Monday, July 11, 2016

Ambridge memorabilia: the "meat man" and his bus

I am especially fond of today's Ambridge memorabilia item for several reasons, including the fact that I first saw it during one of my earliest visits with Bob Mikush to talk about Ambridge history.

Bob started showing me some of his Ambridge memorabilia, and when he brought this out, the following conversation ensued:

Bob: Bet you don't know what this is.

Me: It's the meat man's bus!

Bob: How old are you?!

Which made me laugh. Old enough to remember the meat man's bus which had made quite an impression on me when I was pretty young.

Mobile Meat Market ashtray
circa 1940s - early '50s
owned by Bob Mikush

When I was growing up in Ambridge in the 1950s, residents didn't always need to go to the store to buy fresh food items, sometimes they came to you, if not to your door, then at least to the curb on your block, via a variety of trucks. Having sellers regularly come to your block made life easier at a time when most families had only one car which the wage-earner took to work--if the family owned a car at all.

Among the people who regularly brought food to our house or block, I remember the United Dairy milkman, the "egg lady," Gutowski's bakery, plus the huckster who sold fruit and vegetables. And the "meat man."

While milkmen weren't uncommon in that era, a butcher on a bus was. In my house, he was known as "the meat man."

One of the other reasons I was so excited when Bob showed me the "Mobile Meat Market" ashtray was because virtually no one I'd talked to about growing up in Ambridge in the 1950s remembered the meat man's bus, even older neighbors. When I mentioned my memories of the meat man's bus, most people were either skeptical, or they outright scoffed.

Yet my memories of going onto the meat man's bus with my grandmother seemed genuine, especially memories of the interior: the bus smelling of raw meat; a wooden chopping block; cleavers and knives hanging from hooks; meat being brought out from a refrigerator; and sawdust covering the floor to sop up blood. All I really remember about the meat man himself was that he wore a white apron that was stained with blood. I also have a vague memory of the meat man sometimes having a helper on the bus working with him.

I remember going for a Sunday drive with my family--remember those?--up Glenwood Ave. towards Ridge Rd. and driving past a house with the meat man's bus parked on the side. I was so thrilled! Wow, that must be the meat man's house! To me, the meat man was a celebrity.

Weird the things that stick with you 60 years later.

When Bob showed me the Mobile Meat Market ashtray, I felt vindicated. I had proof the meat man and his bus once existed.

More recently, I came across this ad in the Holy Trinity R. C. Croatian Church dedication program from 1950:

Mobile Meat Market ad
Holy Trinity R. C. Croatian Church dedication program
December 17, 1950

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