page (you can click on it to enlarge it and see the details).  The yellow and grey color scheme was inspired by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama's Easter dress, discussed in this blog post.  And the houses were inspired by Dina Wakley's post here.  The journaling reads "A man walked into their village and they could never guess the secrets he held."  Now, on to the story.
I've written before about the neighborhood in which I grew up. . . a group of houses built in early 1960's Southern California to hold the families of World War II veterans employed in the aerospace and related industries.  House after house filled with kids, ranging in ages from newborns to 21-year olds.  During the summer, we all hung out together. . . listening to music, going to the beach, playing football and baseball during the day and hide-and-go-seek after dark.  
Often the highlight of our summer days was the appearance of the Helms bread man.  A surly man in a hurry, he drove a truck through the neighborhood selling fresh bread, eggs and milk to the households. Families could run a monthly tab and count on him to deliver life's basic necessities. This picture is from a great page about The Helms Bakery and the Helmsman, though our bread man was not as kind as the one described in the article. 
The Helmsman had donuts and candy.  When we had spare change, we would stop him and survey his goods. He hated that.  He would scowl and rush us to make a decision, growling that he was running late.  One summer, one of our neighbors got a ping pong table and we spent hours playing our new game.  I remember one afternoon that summer when we heard the Helms Man going by, and we ran outside, ping pong paddles in hand to buy candy.  The Bread Man noticed our paddles and stopped in his tracks. He asked if we had a ping pong table, and when we said yes. He said, "Let me show you something."  With a bit of trepidation, we led him to the garage where he barked at us to go to the other side of the table. 
And then he performed magic with the paddle and ball.  He could make the ball spin and dance.  Apparently, he had been a world class ping pong player in his earlier days and never lost a taste for the sport. He was unstoppable as a ping pong player.  He rolled up his sleeves and he played for what seemed like hours, a smile which we had never before witnessed, gracing his face. We were dumb founded.  And the next day, he was back to his surly self.  I think he did stop and play once or twice more that summer, and it was always a shock to see the complete transformation he underwent when he came out from behind the truck and stood behind the net with a paddle in hand.
I recalled this story because DS Henry has a birthday on Monday and this year he asked for a ping pong table.  I can't wait to show him what I learned from the Bread Man.

27 comments:

Amy said...

It just goes to show that there is something for everyone to smile about - you just have to find it!

Happy Birthday to Henry, we had a lot of fun as kids with our table tennis/ping pong table :-)

Lizzie said...

Ooo, what a great story! It would make a brilliant first chapter to a novel! I think you should write it for Henry and give it along with his table.
I like that double page for your journal too. The colours are fab (as always!) and the little houses are sweet. But it's the story that really made it special - will you be putting a copy of that in the journal, along with the art-work?

alexa said...

What a wonderful story, beautifully described! And how special for your breadman to be able to connect again with something which was so important and special to him (and perhaps being a breadman was a comedown, or the end of a dream). And how great you got to see it and can let Henry know that behind every surly face, there may well be a talent and a gift just waiting ...

Sian said...

What a wonderful story, so evocative, so carefully and richly detailed. A fine piece Rinda. A really fine piece.

I love the thought of everyone having their story and it sometimes bubbling to the surface.

Thank you for joining in Storytelling Sunday Rinda
And Happy Birthday to Henry :)

Rhona said...

A beautifully told story, Rinda, I felt as if I was there with you.
Happy Birthday to Henry and I hope he has lots of fun with his ping pong table :)
xx

Wanda said...

How sad that your breadman ended up working at something that he apparently didn't enjoy very much. But what a great lesson for the children that saw his pingpong transformation...that most people have more to them than what they seem.

We'll need another story about your son's reaction to your pingpong skill!

Becky said...

A wonderful story Rinda :) I could visualise it so well

scrappyjacky said...

A wonderful story,Rinda.....I can just see the bread man transforming.

Cheri said...

Beautifully told story Rinda. Would have loved to see the magic! And happy birthday to Henry.

Gail said...

Wonderful story Rinda and so great that you got to see that there was more to him than the surliness.

JO SOWERBY said...

firstly happy birthday henry xxxx have a fabulous day.
i remember as child the rag and bone man coming round our street collecting stuff from our houses for recycling/selling. he had a great big horse and cart and called ''any rag and bone'' very loadly as he went by.
Jo xxx

Miriam said...

I just love this story Rinda. Yes everyone does indeed have more than we sometimes see. Happy Birthday to Henry x and thank you for telling such a wonderful memory.

Jinnag said...

What a wonderful story - it just goes to show that you never know what will make someone smile. Happy Birthday to Henry :) J x

Kirsty.a said...

a beautifully narrated anecdote.
I thought you'd like to see the first card I made with the vellum dafodils you sent me in the post,
It's here
http://handmadebykirsty.blogspot.com/

angelfish said...

Another wonderful tale from your treasury Rinda. Like Sian, you should write a book:)

Alison said...

Great story Rinda....isn't it wonderful to get a peek at what makes people transform into that other part of themselves that they might even have forgotten about!

debs14 said...

A lovely story and an example that we should never 'judge a book by its cover' - who knew that he could have such a fun side to his personality!

furrypig said...

That is a grea story it almost feels like fiction! Finally getting through to someone and seeing a dfferent side to them and then he just goes back to how he was before wow! I am so in awe of your pages and the yellow works well and reminds m of the Queens outfit at te wedding yesterday!

Jimjams said...

I love hearing stories from around the world and through the ages - TFS

laurie said...

the neighborhood you describe sounds magical. i can picture it so well even though i had a different upbringing. the bread man obviously was in his "flow" with a ping pong ball and paddle, more so than at his job. a great story.

Margi said...

I so love this story, passing on through the generations is so very, very important!

Tracy said...

Lovely story, I was really transported in time.

Gem's Crafts said...

What a lovely memory, thanks for sharing :)

Nancy Y said...

I so loved the bread man in our first neighborhood... the drawer that would pull out for the donuts. Oh boy! Ours didn't sell milk, that we got from Berkeley Farms in a special box on the porch!! Great memories. My first neighborhood was much like yours - only in San Jose on the edge of Cupertino. Corvette Drive, what a great name for a street ;-)

S said...

A wonderfully told tale - I like stories about how people can surprise us.

Deb @ PaperTurtle said...

This is a great story, Rinda! Well told and fun to read. And a good lesson about not judging a book by it's cover. I love that you got to see a different side of the Helms man! :o)

Karen said...

What a lovely surprise in this story Rinda.