By: Rich Tarrant
In the yesteryear it used to be an off – but very soft – colored jest to tell a friend “Your daddy was the milkman”. Today the insult likely falls flat for most persons too young to remember the days when milk and sundry other dairy products were actually delivered right to your doorstep fresh from your local dairy. And it wasn’t until Vermilionite Nancy Kneisel-Tate donated the handy-dandy dairy ordering note gadget to the local history museum that I was reminded of those days and just how much things have changed over the last 50 years. Where does the time go?
Years ago after your milk bottle was emptied you’d wash it and set it out on your porch. In the morning the milkman would come by and replace the empty with a full bottle. As one can see, using the little note gadget, you would turn up a product that you wanted to purchase, stick it in the top of the empty bottle and – presto – the milkman would leave it on your porch. There were, however, some drawbacks to this process.
One of the problems with leaving the milk on the porch for any length of time was that prior to the time when most milk was homogenized it was not uncommon to go to pick up a full bottle from the porch to find that the cream had risen to the top forcing the paper cap off the bottle leaving a mess behind. Although homogenizing isn’t done for health reasons; it’s simply a process that shrinks the cream globules and makes them blend in the milk. Some people prefer their milk to have an even texture; it’s a personal preference. Others believe non-homogenized milk tastes better and like the cream top. [My personal preference is homogenized – not chunky – milk.] After a time one could acquire a galvanized metal insulated box that would hopefully forestall, or at least delay, the aforementioned mess altogether.
The Maurer-Wikel dairy once located on South Street just east of the old South Street School was the primary source of quality dairy products – commercial and residential – for Vermilion and many other communities in Erie County for at least three decades. There were, of course, other dairies in the area before Maurer’s, but none lasted so long. In the 1960s Ralph Reiter and his son Harold purchased the Maurer operation as well as twenty other small dairies around northern Ohio eventually closing the local business, and another page in local history was turned.
One of my brothers (Al) went to work for the Maurer dairy in his early teens as a “jumper” on the milk delivery trucks. A “jumper” rode in the milk truck with the driver and when they made their stops at homes and businesses they would help carry the products to the customers and bring the empties back to the truck. Brother Al was a good and very dependable worker. He liked it so much that he continued to work for the dairy throughout the 50s until shortly after Reiter bought it. Just a few names of those that I recall working there years ago were: all the Maurers (of course), John Goolsby, Howard Bogart, Mr. Spicer, Dave Wilkes, the Boone boys, and Ron Millis. There were many more.
The dairy was really a very cool place, both figuratively and literally. When I was a teen, there were basketball courts behind the school next door where a group of my friends used to play half-court basketball during the summer. It was a hot exercise. So at some point we’d pool our funds and have someone go over to the dairy to buy pint bottles of chocolate milk or orange drink. In those days very few places were air conditioned, but the dairy – probably out of necessity – was literally a very cool place. So buying a cold drink was not only a treat. So was going into the dairy office to buy it.
Now, back to “Your daddy was the milkman”. Because it was the nature of the work for the milkman to visit homes at a very early hour when the lady of the house was alone in the kitchen…well methinks you get my drift. But facts be known there was scarcely time for any amorous rendezvousing. Refrigerated trucks were not made available until about 1954. Prior to that time packed ice kept the products cold. So, in short, time was of the essence when it came to delivering dairy products. At least that’s what my dad always told me.
Ref: Special Thanks: Nancy Kneisel Tate.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org