“It’s the watermelon man!” We would run from the swing or teeter totter to the screen door and shout the news to Mom or Dad, if he was not at work, and then run back to gaze in wonder at the huge watermelons piled high in the truck. We would look at the license plate to learn where the watermelons came from.
The first watermelons of the season were from Texas, and the drivers usually wore cowboy boots. Then came melons from Missouri with drivers who talked funny but wore regular work boots. Later the watermelon trucks came from Iowa and finally from Minnesota. They were driven by men who looked and talked pretty much like us.
The two things they had in common were the trucks–old and dusty green, gray or tan vehicles with wooden sides–and the watermelons. They were big green-striped melons sometimes packed in straw and other times just piled in the truck box.
As I recall, the melons usually cost one dollar. That sounds very cheap today, but a dollar in the 1950’s was worth over eight dollars in today’s money. Considering that we can buy pretty good-sized watermelons today for a lot less than eight dollars, those melons off the truck were expensive, but they had been trucked to our door from faraway places which made them extra special.
After Mom or Dad had agreed with the man on the melon we wanted, money exchanged hands. Then the wash boiler was put in a shady spot by the back door and filled with enough cold water to cover the melon. Sometimes we would drive into town for a block of ice and invite friends or neighbors over for a slice of cold watermelon.
I remember one time when we invited a family with several children our age that we kids had a great time seeing who could spit seeds the farthest from the front porch. I wish I could say that I won, but there was a girl with a rocket gun concealed in her mouth. Today I appreciate seedless watermelons but children miss an important part of growing up if they don’t have an occasional seed spitting contest.
Seedless watermelons make it simple to put together this salad that my sister Barb made for one of our family get togethers a few years ago. She found it in a magazine, decided it looked good and made the full recipe, which called for ten cups of watermelon and two pints of tomatoes. Unless you are making salad for a big group, use the quantities below. You will have enough salad for eight to ten people.
5 cups cubed seedless watermelon
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 medium red onion (3 to 3 1/2 inch diameter)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
2 T lime juice
Cut the watermelon in half, then cut 3/4 inch slices. Remove the rind and white flesh and dice the pink flesh into 3/4 inch cubes. Peel and chop the onion medium fine and wash the tomatoes. Wash and mince the parsley and basil. Juice a lime or two or measure two tablespoons of lime juice into a small bowl.
In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, tomatoes, and onion. To make the dressing, mix the parsley and basil with the lime juice in the small bowl. Pour the dressing over the watermelon, tomatoes and onion and toss gently, being careful to avoid crushing the watermelon cubes.
Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
NOTES: Barb has made this salad more often than I. Here are the tips from an experienced salad maker who worked as the salad girl at The Turk’s Inn north of Hayward when she was in high school. If you ever dined at The Turk’s, you will understand that Barb learned how to make delicious salads, and this is one.
Any small tomato (pear or cherry, for instance) can be used. However, the tomatoes need to be whole, not sliced. Red onion works best, but another type could be used. Fresh parsley and basil are musts. Dried versions lead to disaster!