The Love Song of Walter the Seltzer Man and Mrs. Blitz

The Atlantic spotlights an awesome old project:

In 2002, Richman, of Radio Diaries, and his colleagues, Emily Botein of WNYC and independent producer Ben Shapiro, decided to try and capture what remained of that era. They tracked down New Yorkers who were among the last — and in some cases, the very last — to hold jobs in industries that were dying. […] They came up with seven people — a Brooklyn fisherman, a water-tower builder,a cowbell maker, a knife-and-scissor grinder, a lighthouse keeper, an old-fashioned bra fitter, and a seltzer man — each more charming and quirky than the last. They talked to them, heard their stories, and created a series, “New York Works,” which aired on WNYC’s The Next Big Thing and on NPR’s All Things Considered. In the years since, several of the subjects have passed away.

As Rebecca Rosen points out, Walter the seltzer man’s story is almost unbearably wonderful. We join him at 2:30 in the afternoon, on his Bronx delivery route, as he tells us about the customer he’s about to visit, whose name is Mildred Blitz. “Mrs. Blitz, she’s been on my route since before I was born,” he says, “and she was buying seltzer from my father, and her parents bought from my grandparents, and now they’re gone, Mrs. Blitz’s husband’s gone, my father’s gone, and all that’s left from this story is me and Mrs. Blitz.”

He asks old Mrs. Blitz if she got all dressed up just for him, and Mrs. Blitz laughs and confides, “I mean, the seltzer is great, but it’s Walter. The seltzer isn’t the product, he’s the product.” Oh my god, it’s so good, and so touching, and sad. More at the Atlantic, and at the Radio Diaries site.

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