Eli Miller, 79, New York City’s senior seltzer man, hoisted crate after crate of seltzer — weighing 70 pounds apiece — into his van and then draped himself over them.

He can afford to retire, but that would mean his customers, many of whom have been with him for decades, might have to resort to store-bought seltzer.

“I don’t want them to have to drink that dreck you buy in the supermarket,”

Mr. Miller said that when he began delivering, on March 10, 1960, there were perhaps 500 seltzer men in the city, and a half-dozen seltzer bottlers. Now he can count his delivery competition on one hand…

As Old As the Bottles, New York Times, 4/26/2013

Screen shot 2013-05-04 at 7.36.23 AMEli Miller, 79, who has been delivering seltzer for more than 50 years.
photo by Dave Sanders for The New York Times

My grandfather was a seltzer man.

The story I carry in my head is that he left Poland when my grandmother was pregnant with my father. He found work but it took him years to earn enough money to bring her and her then two children, my oldest uncle and my father, over from the old country. My father finally met his father when he was seven years old.

I only have spare memories of my grandfather. He passed away when I was four years old. I never saw him in his work clothes but I always remember looking up at him from the squeakng wooden treads of the stairs when we visited, always in a tie and wire frame spectacles, with a welcoming smile as we rose up the staircase.

The first thing he would do when we arrived was make me a cherry soda, spooning thick red syrup into a clean jelly glass, then shpritzing in seltzer from an old blue bottle. I can still hear the bright sound of the seltzer hitting the sides of the tumbler and the tinking of the spoon as he mixed it in.

My grandmother lived nearly 30 years longer. But she always had a seltzer bottle in her refrigerator. Never the bottle from the supermarket. Only maybe a little ginger ale. That my grandfather also carried up the stairs.