Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunbeam Energy

Not too long ago, we entered a period known, in astronomical lingo, as “solar maximum.” That is, our lucky star is sending a surfeit of red-hot solar flares—some of them rather potent—into interplanetary space. On occasion, they reach the cozy confines of our planet’s upper atmosphere and the byproduct is a kaleidoscope of undulating reds, greens, yellows, and purples in the skies of aurora country near the Earth’s two magnetic poles. Of course, there are potential negative consequences to our very active sun’s behavior and all those cascading flares, but I’m thinking more about Sunbeam right now—Sunbeam Bread.

Recently, old family slides were made into pictures. Since slide shows were a thing of the past, these images had rarely been seen for decades. Our family slide taking occurred in the mid-1970s through the early 1980s—and then that was the end of that. In the slide mix were some visuals of visits to my maternal grandparents, who lived in a town called Bangor, on a street called Miller, in the Keystone state of Pennsylvania. For kids from the Bronx, visiting Bangor and Miller Street was akin to entering The Twilight Zone. It was another world altogether and—after Route 80 was completed—only an hour and a half drive due west from New York City.

I was taken with one particular, not-especially-clear slide from Bangor—on Miller Street during our bicentennial year—that featured a certain truck in the backdrop. Miller Street was a very steep hill, with my grandparents sandwiched somewhere in the middle of it, and on the block below them was a frequently parked Sunbeam Bread truck. My grandmother used the product all the time and, as I recall, Sunbeam was pretty tasty as bland sliced white breads went. But only now—all these years later—have I given this image its proper due.

Somebody on Miller Street obviously owned a Sunbeam Bread truck route, because the truck was usually there during the day. I suspect he delivered the bread in the wee hours of the morning to area stores, and was back on Miller Street by early afternoon. I believe Sunbeam Bread was available everywhere, including the Bronx, but I don’t ever remember having it at home, and so I always associate it with my grandmother, Bangor, Miller Street, and that mysterious blue and yellow truck parked on the hill. I’m happy to report, too, that Sunbeam Bread lives on in grocery stores everywhere.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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