Helms Bakery

Helms Bakery wasn’t really a restaurant but it’s my website.  I can write about it here if I want to.

The Helms Bakery Building still stands on Venice Boulevard with much of its signage still intact…but inside, they bake no bread or cinnamon buns.  It’s a furniture mart in there now but once upon a time beginning when Paul Helms founded the business in 1931, they made bread and sugar cookies and rolls and cupcakes and all the things that great bakeries bake.  Then nice men would load them into their Helms Bakery Trucks and drive about surrounding neighborhoods, selling them to housewives and kids.

If you wanted the Helms Man to stop at your residence, you had to, first of all, put the Helms placard up in your front window…although a good Helms Man knew his territory, knew that certain homes expected him whether they had the sign up or not.  He’d pull up in front and blow his distinctive whistle and you’d scurry out to his truck and buy stuff. Inside the truck, he had drawers full of cookies and donuts and rolls and I think they even carried milk and butter, though at somewhat higher prices than the nearby Safeway Market.

When I was very young, you could often find me waiting outside our home for the Helms Man.  We had a rough idea of when he’d get to our street and I’d go play out front, keeping an eye out for the guy.  When he approached, it was very exciting and I’d run in and get my mother.  She’d buy a loaf of bread and maybe some rolls and always at least a cookie for me.  Actually, the first thing our Helms Man would do when we stepped up inside his truck to make our purchases was to hand me a free cookie, usually one of their terrific sugar cookies.

Once, I got to go inside the plant thanks to an L.A. City School District program of field trips.  We all piled into buses which drove us over to Culver City for a tour.  Upon arrival, we were marched through the place and shown how the bread was baked, how the cookies were mixed and formed on large conveyor belts…and you couldn’t help but love how great it smelled in there.  The aroma was heavenly and a whole lot better than the tuna cannery or the dairy we toured on other field trips.  On the way out, each student received a small loaf of bread and a little cardboard Helms Truck.

I’m not sure why the business model was as successful for as long as it was. As mentioned, the prices on the Helms Truck were always somewhat higher than buying roughly the same things at a Safeway or Von’s, and you’d have to go to one of those markets anyway to get the other things you needed. Why not get your bread and cookies at Von’s while you were there and save a few bucks? Whatever the reason was to opt for the trucks, it seems to have faded out by the late sixties. Maybe there were fewer mothers staying at home all day or something. Maybe the quality of baked goods at the markets had improved. Whatever the cause, the whole operation shut down in 1969 and I still remember the day its trucks made their last, melancholy rounds.  There was a real sense of loss when our Helms Man drove off, having sold us our rolls and sugar cookies for the last time.

The big building on Venice Boulevard sat vacant for a few years and rumors abounded as to what would become of it.  In 1972, it was acquired by a real estate firm that soon began its transformation into a complex of furniture dealers…and even a little jazz club called The Jazz Bakery.  Happily, as noted, they kept a lot of the old Helms Bakery decor intact and sometimes when you drive past it, you can almost imagine you’re smelling the sugar cookies, fresh out of those huge ovens.

60 Responses to Helms Bakery

  • Daniel Kravetz says:

    Helms had wonderful donuts, especially their chocolate coated ones, which were unique in L.A. during the 1950s. Every other chocolate donut I could find (Winchell’s, Van de Kamp’s, etc.) had a layer of frosting on the top, but Helms’ had a chocolate coating that was different from frosting and surrounded the entire surface of the donut, even inside the hole. Now you can get those from Entenmann’s and even Hostess, but not then (as far as I could tell).

  • Bob Bro says:

    Thanks for the memory, Mark!

    Our Helms man was Hank and he would drive his van down Lewis Avenue in Long Beach every weekday. It was always a race to see who would get there first — the Helms Man or the Good Humor man!

    I don’t remember refrigeration on the Helms trucks, but I sure remember when Hank would open the back door to that van! There were about four skinny drawers — a couple had rolls, one had cookies and one had doughnuts. Chocolate doughnuts from Helms had a waxy-like icing and to this day waxy chocolate doughnuts automatically transport me back to that cream-colored truck with the awning over the back doors.

    The bread was in located inside slide-open doors located above the doughnuts and cookies. My mother used to buy “brown & serve” rolls all the time. Do they still make those?

    Hank (and also Mac, our Good Humor man) knew everyone of the kids on our block by name. If one day you didn’t have money to buy anything, Hank always gave you that sugar cookie you mentioned — and, yes, they were great!

    I remember the Helms cardboard trucks — you had to fold them together and put little tabs into little slots. Sometimes Hank would hand out whistles that made the familiar Helms sound — sounded like the whistle of the helmsman on a ship. When you got the whistle it was a very big deal.

    We also had a dry cleaners in town that did home delivery. I think their name was Soafbergs and the logo on their trucks included a kitten. They handed out cardboard trucks, too.

    Even as a kid I thought the cardboard giveaways were pretty lame — but I still tried to put them together so there were no gaps.

    I never got to go to the Helms Bakery on a field trip but I remember getting excited the first time we drove by it.

    Thanks again, Mark. Love your memories.

  • Craig D. Smith says:

    Maybe increased TV advertising for baked goods from local supermarkets was part of the reason Helms gave up the ghost in the late 60s. I can remember a story from a family friend whose kids bugged her to get the newest product from Hostess and she assumed she could get it from the Helms man. Needless to say he must have been a little surprised when Denise asked him where his Ding Dongs were.

  • Kirk McCarty says:

    My family is from that area, I was even born in Culver City. My mother worked at Beacon Dry Cleaners next store for years. The story she told was that the employees at Helm’s tried to organize and even voted to unionize. Old Man Helm said he’d shut down before becoming a union shop and that is what he did.

  • Dennis C says:

    Helms Yum!!! I was 3 years old in 1951 when we moved to Montebello and I saw my first Helms truck coming up our street. The Helms whistle, the “best” jelly donuts ($0.06), and the cream puffs ($0.10). What memories! We on the east side of L.A. were lucky enough to have our own Helms distribution center. The building is still there on Vail south of Olympic Blvd. Over the years it was used by other bread companies including Oroweat. Every time I see it, it reminds me of the incomparable Helms bakery goods.

  • Craig Printup says:

    I, too, remember the field trips to Helms…you got a mini loaf of bread and a cardboard model (insert tab A into slot B) of a Helms delivery truck. Still remember happy times as a kid, stepping into the truck, wooden drawer open to reveal donuts and whatnot. I can still taste the glazed donuts, still hot from the oven, sugar glaze still moist. Good stuff….And remember, Captain Beefheart’s father was a Helms truck driver!!!!! How cool is that!

  • Yvette says:

    Enjoyed going there so much. We would always buy donuts from the truck. So yummy. :) Such wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing…

  • Larry Stehle says:

    I remember the sound of the truck…the whistle as it went down the street as a child growing up in Santa Monica. The smell of fresh donuts! The glazed donuts were the best. Thanks for the memories……

  • GetSmart59 says:

    I too took the Helms tour with my elementry school. I remember getting a birthday cake from the truck in the mid 60′s. After we moved back to Texas in the 70′s everyone thought I was nuts, a bakery truck that delivered, no such thing ever happened. I’m glad to see others remember how awesome So Cal was in the 60′s.

  • Don Rooney says:

    When I was in second grade in Catholic school and we were practicing for our first confession, I won a prize for having the best sins. (Actually, I was one of the few kids who successfully memorized the confession prayer and had taken the time to prepare three good “pretend” sins to be guilty of when we practiced with the priest.) My prize? A cardboard Helms truck! I remember asking the sister if I got a donut to go along with it. I didn’t.

  • Javier says:

    What fond memories of the Helms panel vans,and big trucks.
    I have a funny anecdote about the Helms whistle.Growing up in Mexico Iwas used to that same whistle sound,but it was from the mailman and I could hear it from blocks away.Just arriving to the states in 1962 in Westminster, Ca. I would run out of the house to receive the mail lol.All this while my young cousins would laugh their butts off! I was 8 back then ” sigh” by the way their chocolate covered doughnuts were delicious! Thank you for the memories.

  • Mike Frank says:

    I lived in Alhambra until I was twelve (1968). While still living there I remember my elementary school class going on a field trip to the other Helms bakery, which I believe was somewhere in the vicinity of Monterey Park. We moved to the the Palms area, in June 1968 and I got to go on a field trip to the bakery on Venice that same year. Both bakery tours were great and we got that wonderful warm bread in those tiny cardboard trucks.

  • Carole Hodgson says:

    We moved to Hollywood, Ca when I was 7. I loved to see the Helm’s man come down our street. The wonderful aroma of baked bread and other bakery goods was so wonderful. Once in a while my mom would buy donuts for my sister and I. How sweet and good they were. I can almost taste them. I loved growing up in California and I loved seeing our Helm’s truck. What a sight to see.

  • Robert Delgado Jr says:

    Fond memories of the Helm’s Man. I couldn’t wait to get to the back of truck and open up the chilled drawer that held the Cream Puff’s. Gone are the day’s. The last time I was at the old bakery it was the Antique Guilde, a nice place to decorate our home. I’d gladly pay Tuesday for a Cream Puff today!!….

  • Renee (Sheehan) Button says:

    My dad was the supervisor of the doughnut dept at the Montebello Helms plant for 20 years (1949-1969). When I took the tour with my elementary school class, I told the guide my dad worked there and she took me to him, He gave me a private tour I’ll never forget!
    I remember he used to use our family to test new recipes such as peanut-butter-and-jelly filled doughnuts, and plum jam filled ones. My absolute favorite thing from Helms, though, were the macaroons! They were HUGE and had so much chocolate on them – YUM!
    Once I learned to drive, I would drop my dad off at the plant and when I’d come back to pick him up at the end of the day, I would walk by where the glazed doughnuts were ‘setting’ – going up and down on their own little cooling racks. A bakery worked would always say – “go ahead, take one.”
    And I always did!

  • Francine says:

    I miss the old bakery truck, and most of all I miss the friendly driver who would stop in front of my sister’s home pull open the drawer that was full of the Coconut Macaroon’s…how can I find out how they made those…

  • Bigzeeke says:

    There must have been some other bakery trucks out there, because I remember the bakery trucks coming down our street in East LA (and later when we moved to Baldwin Park) up until the late 70s/early 80s. They had the hoot hoot whistle and the long drawers where the baked goods were kept. Great memories.

    BTW, the statue of the helmsman in the foreground of the picture is now in Burton Chace Park in Marina Del Rey. Love that they kept it local.
    http://www.lacountyarts.org/civicart/projectdetails/id/169

  • John says:

    I remember days driving to classes at USC when I was tired and really didn’t want to be in class. Now and then, I’d run into a Helm’s truck near the University and stop for a treat. The raised donuts were great but my favorite were the huge cream puffs! They still are the best and I’ve not found any others that even come close to Helm’s.

  • Norman Drexel says:

    Best chocolate donut I ever had.

  • Patte Philen says:

    To this day I can still remember the distinct sound of the click and pull when those gorgeous wood drawers were opened. I remember also the card with the blue “H” that you put in the window if you wanted him to stop.Those were great childhood memories growing up in the Holly Park area on the edge of LA

  • Stacy says:

    I would love to see a list of the drivers’ names. I seem to remember our truck driver’s name to be Chuck McDaniel in Torrance, CA. I would like to get that confirmed. Anyone know where I could get a listing of the Helm’s truck driver staff?

    Stacy

  • Tim Loose says:

    When I was in the 4th grade my class went on a field trip to the Helms Bakery. Unfortunately, I was sick and missed it. So my dad took me to Helms for a tour. As a kid, the Helm truck was far more exciting that the Good Humor Truck. Our local driver was named Moon and the highlight of the day was when he would slide open the door of doughnuts. The best were their jelly doughnuts.

  • Lola says:

    When I was a kid (WWII era) we lived in Ocean Park. The Helms truck smelled so wonderful. They had cakes and pies, but we usually just got donuts or cookies, maybe bread. They had the absolute best fruitcake in festive metal or fake leather boxes at Xmas. We always got one and I still have some. Our familyused them as sewing boxes and for other purposes for years. The cookies I recall probably were the sugar cookies everyone else mentioned. They had scalloped edges, sugar crystals on top and a hole in the middle. I would put one on my finger and nibble around the edges until it broke into yummy pieces.

  • Jesse Silver says:

    The Helms Bakery trucks were a part of my growing up in the SFV that I both loved and took for granted. When that distinctive whistle sounded I knew that I was in for a taste treat. Those waxy chocolate doughnuts were the best, in part because I imprinted on them, and in part because it was so special to have a bakery arrive at your doorstep.
    LA today has better food, but less soul. The orchards are mostly gone and many of the tract homes that replaced them have in turn been replaced with large tasteless McMansions.
    The scent of orange blossoms will be a part of me until I cease to be. And the wonderful scent of fresh baked bread that issued from the back of the Helms truck will always be part of that memory from childhood.

  • Kathleen says:

    My sweetheart & I were just talking about the Helm’s Truck that would come by when we were kids. He grew up in Pico Rivera and I grew up in Huntington Park. “Don” was the name of our Helm’s man. He was the sweetest man ever! He’d pull out those long wooden drawers full of yummy donuts & treats for us kids to pick our favorites! My mom always made sure my brother & I got something sweet, even if it wasn’t in the budget. Don was so great with us kids. Even if us kids couldn’t afford something, he always made sure we had a treat! What wonderful simple times those were. When so much kindness & generosity was the norm….. Good times I’ll never forget!

  • jeff kaufman says:

    their white bread was a treat when we were very young. the Helms trucks are totally unique for the US, as were the whistles. fortunately, there is a Helms truck in the Petersen Auto Museum on Wilshire Blvd.

  • Carol Brandt (Carol White S'58) says:

    I grew up in Eagle Rock, CA. I loved to hear the Helms truck coming down the street. My favorite were the cream puffs. They were to die for. I live in WI now and have been to the State Fair here. They claim their cream puffs are the best there is. Not true. Helms beat them hands down.

    Thanks for the great memory.

  • Roberta Gregory says:

    When I was a little kid, under 8, we lived on King Avenue in Wilmington, and my mom would get her bread from the Helms truck, a yellow panel truck, with wooden drawers in the back. Sometimes I would get a big, puffy glazed doughnut out of one of those drawers, handed to me with a wax paper napkin. I can all but taste that doughnut today, and hear the truck’s musical-sounding horn.

  • Dave Hosea says:

    What Great Memories Helms Brings. Our Driver and Friend was Ben Holing. He’d pull those long drawers open and it was the Jelly Donut for me. Mom always bought Cracked Wheat Bread from Ben and to this day I have never found a replacement. I moved to Seattle in 1969 and the Helmsman was what we missed Whistle Drawer Click and the slide of the tracks all went together for the Feel. Now I have a Diecast Model Truck as my cardboard ones dissappeared long ago. Fantastic Memories, Thank You Ben and Paul for giving me those Happy Thoughts of this lifetime.

  • Tony Greco says:

    M dad was a Helmsman in both La Cresenta and Highland Park. The Helms Bakeries closed down in 1969. We have no one to blame but the supermarkets. What a great time I had eating much of the days left overs from my dad’s truck. Somene mentioned the cream puffs…how about the original milano wafer (that everyone copied later)…and of course the glazed donuts…Regards to all who remember the Helmsman!

  • John says:

    I just read an article that said Helms will reopen in the fall of this year. The “revitalized Helms Bakery will feature a multi-space layout including a full-service restaurant for breakfast and lunch and a dedicated bakery with a take-away counter for prepared foods, as well as a retail section of specialty products”

  • LanceJ says:

    Just heard a museum program presented by a driver whose route was in March AFB area (Sunnymead now Moreno Valley). Helms didn’t put preservatives in things according to Bill the presenter/former Helmsman. Our family bought goods at least 2 or 3 times a week, both for the freshness and the friendliness. Hmm! Sounds like a good reason to opt for those goods over supermarket preserved baked goods.

  • Cheryl D. says:

    This article brought back such wonderful memories of growing up in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles. All of the kids on our block would gather together and play baseball in the middle of the street while we watched for the Helms truck to turn the corner. My brother and I loved indulging in those heavenly glazed doughnuts while our mother bought a loaf of fresh bread. Sigh.

  • Rick says:

    Everyone waited on the street for the Helms truck. The stuff was not only delicious but had some substance to it…not just sugared air. And the wooden drawers…blue roof, blue wheel rims…classic! Personally, my favorites were the date nut cakes and the chocolate brownies (with milk). Have seen the truck at the Peterman museum and remember assembling the little paper trucks they gave away. The only thing I cant remember is the sound of the whistle. I thought it was more of a train whistle sound. Great fun, great food and great memories. And where oh where are the Carnation trucks and the Good Humor Men?

  • j.george lopez says:

    I don’t know that I can add anything that hasn’t already been mentioned. I went on a few school field trips to the Helms Bakery on Venice Blvd. It was almost a hypnotic experience just being in the building. The smells of the fresh baked goods was tranquilizing !! Then we got to watch our own personal sized loaf of bread make it’s journey thru the oven. We then gathered them up on the other side, we wrapped them while hot, then finally placed in a paper replica of the home delivery truck !! Living large ! Till we also received a chocolate donut, look out, the place was full of kids wandering around like the zombies on the “Walking-Dead” no-one dared miss that field trip, usually talked about till the next f/trip. These memories will last all my days. I could talk for days about the delivery truck, driver, whistle, drawers-wood, and the chocolate donuts !!! Wow !!! Concluding, I will say that back in my youth, all the kids worked odd-jobs, we all learned ambition and wanting Quick !! Rare you didn’t see a kid run out to the truck, it seemed as though all the drivers were just the nicest of folks !! I can still smell that Bakery. Helms Bakery had a good part in life experience’s that made me the individual I am today, I’ve lived a good honest life and have tried to live a cut above, better than average, like they did. Amen.

  • Pam (Pitti) Turner says:

    I am a 3rd generation Culver City resident. My grandparents bought their home here in 1920 because grandpa worked in the movie business. I remember my dad taking us to Helms Bakery store after Sunday Mass and we would get a dozen marvelous donuts to take home for breakfast. The store was always filled with people but the wait was worth it. MMM the jelly donuts and chocolate donuts were fabulous. My mom really loved their glazed donuts. My 3rd grade class also toured the bakery on a field trip and at the end they gave us all miniture loaves of bread. Yum! I can still remember the sights and smells of that magical place. Great memories!

  • Cyndee Reynolds says:

    Why do good things have to end? If I could only have had my daughter share in some of the things that made growing up in Southern California great! She is 24 and yes she will have her own memories someday but will they compare to the wonderful things we grew up with? Like playing outside until after dark, riding our bikes all over the place, pretending to be horses and running through all the neighbors yards without a care in the world. Neighbors looked out for each others children. Lets not forget party lines! Shared phone lines. Kids today would die! ha! Back to Helms Bakery. Trusted Helmsman would comes up the street and we would run out to get our treats, moms would get their breads, donuts and other items for the day. Great memories.

  • R C says:

    Oh what a different time it was ! ! ! I too enjoyed the field trips, mini loaf of bread and the cardboard delivery truck. Our “Helmsman” was the greatest…George Manning. We too would receive a complimentary cookie. George was always interested in what we were up to…he always promoted our success in school and how we were doing athletically, etc. Occaisionally, we were able to “sneak” a ride from one end of our block to the other…provided George’s boss wasn’t “following” closely behind. Years after Helms delivery ceased, whenever I ran into him, George still remembered me by name and asked how I was doing in school. What a great man. His own son had a great career at CCHS and UCLA earning All American football honors. THANKS GEORGE ! ! !

  • Wayne L. White says:

    Helms stuff was good.

    After all, they advertised and provided all of the baked goods for the U.S. teams at the Olympic Games from the 1932 Los Angeles Games until the ’68 Games at Mexico City.

    My favorites were their chocolate icing-covered brownies, packed nine to a cellophane covered, open top box so you could see them. Nobody did it better.

    From the late forties until the end, Helms operated a distribution center at the southwest corner of Roscoe Boulevard and Woodley Avenue in Van Nuys.

    All of the Helms route drivers would show up there early in the morning to pick up their wares delivered by the Helms trucks from the Culver City bakery.

    I often helped my brother with his paper route (LA Examiner ’49-53). I had a Cushman scooter and he did not have to ride his bike. We finished the early morning delivery after folding the papers for delivery at the pharmacy on the southwest corner of Woodley Avenue and Saticoy Street, a half mile south of the Helms distribution center. We passed the center on our way from the house and could sometimes smell them all the way if the wind was right. If we finished in time, we would catch one of the drivers before he left and buy some doughnuts to take home for breakfast.

    Now, the distribution center is an Anhauser-Busch warehouse and parking lot. Roscoe went from a two-lane dirt street to a four-lane street since the brewery came in 1954, and to a six-lane super street in preparation for the now sadly missed Busch Gardens being built on that property.

    At that time, Roscoe ended at Woodley, it was soon extended to Balboa, crossing the farm land that used to be there.

    Woodley, formerly dirt north of Roscoe, is now paved and four lanes.

    It was sad that so many of the drivers had nothing left after the bakery closed. Some tried to buy goods wholesale from Wonder Bread, or Webers, crossing out the Helms name on their trucks, however, the economics were too grim and they were all gone within a few months.

    Remember, Helms was a big deal before the super markets started building into the subdivisions in the late forties and early fifties. There were mostly mom and pop stores run by the respective families. When big stores such as Fox, Vons, Safeway, Panorama (later Food Giant), and Piggly Wiggly opened, there was no way the drivers could ever compete on price. Claims for freshness did not make the difference.

    Helms Olympic Bakery soon became a novelty, then an albatross.

    Incidentally, the LA County Museum has one of the mid-Forties Divco trucks. As docents in the auto hall, we used to pull down on the handle and blow that distinctive whistle as part of our presentation. The white shirt and blue bowtie were part of the uniform we would wear.

  • isis says:

    Every cream puff I see is mentally compared to the helms bakery cream puff and they all come up short. I’m 58 and not two days ago I looked at (squeezed the package even) cream puffs and shook my head.
    The helms truck came by in the afternoon in Santa Barbara Calif. I don’t think I ate any other product other than that cream puff.
    The crust was brown and soft, the cream just right not too sweet.

  • Susi Schwarz says:

    The sound of the Helms truck whistle signaling the Helms Man on Ridgeley Drive has me standing eagerly on Memory Lane.

  • George says:

    IN the 50′s we lived in the Fairfax district. The Helms truck would stop at the side fence to our house every week and mom would just need to take a couple steps out the side door and talk with John over the fence and buy a list of items from him. Frankly, I thought the apple pies were too thin and not nearly as good as store bought.

    I also have great memories of stopping at the Helms bakery on the way to Venice beach in the 40′s. We just had to stop and buy a large container of popcorn

  • carolyn says:

    I loved those chocolate macaroon cookies and i am wondering if you know where i can find the recipe for them. Sure would like to know brings back alot of old times. Thank You carolyn

  • Deborah says:

    The Helms Truck what a great memory, the aroma from that truck, and the wooden drawers full of fresh baked items. My mom would give money to my sister and I, we would run out to meet the truck as it would come down our street we lived on Flower Street in Huntington Park from 1967-1973. It’s wonderful having all those memories.

  • Alan says:

    So, two thoughts: The Helms truck was the highlight of the day and symbolic of the greatest decade in American history…The Fifties. Truly what the American dream was…kids playing in the streets, front doors unlocked, bicycle riding anywhere and teachers unafraid to take groups of us to educational opportunities on some weekends in their own vehicles and, at their own expense and the Helmsman, smiling and opening those gorgeous wooden drawers with the wonderful goodies. Remarkable.

    Twenty or so years ago I visited the Peterson Car Museum for the first time. As I entered the open area I said to my companion, “So, you smell that?” The response was a shoulder shrug. As we turned the corner into the exhibit area, I saw the Helms Bakery truck directly in front of me and understood that is was the aroma of freshly-baked bread that had clearly and deliciously assailed my olfactory memory prior to my seeing the truck. Remarkable and a memory that shall remain with me.

  • Chris says:

    Back in the fifties I remember Gus our driver in Westchester and the really neat truck that he drove (the one you went into) and the whistle, that resembled a high pitched train whistle.
    I loved the glazed donuts, the cream puffs, which he kept in a cooler in the front of the truck. I also remember these round French rolls, I think they were 3 cents each. I loved those.
    My mom would get her bread from Gus, along with many other items.
    He was such a nice man.
    Boy, those were the days. Simpler times.
    Chris

  • Kerry Thames says:

    In the early fifties we lived in the south bay Wilmington marine ave and for a while on western avenue rolling hills. I see the project is still there. but sadly the Helms trucks are gone. The best cream puffs in the world. I have lived in east Tennessee for the past forty years. But that smell when that truck arrived well be with me for ever.

  • Rosie says:

    This brings back so many memories! When I was a kid we looked forward to the Helms Bakery Truck arriving in the morning. I lived in Lawndale and it was my highlight of the day. Back then I was a skinny little kid and could eat anything- and I did! Those cupcakes were the best!

    Anyway, those were also the days when you got some cool toy in a box of Cracker Jacks. Nowadays all you get is a flimsy piece of paper with a joke or something printed on it. So one day I pulled a long metal whistle out of a CJ box. Lo and behold, when I blew the whistle it sounded JUST LIKE the Helms Bakery truck whistle! So , bad little me decided to blow the whistle every morning for quite a while, just to see all the housewives in hair rollers running out trying to flag down the HB truck! I was hiding behind some bushes watching the whole thing. The perplexed look on some of their faces caused me to giggle almost uncontrollably.

    I was just awful.

    However, I sure got my comeuppance! A few years later I was babysitting a whole bunch of kids for this lady who was not, should I say , a very nurturing mom. She flippantly told me to get donuts for the kids from the HB truck so she didn’t have to cook breakfast. Then she went off to work.

    So this went on for about 3 days. Oh, the mom asked me to charge it to her bill. Well, I did, and at first the guy driving the truck was very nice about it. But then on the 4th day I tried to charge another dozen donuts- no , this time I chose cupcakes, and the driver yelled at me in front of a whole group of people- mostly ladies waiting to purchase bakery goods. He practically chased me out of the truck, Being a teenager I was SO embarrassed. That mom didn’t her bill and I was mortified.

    So it was pay- back time for my whistle sin a few years before.

    I really wish we had bakery trucks like that again. Technology took most of the quaint services from yesteryear away, that’s for sure.

    If the Helms Bakery truck would come back again, I promise I would behave myself.

  • Jennifer says:

    Well, I DOUBT you would “behave yourself”!!!!

  • Carol says:

    I have a great true story about the Helms Man. My Dad would get home from work about 3:45 each day, earlier than most. The neighbor boy Danny was yelling and screaming in a panic. His parents weren’t home and his older brother Timmy was stuck in the large drainage canal, were we were all forbidden to play but did anyway. Had many angels watching over us no doubt. The county lifted up the gates and it was filling up with water fast. My Dad ran down there and Timmy was stuck real good. The side he was holding on to was just dirt by now and he kept loosing his grip and could easily get swept away and drown. Dad went down to him and he was so hysterical he nearly caused them both to drown. His foot was stuck and they had no tools to dig it out. My Dad kept going under the water to try to dig it out but Timmy wouldn’t want to let go of him. We saw Dads car but did not know where he was or what was going on. Dad and Timmy both came walking home soaking wet and covered with mud. Dad limping as he had a bad ankle sprain and Timmy just thanking him over and over and over again telling the whole story about how he saved his life and was a hero. And he truly did! Timmy and Danny’s dad was a “Helms Man” and came over that night with 2 cream pies and 1 doz.donuts and cupcakes for all of us. He was so grateful he was crying and could hardly speak and said we could have anything we wanted off his Helms truck forever. Us kids thought we died and went to heaven. This was unbelievable! For the next few weeks we would get a brownie or my brothers favorite a jelly donut when Mr. Walker got home from work. We could pick whatever we wanted with out even knowing the price, a real treat. Our parents eventually made us stop as they didn’t want us to take advantage of someones good will. We thought it was stupid but we had to obey. Occasionally Mr. Walker would bring over a box of treats from the end of the day on his truck. I am now 56 years old and just last night out of the blue dreamed of this incident. I looked up the Helms Bakery Man on the internet and found this sight. Isn’t it odd, what great memories. We lived in La Mirada at the time, about 1966. I had a very Blessed life there. Married Jim around the corner and we both have so many of the same memories and stories. We love and miss the Helms Man and wish he’d drive up and down our streets in Colorado.

  • Calendula says:

    Oh, the AROMA that wafted out of the back of the Helms Coach! The freshest bread, cookies, rolls, doughnuts. The waxy chocolate dipped yellow cake doughnuts were 15 cents, and I only received 10 cents on Saturdays after raking the small olive tree leaves off of the front yard. The Helms man was kind enough to suggest the candy drawer. He had wax skeleton heads filled with sticky kool-aid, or toothpicks that had been soaked in cinnamon oil for 5 cents and one cookie for 5 cents. There were premium cookies like iced brownies, and smaller cookies like shortbread and mini chocolate chips. I remember running outside in a wet bathing suit just to flag him down.

    What patient men these Helms men must have been to wait for housewives to back in the house for more money, and to wait for children to make up their minds on what treat to purchase.

    The wood work and shellac on the wire bottom drawers was sturdy and attractive. There was a wire rack inside the back door the held the little wax paper squares that bakery workers grab your treats with.

    Besides the Helms Coach and the Good Humor man (Turkey in the Straw!) The local dairies delivered, too….Adohr, Altadena, Mountain View. Anyone remember the glass bottles with the foil crimped lids? Your milk, cream,and half -and-half bottles were carried in wire baskets with wooden handles. The baskets were separated into four quandrants, so four quarts could stand upright and wait for you on your porch…..hopefully in the shade! But that was soooooo heavy! Some neighborhoods even had a meat guy, produce guy, or a seltzer guy!

    In 1963-4, the local dance lesson studio even sent an old man driver to pick up a load of tutu-clad little girls and take them to their tap and ballet lessons (shuffle, stomp!) NO parent would trust such a thing today!

    A previous post mentioned that Helms went out of business in 1969 due to the threat of having to go union. Another version that circulates is that it was simply too expensive to maintain the coaches, their gasoline, and payroll for the Helms men, opposed to the revenue that they generated. Cost defective.

  • Alfred says:

    Well, I must have been about 6 years old and I had a bad day. So anyway I am crying and the Helms truck pulls up. The driver saw that I was crying and gave me a little wax bottle in the shape of a pop bottle. You would bite the top off and drink the sugared colored water inside it…I have never forgotten that memory! Thank you Helms…

  • Irene says:

    Wow talk about going down memory lane. It’s nice reading about the different memories of our own personal Bake Man. I recall mine being Ozzie. He was a nice man. Always with a smile on his face. I remember the Chocolate Cake with pieces of walnuts all over it. Delicious. But my favorite was their High Top Apple Pie. That was the Best Pie ever. I wish there was a way to get the recipe. I’ve searched and searched with no luck whatsoever. By chance would anyone know if there are recipes available somewhere?

  • Rene Milligan says:

    Was just looking for old restaurants on La Cienega…couldn’t remember Tail of the Cock…had many great date nights there. Also, the Helms man sure rang a bill. Our neighbor in Alhambra was an exec for them and our Helms man always came early…probably because the wife wanted the freshest. Great memories for those of us old enough to appreciate when things were simpler and fun. Thanks for the memories!

  • Alex Walker says:

    I remember my grandmother lived on Superba Street in Venice and often when I was there, I used to hear the distinctive whistle sound of the Helm’s trucks. I ran out and remember for only a dime I’d get this plate-sized, incredible cherry danish the guy would pick out of a long wooden drawer that must have been 6-feet long the way it looked to me as a kid. What incredible pastries they had! Sometimes I could weep for never again finding something that incredibly good tasting. Hard to tell if perhaps life itself was more vivid along with the tastes of things when in our youth, but it seems like nothing anymore is as high quality. With all the fast food crap there is in the world, I wish a place like this would make a comeback. Probably as dead as getting fresh milk at your door in the morning. Sometimes the world changes direction and never circles back. I barely remember a school field trip to the Helm’s Bakery – that’s something else you don’t see anymore, field trips.

  • Steve Willkomm says:

    Grew up in LA in the 60′s and 70′s. Helm’s had a facility in Eagle Rock. the trucks used to toot in Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, and Montecito Heights. I remember the kids would gather around a stopped truck to enjoy the smell released from the long drawers that were extended from the Helm’s van. Recently, I was surprised when I visited the shopping center with a Serfa’s in Culver City and saw the historic sign still on the building. Good smells in LA!

  • Sam D says:

    I grew up in WLA where there were lots of kids in the neighborhood back then. In the 1950s our Helms Man was named Bill and he used to extend credit to all us kids. He kept a small clip board with records of each of our credit purchases. Everyone was supposed to settle up by a certain day, Friday I think. No one would dare stiff Bill on these mini debts because if you did he’d cut off your credit and embarrass you. Then, if you still didn’t pay up, he’d visit your home and talk to your parents and then you’d be in serious trouble. Moe, the Good Humor driver heard about Bill’s credit plan and he tried it but he wasn’t as sharp as Bill. He didn’t keep careful records and it didn’t work out for him.

    Just about every afternoon about 4 PM we’d anxiously await for Bill’s Helms truck to round the corner and head up our block. My favorites were the cream puffs and the Danish pastries, especially the bear claws.

    When I heard that the old Helms Bakery was going to be resurrected in a large section of the same building (without the delivery trucks) I got pretty excited. It’s under a partnership between Sherry Yard, former longtime executive pastry chef of Wolfgang Puck Restaurants, and Sang Yoon, chef and owner of Father’s Office and Lukshon. It will be opening soon. But alas, they’ve changed their original plan so much that now it sounds like the bakery will be secondary to the food and bar offerings.

  • Skip Piper says:

    It’s as if my life-is flashing before me….There I was on Glendon Avenue in Venice (1933-36) waiting for the ice man. the water man, the ice cream man and the Helms Bakery man with his whistle. Thanks for the memories.

    P.S. I did have a paper Helms truck. I wonder whatever became of it.

  • Molly H says:

    The Helms Man supplied the first doughnuts I had ever eaten in my life. We would go out to our driveway when he’d stop his van. He’d pull out those long drawers full of delicious doughnuts. There were 4 kids and mom and dad. So we bought quite a few. Even more when my grandparents were staying over. I miss those good old days. Wish we had the doughnut man here in Oklahoma where I now live. Such great service.

  • michele says:

    Oh ya! Those were the days. Memories of the sound of drawers! Wow! It shows to go ya what can make someone HAPPY! I wish I could remember our drivers name. He was like family. He would drive UP our street in the am, and down in the pm. This was an opportunity for my friend to hitch a ride one block, to my house in the morning and back home in the evening.

    We lived on Robinson St, between Temple and Beverly, one block easy of Hoover. (Just a few blocks from TOMMYS)

    What I would really like are some RECIPES! They had NUT CHEWS that was just wonderful! (I AM ALSO INTERESTED IN THE RECIPE FOR THE SWEET ROLLS L.A. SCHOOL DIST MADE AT VIRGIL JR HIGH)
    I am no longer in Calif and I miss L.A…..fyi, Google maps can give you a virtual tour of your old hoods. It helps with the regrets of not taking more pix. Love to all who share some of the childhood memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Recent Comments