Milk Men

When does the joke “same mother, different milkman” stop making any sense to people?

This was sparked by my realization that one of the earliest scenes in Melody, pyrotechnic breakfast at the Latimer house, involved bottles of milk that had been delivered, presumably by a milkman. It also featured what, to modern, American eyes, is a tiny refrigerator. That would make the small bottles, delivered at regular intervals, sensible. It’s pure background, just the way it was at the time, one more way it’s historic archive captured on film.

The year that was released, 1971, would have been still firmly during the timeframe when we had a milkman where I grew up. I always felt bad for them, though. We were on a long dirt road, the only house a third of a mile in, and it could get extremely bumpy. It’s amazing my father was ever successful running a business that was a tenth or so of a mile past us on the same street, up to around the same time Melody was released. I am forbidden to mention what happened to the business, though I might have mentioned it here anyway in passing, but after that it operated out of another building, toward the other side of town, and was later in a new building, all the way on the other side of town. I digress. There had to have been a lot of broken bottles for our benefit, and a lot of time wasted driving extra slowly. My father had gone to school with one of the kids in the family that owned the dairy, and had actually suggested to her that they should start an ice cream stand. They did, and it’s locally renowned to this day.

We didn’t get tiny bottles, but half gallon ones, made of glass and returned for cleaning and reuse. But we didn’t have that “green thing” back in my day. Just economics. It seems odd to me now that milk would be left sitting out beside our steps for hours, sometimes, before coming in and going in the fridge, but it was apparently never a problem.

Eventually the dairy eliminated our town from the area their deliveries covered. That aspect of their business was getting overwhelmed by ice cream anyway. I seem to recall we figured the problems of delivering to us were a factor, but we are always me-centric. It couldn’t have been too much longer, since the road eventually was paved. On the other hand, when it was paved, it got some nasty speed bumps. I don’t remember them delivering after it was paved, and that was probably not later than 1973.

My youngest brother, who delights in using the “different milkman” phrase to describe himself, was born in 1971, appropriately enough. The milkman thing reminds me of a great grandfather I never met. He was an electrician, but he installed electricity in a lot of houses in and around his town in the early days of electric service, when the men would be off at work. Apparently we will never know just how many relatives we have from the town where my grandmother grew up. But that’s another story.

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