Half a century ago, there were roughly 500 seltzer men delivering throughout the five boroughs, and dozens of filling stations. Today there are only five seltzer men left in New York City — scratch that, four.
Eli Miller, who began delivering in the 1960s, has officially retired from the seltzer game, according to the New York Times.
“Mr. Miller said customers often asked him to join them for meals and invited him to family functions. Some leaned on him for emotional support, including a New York City Fire Department captain haunted by the randomness of having survived the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, when the men he sent in to the towers did not. ‘I was their confessor,’ he said of such customers, ‘their family priest.’”
Recently, LLNYC looked into the lives of last seltzer men and discovered a tradition struggling to survive in changed NYC.
“When I was a kid helping my father, I remember people saying that the seltzer men wouldn’t last through the 1960s,” Walter Backerman, a third-generation seltzer deliveryman, told LLNYC. But today, he says, the business is still going strong, with as many new customers coming on board as those kicking the bucket, so to speak.