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The bottle…

January 12, 2012

                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.  🙂


36 Comments leave one →
  1. Betsy Cushman permalink
    January 12, 2012 12:37 pm

    Love the story! I remember climbing through the milk chute, both out of necessity (I was the smallest in my family) but mostly for fun.

    Thanks for reminding those of us who are old enough to remember about those times, and also for sharing the funny stories that I don’t know. Love the milk bath!

    • January 12, 2012 3:25 pm

      Glad you like it. Guess it never occured to me to climb through the milk chute, though I was about small enough to do it when we moved into the house. I was always amazed that he never once fell or dropped a bottle.

  2. Sue Brown permalink
    January 12, 2012 1:47 pm

    Smart little brother! I remember bottles of milk being delivered daily to the house, and small bottles being delivered to school. The worst thing in the world was the school milk when it had been left outside and it was warm to drink 😦

    • January 12, 2012 3:28 pm

      I always wondered about it being left in the chute too long and getting warm…? It probably never occured to anyone that it might spoil…maybe that’s why my mother still leaves food on the counter for hours and it doesn’t bother her to eat it. 😦

      • January 12, 2012 5:06 pm

        My mother does the same, JSD. I think she must have built up a cast iron stomach because of it; she never gets a “tender” stomach.

        I see things left out and positively gag!!

        • January 12, 2012 5:44 pm

          Oh, yeah! And how do you tell them the food may be spoiled? Mom just doesn’t get it.

  3. January 12, 2012 5:05 pm

    Talk about an industrious little kid!

    We never had a milk chute, in fact I’d never seen one until just recently. A friend of hubbs’ has one in his house; when I first heard what it was I thought that was just the neatest thing 🙂

    We had cows and took turns carrying the warm milk from the barn to the house. (But first we always “spilled” a little for the barn kitties. Even the wildest ones soon became our friends.)

    Fun post 🙂 MJ

    • January 12, 2012 5:42 pm

      That sounds like so much fun. I often think I was born in the wrong place, wrong time, as I can so relate to my Grandmother’s farms in Ontario and Alberta…like it is where I was meant to be, though I know they worked very, very hard. 🙂

      • January 12, 2012 7:53 pm

        It was. It was everything you could imagine and more.

        And yes there was work but mostly? There was wide-open wonder.

        I never could replicate my childhood for my boys… just not possible.

        But I smile when they talk about that magical farm and how much they love visiting there …

        • January 12, 2012 10:25 pm

          Mine, too! They have their own memories of the Ontario place which, unfortunately, is no longer in the family.

  4. January 12, 2012 7:23 pm

    Fun story. If it had been me, I’d have gotten stuck, though.

    • January 12, 2012 7:29 pm

      Well, he was a skinny little kid. I still smile whenever I think of him doing that…I can’t picture my own six-year-old grandson doing it, though. He has more sense than that.

  5. January 12, 2012 10:34 pm

    I remember the milkman but he would leave things at the front door. How nice was that, I would love to have home deliveries now! Thanks for sharing great memories!!!

    • January 13, 2012 5:39 am

      Yes, I too remember seeing the milk sitting on some front porches. There is a company that does home deliveries (Schwann’s, not sure of spelling). I don’t know if it’s unique to just Michigan, but people I know who use them say the food is great!

  6. January 12, 2012 10:48 pm

    Great story! I never knew that about the milk chute. It makes me a little sad that we are so detached these days . . . thank goodness for blogs. 🙂

    • January 13, 2012 5:44 am

      Thanks. Yup, thank goodness for blogs! 🙂

  7. January 13, 2012 7:59 pm

    What a fun and interesting story. We didn’t have milk chutes either. I remember milk in bottles with those cardboard paper tops. I admire your brother’s resourcefulness.

    • January 13, 2012 8:24 pm

      Oh, yes, he has always been very resourceful. Oh, the stories I’ve got on the back burner about him. 🙂

  8. January 14, 2012 8:47 am

    I love your story. It brought back a lot of memories for me as well. Although we never had a milk chute or a milk man, we did have a small farm nearby that furnished the milk and butter for the neighborhood. We took our jars on the way to Grandma’s and picked them up filled – unpasteurized with cream separating on top. Basically, I grew up drinking half-n-half as we just shook it all together and scarfed it down. But my teeth are fantastic!

  9. Snoring Dog Studio permalink
    January 14, 2012 12:32 pm

    And now Fireman is a cat burglar?

    • January 14, 2012 10:18 pm

      Hahahahaha! I never thought of it that way! 🙂

  10. January 14, 2012 1:45 pm

    Nostalgic & hilarious!

    I had never heard of milk chutes; very interesting. When I was a kid the milk was delivered to an insulated box on the front porch. I used to beg to eat the cream off the inside of the paper lid; that was a treat!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • January 14, 2012 10:23 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s fun remembering all the little things from our childhood.

  11. January 18, 2012 6:13 pm

    When I was a little girl my day was the milkman. Really, he was the guy who went door-to-door deliverying the milk in a white uniform. We also lived on a dairy farm. He had lots of stories, as I’m guessing most milkmen do, but I never hear about a kid climbing through a milk chute before. At Christmas he would get great presents from his customers and bring them home. It was a good job while it lasted, but like the horse and buggy or travel agents it came to an end and we moved off the farm. LEA your post. Enjoy always, T

    • January 19, 2012 10:59 am

      I imagine the milkmen never saw the chute being used in alternative ways. I’m finding out that it was more common than I originally thought…I’ll bet burglars also liked them. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  12. January 19, 2012 6:52 am

    Hi! I really enjoy your blog and I’ve given you the ABC award. Congratulations! Here’s the link:

    • January 19, 2012 11:00 am

      Thank you very much. That’s very nice of you! 🙂

  13. January 20, 2012 8:58 am

    We had a metal, insulated milk box that sat on the side porch, and the milkman would leave the stuff in there. I don’t remember glass gallon jugs, though. Was everyone stronger back then?

    Great story, JSD. I could see your brother perform every step of that maneuver. Did he prefer to get inside that way? He sounds smart enough to have had his own house key.

    • January 20, 2012 6:29 pm

      He was only six years old at the time, so he didn’t have a key. He was supposed to wait on the front porch for us to get home, which would have been only about twenty more minutes. But he wasn’t patient enough…still isn’t…just wanted to get in the house, grab a bite to eat, and plop in front of the television. I don’t think everyone was stronger, he was just determined. 🙂

  14. January 20, 2012 5:21 pm

    I’ve only gotten milk from a bottle once, since I’m in high school, from an ancient farm a few years ago with my dad. It somehow tasted better than the milk from the plastic carton. And it was cool! Even though we’re very different people, I really like your writing!

    • January 20, 2012 6:36 pm

      I think you’re right…beverages always seem to taste better from a glass container. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  15. January 21, 2012 8:56 am

    Believe it or not, we got milk delivery in 1/2gal glass jugs too, and in SoCal of all places. Same story as you, right down to the cardboard lids. I can’t find milk in glass now, sadly.

    • January 21, 2012 9:51 am

      I’ve only seen glass containers in some of the small private dairies here in Michigan, such as Calder Dairy & Farm, and it’s their special edition of quart bottles of egg nog…so good you could polish it off in one chug-a-lug.

  16. June 7, 2014 2:20 pm

    Really enjoyed this, especially the references to Ontario. My uncle had a dairy farm in Ontario which I remember. Once I thought I was helping when I poured a bucket of milk into the filling point of the large tank. My uncle then informed me, “That milk was for the calves.” (I was 5). Our family had already moved to the states a couple years prior, when I was a toddler. I like looking at pics of our old house which a milk door. Similar to yours, the door opened inside at counter level. My mother would obstruct the inside milk door with the bread box so I wouldn’t crawl out and fall 5′ or 6′ onto the driveway. When your brother turned on the television, would I be to assume it was a black and white tv? 🙂

    • June 8, 2014 10:02 pm

      Oh, it all sounds so familiar. Knowing my mother, she probably had something piled on the counter in front of the milk shoot. Somehow, Fireman managed to work around that. Yes, the TV was a black and white. 😉

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