The customers were the wives of Japanese farmers within a 70 mile radius from Ontario, Oregon, called the Treasure Valley on the Idaho/Oregon border. In the early years, 1940s and 1950s. We were all so poor we didn’t have time or cars to go in to town for groceries.
Dad liked playing his violin, his musical saw and singing in the church choir. He installed a musical horn on his truck with four notes. As he entered each farmer’s driveway he played a short musical tune.
Usually, the wife was out helping with something like weeding onions or thinning beets. She heard Dad’s music and came in from the field to do her shopping from the shelves along the walls of the van and the huge icebox that held the fish and meat products in the back. Soda pop was in crates in front of the shelves.
Dad bagged the groceries and carried them into the farmhouse kitchen and maybe had a cup of tea while he got paid and wrote out her order for his next delivery.
Dad was also the carrier of news and gossip. I often helped him in the summer, when school was out, so he could get home sooner. It was my job to close the icebox, clean off the cutting board and knife used to cut off the amount of fish or meat the customer wanted and take down the scale.
As I sat back down on one of the soda pop crates and went back to reading my Nancy Drew book, I could hear wafts of Dad’s laughter out from the kitchens.
On the way home on Thursdays, from Caldwell Ice Company, Dad loaded all the walking space on the truck floor with 100 pound blocks of ice for the Ontario Fish Market to put in their cold storage. We cut up the ice with ice picks for sale and for the ice boxes.
“The Fish Man” is unique to the Japanese Ethnic communities in America and mostly along cities on the West Coast where there were rural communities of Japanese Heritage residents. Japan is surrounded by the sea and my grandpa remembers the “Fish Man” walking to their farm houses, shouldering a pole with a basket on each end with samples of fish for sale.
In Japan there are still businesses with a fleet of vans with food items that supply households that are remote and sometimes the elderly that have a hard time going shopping. With Covid-Isolation we are experiencing door to door deliveries, but we don’t shop from a motor vehicle nor do we get serenaded with a musical horn.