Campbell’s Soup Kid
By Kim Seeley
I was a Campbell’s Soup kid when I was a young child. No, I didn’t have the ruddy complexion or the round face of the Campbell’s Soup Kids that I saw on television commercials. At the time, I never thought of myself as a Campbell’s Soup kid; I don’t remember thinking of myself as any type of kid. It is only in retrospect that I think of myself as a Campbell’s Soup kid, and just the label on a can of Campbell’s soup at the local grocery brings back a flood of memories.
My father was a long-distance truck driver when I was a child. His father made him quit school in 5th grade because he was big enough by then to help him fish and crab on the Chesapeake Bay. My grandfather and my dad lived on the water, but neither of them ever learned to swim. Water was not a luxury; it was a necessity. Crabs and fish paid for the roof over your head, your electricity, your potatoes. Water was not a source of enjoyment – it was a working environment.
Trucking was a natural off-shoot of the boating industry. Daddy would drive the day’s haul of seafood to a local market. Through the years, he came to prefer the highways to the waterways. He married my mother when he was nineteen and was a father to three daughters and one son in the next eight years. He was always an independent trucker, never driving for anyone but himself, with all the freedom and inherent risks that independence provided. The main risk that affected us as children was the inevitable slow times when Daddy couldn’t get a load.
I have vivid memories of my father with the phone on his stomach, lying on the bed, dialing one number after another, looking for a load of seafood, potatoes, tomatoes – anything that would pay the bills. He had business contacts up and down the coast from Maryland to Florida in the early years. Eventually he branched out across the country, leaving his family for two weeks at the time. Those were the years I consider the Campbell’s Soup years.
Whenever Daddy would make preparations for an extended trip, he would take my entire family to the grocery store. All six of us, and two grocery carts, would make our way through A&P or Giant Open-Air Market. Daddy would throw packages of meat in the carts, a sack of potatoes, canned vegetables, cereal, milk and other items. But the items I remember most clearly were the cases of Campbell’s soups. Yes, cases. One case of tomato, one case of chicken noodle and one case of chicken and rice were placed in the second cart.
It never struck me as odd at the time that my pantry as a child nearly always contained cases of Campbell’s soups. It is only now as an adult that I fully see what those cases of soup represented to my father. They were his assurance policy. He could rest assured that while he was on some lonely road in Texas or Kansas that even if his wife ran short of cash, she and the children would not be hungry.
He may have only had a 5th grade education, but he was a big dreamer. He always had plans, but he experienced set-backs. I remember bill collectors calling the house. I remember occasionally having our electricity cut off temporarily. But I never, never remember being hungry. Thanks, Daddy. Thanks for making all four of us Campbell’s Soup Kids. One look in our pantry, and we remembered your love and care. Thanks.
About this writer
- Kim Seeley, a former librarian and English teacher, lives with her husband, Wayne, in Wakefield, Virginia. She is a frequent contributor to Sasee and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her most recent story, “Amanda’s Jonquils,” can be found in Chicken Soup: Messages from Heaven. She loves to read, play the piano, travel and spend time with her grandson, Evan.