At the "height" of the operations of the New Modern Bakery, my mom says, Sam and Evelyn Miller employed no more than eight workers inside the bakery and several more men who delivered the warm breads, cakes, and pastries all over the region. The bakery served large supermarkets and restaurants and accepted walk-in business. And anyone who came for a social visit to the Millers also came to visit the bakery as well. There was no escaping it. Once you set foot inside that house at the front door on Prospect, you might as well have been first in line at the back downstairs counter asking for a doughnut—the sweet smell was so overwhelming. Like the pickle man from Crossing Delancy only in reverse, it took away the world's bad smell.
My mother remembers driving the truck herself—imagine that 60 years ago—when she couldn't find the drivers or when there were too many orders and too few men to get the bread where it needed to be.
9:07 a.m. So it turns out I grossly overestimated the amount of sugar and flour I needed. I could probably bake cookies until Monday morning. But I won't. Part of the deal here, with myself anyway, was that I would donate leftover ingredients to a local group that focuses on helping the families of our armed service members. It is Memorial Day weekend, after all. That's going to happen on Monday.
I don't have many vivid memories of the bakery. But my older sister does and so do my older cousins, Arthur and Marge, because they lived in Scranton during the New Modern Bakery's heyday (I did not). Allow me to let cousin Arthur speak first:
I still complain every time I see a fancy/costly birthday cake that pales in comparison to the elaborate cakes I used to have at my birthdays. I'd give anything for a New Modern Bakery lafayette which was white cake with raspberry jelly, coconut flakes and white icing (in case you forgot). The sheer number of them eaten by me from 1960-1976 is probably the main reason I am now Type 2 diabetic. What a way to go, though.
What little I remember of the New Modern Bakery, and my grandfather, is out of a Damon Runyon script. Or maybe a Billy Crystal movie. Upstairs in the apartment when we would visit, Sam's brothers, Harold and Dave, lifelong bachelors both, would play cards, chew on unlit cigars, and crack jokes. I remember watching the great Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes there in Scranton in June 1973. Downstairs, down that huge trap door, were row upon row, stack upon stack, of the sweetest things man could make. Incidentally, my father in the late 1950s once took a job with Sam, his father-in-law. It didn't last long. My father was putting too much jelly in the jelly donuts, causing the bottoms to drop out of them. Practical man, Sam; my father quickly found another line of work.
6:03 p.m.: Done! Well, done in the sense that I won't be cracking any more eggs anytime soon (although I have more left than I thought I would. Anyone up for an 18-egg omelet?). I still have more cutting and sorting to do. But at least now I can begin to clean some of the rubble out of the kitchen. When the last cookie is packed, which shouldn't be too long now, I'm going to leave the kitchen for good for the rest of the weekend. And, for the record, I didn't eat a single piece of mandel bread; not even a crumb. Familiarity, truly, breeds contempt. Good night.