When we were young, it was normal for our milk and dairy products to be delivered to our home by the milkman. The closest thing we see to milkmen today is the Schwann’s delivery truck, but they’re like a rolling store.
As most of us know, houses built in the early to mid-1900s had a milk chute…a small opening near the side door of the house with a door on the outside and another door on the inside that opened in to the kitchen or the side door landing. The milkman would put the milk, cottage cheese, etc., into the chute during his early morning delivery rounds allowing for easy access by the family.
I remember that the milk came in quart-size glass bottles with a cardboard lid covered by a paper cap. Originally, it was not homogenized with the cream separated and always at the top of the bottle. It had to be shaken vigorously before it was opened so the cream and milk would mix thoroughly.
One evening we were sitting at the kitchen table for dinner when Mom took a quart of milk out of the refrigerator and started shaking it as she was standing to Dad’s left. The bottle apparently had a defect in the bottom because as she was shaking it, the bottom of the bottle flew off and the milk flew out all over Dad. That was probably his only milk bath.
Eventually, the milk was homogenized and was also then delivered in gallon glass jugs.
The last I remember having milk delivered was in the very early 1960s. The only reason that it comes to mind is because of my little brother Fireman, who was in early elementary school at the time. Mom was working by then, and Fireman would be the first of us kids to arrive home from school. Our milk chute opened on the inside at the level of the kitchen counter near the kitchen sink. Since the kitchen was three steps above the landing, the outside of the milk chute was set quite high from the level of the driveway outside…much too high for a child to reach.
Well, actually not too high for Fireman because he found a way to get into the locked house through the milk chute. He would open the chain-link driveway gate, set it into the proper position so that he could climb up, balance himself carefully to stand on the top of the gate and be within reach of the milk chute. Then he would open the chute and carefully remove a gallon glass jug of milk, climb down the gate and set it on the ground. He’d repeat that three or four times until all of the milk was removed…and he never fell or dropped a bottle of milk.
Finally, he would climb up to the top of the gate one last time, pull himself up into and through the chute on to the kitchen counter. Once in the house, he would unlock the side door, carefully carry each gallon of milk into the house and set it in the refrigerator, climb up the gate one last time to shut the chute door, close the gate, lock the door, and settle down in front of the television until the rest of us came home from school.
I think this was an early indication of how well he has managed the bottle throughout his lifetime.