Around 1914, Dad got the idea of a grocery store on wheels. It was just the opposite of today's grocery shopping, where the shopper goes to the supermarket. The "Transit Grocery" went to the shoppers' home. Dad A grocery truck incorporated the business and had five especially made Kissel Kar trucks that had shelves on both sides and windows in the back. Each carried a full line of groceries, cold cuts -- even kerosene. Each truck had its own route and would be at approximately the same place at the same time each day
The one in Lakewood was handled by me Elton Kelsey and Norman Townsend. We couldn't have been more than 15 and I will never know why we three were allowed to operate this complete grocery store on wheels, except that the older men were volunteering and going overseas to make the world safe for Democracy. But we did and as I remember did a good business. The only trouble was that Dad's business ability and record keeping was not of the best and there was such a system as "Double Entry Bookkeeping," which meant just what it said -- "some for the business and some for the help!" I think the business lasted about four years and failed. Not much was said about it, but I think there was more than sticky fingers that caused its failure. There were more cars and people were driving to the stores, even way "Downtown" so that they didn't have to wait for us.
Anyway, our grocery truck was headed North on Warren Road, with Elton driving and me sitting alongside. Norm was in the rear by the small windows. We were singing all the war songs (in harmony) such as "Over there," "Keep the Home Fires burning," and our favorite, "Just a baby's prayer at twilight." Approaching the street car tracks on Clifton, Kelsey looked west, crossed slowly and turned right to go up St. Charles. We had to go slowly, especially over the tracks, or stuff would fall off the shelves and roll around. I think that's why Norm was there - to sort of hold things in place.
So we turned right on Clifton still singing and slowly started to turn onto St. Charles, without looking west. With the front wheels on the tracks we heard, and I can still hear, the blast of that Interurban horn and the screeching of the brakes. Neither stopped. Kelsey shifted to second, gave it the gas and we seemed to drag over the tracks. We made it but according to Norm just by inches. He got a look at the motorman who was undoubtedly just as scared as we were. Norm said his teeth were clenched, his face white and his lips moving in a variety of curses.
We stopped the truck, turned off the engine, and silently shook. There was no singing. We did not discuss the condition of our underwear. After about twenty minutes we started the engine and finished our route. We didn't sell much but we did swear a solemn oath never to tell anyone, especially Dad what had happened, and to always stop at street car crossings to see if anything was coming.
Kelsey and Norm kept the first oath, and I kept both. Dad never knew as far as I know. What happened to the motorman is a mystery. If I had been the motorman I would have called Dad and told him the story. He should have, but he didn't need to -- we had learned our lesson.