The Milk Box

milk delivery

The milk box sat on the porch, in a simpler, gentler time.  Milk didn’t cost much, gas didn’t cost much, and people didn’t earn as much, but many had enough.  Crime was low in rural areas and small towns and a lot of people didn’t even lock their doors.  People knew their neighbors  and watched out for each other.  Women baked pies, and bread, and cooked their family’s food from scratch, cos there wasn’t any choice.

The milk box is one item today that represents so many layers of things that have gone by the way side, mostly in the interest of modern technology and commerce.  I guess it represents a different way of life better than any one item I can think of.

The milk box was an important item and one that got a lot of attention several times a week.  The box was metal, and insulated to keep out some of the heat or cold.  The name of your milk company was on the front of the box.  Many towns had several dairies that served their area.  There are many younger people now who wouldn’t have a clue what a milk box was, cos they have no ideas about such a laid back,  slower moving time.

Way back in time, the delivery man came in a horse-drawn truck, and came daily, since people didn’t have refrigerators.  When I was a child, most families had refrigerators.  At that time your milk man came to your house several times each week, in a nice white truck, and often wore a uniform.  You got to know your milk man and people would leave him a small Christmas gift, left in the milk box. He brought your milk, and usually butter, and some dairies delivered eggs as well.

You left him a note, in the milk box, telling him what you needed today.  And you left him your empty milk bottles, in the milk box.  Milk was delivered in glass bottles that were returned, sterilized  and refilled. It was a mess if you dropped the milk, cos of course there was the spilled milk, but there was also the broken glass.  The bottles were thick enough to be carried around and sterilized, and broke with sharp edges that would cut you badly.

milk delivery

You could get regular white milk, or chocolate.  That was always a treat for the kids.  The milk man would carry the milk and empty bottles in a metal rack.

Milk was pasteurized when I was growing up, but not homogenized.  The cream was at the top of the bottle, and you could see where the separation of milk and cream was.  I still sometimes have a tendency to shake the milk!  You had to shake the bottles or the cream and milk would’t be mixed together, and you would pour out all cream.  Hold the cap on tight before you shake it!  No young person would ever shake milk, but it still sticks with us old(er) folks sometimes.

The top of the milk bottle was sealed with a cardboard cap that fit down inside the neck of the bottle.  Although the box was insulated, you still had to get the milk in early in the summer to prevent it from spoiling.  And in the winter, you’d better get it in early for sure!  If the milk would begin to freeze, it would raise up out of the bottle, push the cap off, and the cream would be sticking up out of the bottle with the cap on top of it.  The milk men started their runs early, so bringing the milk in early might mean at 7:00.

After many years milk began to be homogenized, which took more equipment at the dairy. And modern packaging came along, the cardboard boxes at first, then later, the plastic bottles.  Local small dairies started to go out of business because it was just no longer economically good to continue.

We lost the milk box, the separated milk, the dairies, and in some ways, a way of life.  Sometimes in the summer, when the windows were open (no A/C back then!) the milk man would be what woke you up, bottles rattling in the rack.   Now we go to the grocery store or a quick jump into the convenience store, always in a hurry.  Things all go faster, technology has changed everything, lots of it for the better.  Some of it not so much, cos the era of the milk box was a good time.

Maybe, being older and remembering a lot of things, I should just re-name my blog and call it Nostalgia. A long ago era.  It’s good to remember.

5 responses to “The Milk Box

  1. I had a milk box/milk man when I was a kid… and when I mention it to other people my age they have no idea what I’m talking about. I wish these things still existed. It would save my husband a lot of bike rides.

  2. You like the good ol’ times too. I just followed your blog. I’m a small time gardener planning a little bigger garden next year. Your blog will be helpful, thanks for such good info!

    • Some of them had that and others didn’t. They were easier to grip if they had the indentation, and spilled milk always got everybody upset, not to mention the possibility of broken glass. Those were the days.

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