Looking Back: Home deliveries – why so revolutionary?

By Leo Billington

Earlier this year, business analysts and social commentators were virtually ecstatic revealing home delivery would be the way of our future.

Home delivery is being touted as a major change – it will dictate our lives as consumers. Upgrade your computers, show allegiance to Amazon or Kogan, perhaps even to Woolworths or Coles. Bunnings are getting in on the act too. All so new and exciting.

Well-known broadcaster and writer, Richard Glover, has suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that Amazon conceived home delivery and “propelled it to skyrocketing popularity.”

Glover nails reality writing that home delivery was more common, back in the good old days, than now. A bold statement perhaps, although memories still abound recalling those home-delivery days – and computers weren’t even invented. No need for those things!

Old 7x Bottle

Soft drinks for one were home delivered – Tarax, Slades, Loys and Ecks. Locally, 7X was the whizzbang brand, bottled and delivered out of a factory located in Morwell. A small fleet of red Bedford trucks would rush around town, with bottles of sugary water in glass bottles rattling to herald arrival at the front gate. “Your order please; I’ll be back next week to take another order thanks.” A dozen bottles were left behind for devouring within seven days. Great stuff. Excellent customer service.

Back years earlier, prominent Morwell bakery, Rutherfords, would deliver bread, a fresh white high tin loaf more than likely. Their horse drawn bread carts were quite familiar in Morwell as bread was delivered straight from the bakery in Commercial Road, Morwell. Horse and carts would assemble at a bakehouse accessed from George Street ready to depart on their morning rounds. The smell of fresh bread was heavenly. Occasionally, a hungry child might be thrown a bread roll as a reward for asking nicely.

Horse-drawn bakery van

We don’t ask computers to be nice.

Morwell residents would have milk delivered either by Darlings Dairy or Forbes Dairy. Darlings delivered glass bottled milk to our place for many years – and, sometimes a quart bottle of cream. Dempsey’s Dairy was another which home delivered.

Not all that long after settling in Morwell, we became used to groceries being delivered by Mahonys. Jim and his sons ran a corner store in Jane Street and prided themselves on home deliveries. Generally, they visited twice a week – first to collect an order (written on paper) and secondly, a day later to deliver an order. Sometimes an order was delivered when collecting the next grocery order.

There were never any computer glitches.

McRoberts and Sons, that long standing stalwart of Morwell’s business centre, delivered bags of briquettes. Two or three bags as required, depending whether it was winter or otherwise. I recall Mr Bill McRoberts lugging individual bags on his shoulders up our driveway. Occasionally he used a hand trolley.

For several years, and before a proper sewerage system appeared in our end of town, a “night soil” man would come along, do his thing and move on. “Night soil” is a historically used euphemism for human excreta collected from the outhouse.

Computers would never be able to perform this type of home – based service delivery.

A man selling fruit would arrive on a regular basis when pears, apples, and apricots were plentiful from northern Victorian orchards. Driving a faded yellow 1950s Chevrolet, weighed down with wooden boxes of fruit, he would park, then walk along calling “apple and pears today.” Sales were eagerly made.

Old Ute

His twice annual visit was never a threat. It was never an intrusion. He was honest. Cash transactions always.

No giving credit card details to a computer.

There were other home deliveries – ice for grandma’s old ice chest freezer (a large block of ice that may have lasted up to three days); firewood, generally known as mill-ends, could be ordered for home delivery; the chemist boy was another – a young lad, keen to earn pocket money, would deliver chemist shop items after school had finished.

Let’s not give Amazon all the credit.

In an editorial written in August 1940, the Morwell Advertiser told its readers that Rutherford’s bread was baked “under the most scrupulous hygienic conditions.” Therefore, “Be sure that your table is served by only the very best, from the better baker and pastrycook-Mr J. R. Rutherford.”

No need for Facebook or Instagram back then.

I remain interested in other examples of local home deliveries.