Helms Bakery; I Can Still Smell It After 55 Years
The "Helmsman" would come by our house every morning around 10 am.
Inside their cars and inside the back doors would be floor to ceiling wooden drawers which the Helmsman would pull out so you could select the cookies, donuts, brownies, and bread you might like to purchase.
I cannot recall the price but five cents comes to mind for the glazed donuts... and we would always get a dozen... which would last about 10 minutes in our house!
My favorite was the jelly donuts which were also glazed.
In the early 1930s, Paul Helms began to build his famous Helms Bakery on Washington Boulevard. We lived downwind of the bakery itself which was located at 8800 Venice Boulevard at Helms Avenue in West Los Angeles.
The prevailing wind was from the ocean and mornings were delightful with the smell of the bakery waffling through the house and neighborhood! We lived at the corner of Venice and La Cienega.
On Venice Boulevard; The Center Of My World!
In the summer time when I was on vacation, the neighborhood kids would wait patiently out in front of our houses listening for the whistle and watching for the little yellow DIVCO truck! .
We would then run in the house and ask Mom "What do YOU want from the Helmsman?
She would of course break down and buy something and throw in a few cents more so we could look through the goodies and finally pick a big juicy jelly donut or a glazed donut!
The Helmsman Stood Watch On The Boulevard
Every weekday morning, dozens of trucks, painted in a two-tone scheme identifiable from a distance, would leave the bakery for various parts of the Los Angeles Basin, some going as far as the eastern San Gabriel Valley. This is especially remarkable because the network of freeways had not yet been built, so the trip might take an hour or more. Each truck would travel through its assigned neighborhoods, with the driver periodically pulling (twice) on a large handle which sounded a distinctive whistle. Customers would come out and wave the truck down, or sometimes chase the trucks to adjacent streets. Drawers in the back of the truck were stocked with fresh donuts and pastries, while the center section of the truck carried dozens of loaves of freshly-baked bread. Products often reached the buyers still warm from the oven.
This delivery method was doomed both by the expense of sending trucks hundreds of miles each week and by the advent of the supermarket, which stocked products from other (less expensive) bakeries, which delivered once or twice each week.
The former bakery building has been repurposed into a warren of furniture showrooms, art galleries, restaurants and other notable retail outlets
The Helms Trucks Were Very Distinguishable
The picture was taken from Venice Boulevard and probably from the Pacific Electric Venice Shortline Red Car Tracks.
The Helmsmen were always dressed in their uniforms and had a neat whistle which we could hears for blocks around (or my memory could be fooling me!)