The bread man, delivering to your home

I searched Google Images in vain for a bread truck just like the one that our bread man, Bill Willemsen, used to drive. This one, dilapidated though it is (it's being restored, however), seemed to come the closest, and it's from the 1960s, the right era.

I searched Google Images in vain for a bread truck just like the one that our bread man, Bill Willemsen, used to drive. This one, dilapidated though it is (it’s being restored, however), seemed to come the closest, and it’s from the 1960s, the right era. (Photo by smileeb via Flickr)

Thanks to comments that you nice readers made on my post about the good old days when towels came in boxes of detergent, I have been reminded of another good-old-days phenomenon from the Manse years: the bread man.

Our bread man was Bill Willemsen, a Madoc resident (whom readers of a certain age from the Madoc area will certainly remember) who’d come to Canada from the Netherlands (and who retained a charming bit of a Dutch accent). He was just the nicest person ever. Always smiling, eyes twinkling, always in a good mood – he was a happy person and made his customers happy too.

Bill had his regular rounds and would pull up in front of the Manse in Queensborough once or twice a week (the frequency is something I don’t remember) and his truck would be stocked not just with bread (white and brown and probably other varieties too) but, much more exciting, sweets. I remember especially the delicious Voortman cookies (how appropriate, given that he was Dutch), but I think there may have been Hostess cupcakes and whatnot in there too. (I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what bakery company Bill would have worked for, or – if he was an independent operator – represented, but I don’t know. Weston’s? Except I think he had Wonder Bread (with the red, yellow and blue balloons, as Captain Kangaroo used to say), and was that sold by Weston’s? Perhaps Madoc-area readers [of a certain age] can answer that one.)

Is it not a stunningly great idea to have a bread man come to your house to deliver whatever bakery products you might need? What, people, has the world come to that we no longer have things like that as part of our daily lives? I miss Bill Willemsen and his good cheer.

And especially his Voortman cookies.

24 thoughts on “The bread man, delivering to your home

  1. I remember Bill from the restaurant /gas bar (the site is now just a patch of overgrown pavement) along Hwy. 7 just outside Madoc. A genuinely nice man. Haven’t forgotten him in 30 years!

      • The old gas bar/restaurant on Hwy. 7, west of Madoc … wasn’t that the old Silver Dollar?

      • Hello Katherine, quite the interesting conversation on Dad. I was likely the first being the oldest sibling of Bill and Diny accompanying Dad on the bread routes. Bread deliveries to Clayton and Blanche McMurray General store along with Bobbi Sagers store across the road. Highlights was delivering hot dog and Hamburg buns to the rock festival on I believe was the Thompson farm. I also remember dragging the large wooden basket Dad had full of donuts, cakes, jelly rolls to many of the homes in the Queensborough area.

      • Oh boy, Harley, I remember that basket of doughnuts and other goodies! That was the best part of the visit of “the bread man” – at least to a little kid. And yes, I remember him delivering to Bobbie’s and McMurray’s, and boy do I miss those days of the general stores! I would never have guessed that Bill also delivered stuff to the rock festival – that’s a great little detail to add to my knowledge of that amazing event. (In case you haven’t seen it, I wrote a bit of an epic on the Rock Acres Peace Festival here and here.) Thank you so much for sharing those great memories of your dad and the good old days!

  2. Bill Willemsen along with his parents and siblings, came to Canada on a program of the federal government to provide much-needed labour for Canadian farms. The Willemsen family came to madoc and worked for Gayle’s family. Several other Dutch families also worked on their farm. In fact, over the last few years GAyle has reconnected with two other families. One chap came to our cottage and noted that he hadn’t seen Gayle in 61 years! Some many great Canadian citizens arrived via that program. Holland’s loss was Canada’s gain. Yes, Bill was a great breadman.

      • I am married to Harley willemsen, one of his sons. I worked at Grandpas store in Queensborough.

      • Hi Susan – how absolutely wonderful to hear from you! I remember us tearing around the upstairs hallways of your grandparents’ store when we were both little kids and your family came to Queensborough to visit. I always enjoy running into your folks at church and community events in Tweed and Queensborough, and have been hoping that our paths would cross sometime soon. But I didn’t know you were married to Harley – that’s delightful!

    • Canada’s gain indeed, and I can think of two current Queensborough residents originally from the Netherlands who have contributed a lot to the community, so the trend continues. But isn’t that interesting about the connection between the Gayle’s family (the Pitts) and the Willemsens. Connections all over the place!

  3. The Lord of Moneypit Manor again: Bill’s widow Dinie still lives in Madoc and is very active. Bet she’d love to see your tribute to the breadman. She might even have some old photos.

  4. I don’t want to date myself…a good part of this was that it was England, but our milkman delivered by horse and wagon.

    This doesn’t date me, though, and says a lot about PEI: the milkman still delivers there to Sea View — a tiny village on the north shore.

    • I remember a hitchhiking trip around England in 1977 and buying a pint of milk straight off the delivery truck. Am trying to recall if it was a motorized truck or horse-drawn. I would rather prefer the latter, but I think that by then it probably was a truck. But what a lovely thing, having the milk delivered to your home, and in glass bottles with the cream on top, yet. You are so lucky to have milk delivery in PEI. How utterly, utterly civilized!

  5. Wonderful read. That bread man was my dad!! I am the youngest of there six kids. My dad is gone now 18 yrs and you certainly would have made his day reading an article like this. Thank you for writing this from my entire family. We miss dad dearly, he truly touched a lot of hearts throughout his years as a bread man

    • I am so delighted to hear from you, Anita! I remember your dad so fondly. Even though it was many decades ago, I can still see him striding up to our door from his delivery truck, a twinkle in his eye as always, carrying fresh bread and rolls and cookies. A wonderful man, and a wonderful memory!

  6. My father & mother immigrated to Canada through Halifax to make a better life for themselves & their family. My parents were and my mom continues today to be the hardest working people I have ever known. Our families lives were always filled with hard work for all of us which to this day still continues for all of us. Delivering bread & operating 2 restaurants known to many as The Windmill! The bread article was a thrill to read.

    • Nanda, how great to hear from you – thank you for adding your comments and your memories! For my part, I remember back in the days when we were both students at Madoc Public School, hearing you give a presentation about a trip you had made back to the Netherlands. I was so impressed! To a little kid from Queensborough, that seemed like the most exciting thing in the world. I’m glad you enjoyed my post about your dad. If you haven’t seen it yet, I did a followup one (it’s here) that was sparked by my finding an old newspaper report about the outcry that greeted the stupid (and quickly reversed) decision by the Voyageur Bus people to cease having buses travelling on Highway 7 stop at The Windmill. What a testament to your father that so many of his fellow community members and customers rose up in support of his operation!

  7. what a nice treasure trove for our family history that i stumbled upon. Thanks to everyone for there kind words of dad, He was a “goer” for sure, It was Brown’s Bread that he delivered back then, they were swallowed up by general bakeries a few years later, then Westons Bakeries acquired them in the early eighties. I seem to have followed Dads footsteps working in the bakery business for the last 36 years and to this day am selling those great tasting Hostess cupcakes Dad sold some 60 years ago. i now live in Belleville with my wife Wendy and our 3 kids.Thanks for the great read Katherine, Bryan Willemsen ( the cutest one).

    • Hi Bryan! It’s more fun than anything, and actually quite a thrill, to hear from the various members of Bill and Diny’s family. It’s very cool that you followed your dad into the bakery business. And thank you for sorting out a bit of the history of the bakery products he delivered. I had to say I was amused that my younger sister remembered the Willemsen lads being good-looking – we were, after all, quite young back then when we lived here – but it’s great to hear from the self-confessed cutest one! All very best.

  8. Interestingly (perhaps), I came across this page of yours while trying to research OUR “bread man” … although we called him “The Baker”. (Each delivery day — which I think was just once a week — we would watch for him coming up the street, and holler, “The baker is here!”)

    He would pull up, and take (what we kids considered) FAR too long loading his basket with the items WE might be interested in.

    Then he would walk up the path to the front door with his huge, flat basket on one arm … and the other arm extended straight out to his side as a counter-balance.

    My favorites in that basket were always the powdered sugar donuts (“Snowballs”?) and the glazed chocolate donuts.

    My siblings and I all remember the name on his van being Toastmaster. But I’m having a devil of a time Googling that without getting pages of returns for public speaking, and home appliances. 😉

    — Al Henderson (ex of Pickering Village, Ontario)

    • Hello, Al! How delightful to hear from another “bread man” researcher! The picture you paint of your Baker coming up the front walk just takes me right back to our Bread Man, Bill Willemsen, doing the same thing, always with a big smile on his face. And yes, oh yes, I remember eyeing all the doughnuts and cookies as my mother purchased the far more boring stuff, i.e. the bread to make all those school lunches with. Thank you for sharing your memories, and good luck finding a photo of that Toastmaster van! This one isn’t the van, but it definitely is a cool picture of a bygone Toronto, complete with Toastmaster factory.

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