Helms Olympic Bread
Image by swanksalot
Culver City, LA
The Helms Bakery in Culver City, California was a notable industrial bakery of Southern California that operated from 1931 to 1969.
In 1926, Paul Helms of New York took an early retirement for health reasons and moved his family to Southern California and its mild climate. Helms started construction on a building between Washington and Venice Boulevards in 1930 and, on March 2, 1931, the Helms Bakery opened with 32 employees and 11 delivery coaches (trucks).
By the next year, the Helms Bakery had become the "official baker" of the 1932 Summer Olympics when Paul Helms won a contract to supply bread for the 1932 games in Los Angeles. His slogan was "Olympic Games Bakers – Choice of Olympic Champions."
Four years later in time for the 1936 Summer Olympics Germany asked Helms for his bread recipes to feed to the German Olympic team. His relationship with Olympians continued in later years, the U.S. teams at London and Helsinki requested his bread be served. Early Helms vehicles sported the Olympic symbol, and it also appeared on, and was mentioned in, the Helms logo on the bread wrappers, the company logo and sign.
Despite never being sold in stores, Helms baked products soon became known to millions of consumers. The Helms motto was "Daily at Your Door" and every weekday morning, from both the Culver City facility and a second Helms Bakery site in Montebello, dozens of Helms trucks, painted in a unique two-tone scheme, would leave the bakery for various parts of the Los Angeles Basin, some going as far as the eastern San Gabriel Valley. This is remarkable because the network of freeways had not yet been built, so the trip might take an hour or more. One of these trucks is on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
Each truck would travel through its assigned neighborhoods, with the driver periodically pulling (twice) on a large handle which sounded a distinctive whistle or stop at a house where a Helms sign, a blue placard with an "H" on it, was displayed in their windows.
Customers would come out and wave the truck down, or sometimes chase the trucks to adjacent streets. Wooden drawers in the back of the truck were stocked with fresh donuts, cookies, pastries and candies, 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. Helms trucks were manufactured by Divco, an example of which may be found at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Helms’ Divco trucks were powered by various engines, including motors purchased from Nash and Studebaker.