LAUGHING IN THE GOLDEN YEARS – Delivering Coal to Kaiser’s Bakery 

Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer

Maryann Nunnally


February in upstate New York in the 1940s was usually bitterly cold, with blizzard conditions and high winds.    One morning when I was about four years old, the phone rang, and as soon as my mom hung up, she told my dad, “Mrs. Kaiser just called.  They are nearly out of coal for the ovens and the stoves.  She wants you to deliver another three tons of coal to her today if it is possible.”

My dad turned to me and asked if I wanted to go with him.  To Kaiser’s bakery?  You bet I did.  There were always cookies warm from the big ovens while dad was loading coal into their cellar.

“Okay,” dad said to me.  I’ll load the truck.  When I return, you have your snow clothes on, and we will go.”

When he came in to get me, I was bundled up in a wool coat, snow pants, boots, scarf, mittens, and a wooly hat that came down over my ears.  The coal truck had a heater, but it wasn’t very efficient and mostly kept the driver’s feet warm.

Kaiser’s Bakery was about ten miles out of town and located at the top of a steep hill.  In no time, we were at the foot of Kaiser’s hill.  It had begun to snow hard, and the wind was blowing so fast that it was difficult to see the road.  Dad turned onto the hill road and started up.  The truck began to slide backward.   After at least three tries, dad let the truck roll to the bottom of the hill.

Dad said, “Maryann, do you think you can walk up the hill and ask Mrs. Kaiser to send her boys down here with some ashes?  That way, I will be able to get up the hill.  I need to stay with the truck in case a car should come along, so you will have to go up yourself.”

I knew I could walk up the hill.  I had done it so many times before.  It was extremely slippery, and sometimes I found myself on my hands and knees, but I pushed myself up and kept going.  Soon I was on the flat parking lot by the front of the bakery.  Slipping and sliding around to the front door. I pounded on the door, and Mrs. Kaiser opened it.  She was a big woman, probably about six feet tall; looking down at me, she said, “Oh, a lettle girl,” in her odd accent.

Inside the warm store, I managed to gasp out that my dad wanted her boys to bring some ashes down, so he could get his truck up the hill.  Turning from me, she yelled for her boys in German, and three huge men came running.   Then, Mrs. Kaiser turned her attention to me.  Removing my outdoor clothing, she sat me up on the store counter.

“You are a very brave girl to come up the hill by yourself,” she said.  “Would you like a cookie?”  When I nodded, she handed me a large molasses cookie with red jelly in the middle.  Before I ate it, I asked her if I could have one for my brother.

Mrs. Kaiser said, “And you are a big sister who wants to look after her brother.  Good for you.”  I watched while she put another cookie in a small white bag.

Soon, dad was telling me to get my warm clothing back on.  He thanked Mrs. Kaiser for looking after me; she just smiled and said I was a very grown-up girl. Riding home after sliding down the hill, dad praised me and said I had done a great job for him.

Then he added, “You know your mother will think you were very unselfish to bring your brother a cookie.  But I think we will not tell her about you walking up the hill all by yourself.”  Then I knew not to tattle on my dad and never told my mom about the walk in the blizzard until I was a mom myself.