Monday, May 04, 2020

The Milkman Cometh

Growing up, we had a milkman.

The green and yellow Blanchard milk truck came two or three times a week, and the milkman left milk and cream in a wooden milk box outside the door. 

The first milk I remembered came in glass quart bottles and was unhomogenized. The cream rose to the top, and you had to shake the bottle vigorously to homogenize-it-yourself. 

Sometimes the milkman came into the house, especially on Saturdays, when the milkman was likely to be one of my father's cousins, Matt or Ned, who moonlighted on weekends as milkmen, or his cousin-in-law Phil, whose family owned the business. (Phil was married to Ellen, sister to Matt and Ned.) The "boys", in their grey-striped overalls, would come in and sit down at our breakfast table for a cup of coffee and a chat, and I just grew up assuming that the milkman sat down with their customers.

Even when the milkman wasn't a relative, he sometimes came in for coffee and a quick visit. Harry was a pleasant fellow who, on occasion, would do some fix-it thing for my mother. My mother was pretty handy - far more so than my father - but there may have been times when she was kid-harried and needed someone to make sure the washing machine was draining. 

And if you're thinking what you're thinking about Harry and my mother, I can guarantee you that anyone who knew my mother is either guffawing or howling with laughter. Because the Rogers kids didn't look all that much alike - oddly, my brothers both look like my father but not like each other; and my sisters and I look nothing alike, but have voices that are so similar, especially on the phone, that we used to torture my mother into guessing which one of us she was talking to - we did plenty of kidding about being the milkman's children.

But the only romance going with the milkman was on the part of my sister Trish who, as a toddler, insisted on kissing Bill, the milkman who replaced Harry, good-bye when he left. 

The fact that we patronized Blanchard's made us the odd-family out on our street. Pretty much everyone else got their milk from Hillcrest, and I envied them for their snappy trucks, which came in a rainbow of pastel colors. 

There was one BIG advantage to having Blanchard's and that was the fact that we were related. This meant that the Rogers' kids had the privilege of being able to hop into the back of the milk truck and snag a chunk of ice to suck on. And let me tell you, there are few treats on a hot summer day that can rival a fist-sized chunk of diamond-glittering ice, coated with a scrim of diesel fuel. Yummers!

And then there came a point - not sure when or why - when we no longer got milk delivered. Did Blanchard's go out of the milk business? Last time I looked, the family ran a diner and catering business. For all I know, they left the milk business years ago. 

Maybe it was about the time when my mother got her driver's license and started doing grocery shopping in person. (Prior to that, she called in her list to the neighborhood market and every Friday afternoon, they delivered it in a station wagon. We also had bread delivery from Cushman Bakery, which sounds kind of la-di-da, but the bread was standard 1950's white-bread whitebread.)

We weren't the only ones moving away from milk delivery. It's been dying out for decades. But now, well, coronavirus changes everything, and milk delivery's having its moment. 
Since the coronavirus crisis has pushed more consumers away from going into crowded — and sometimes poorly stocked — grocery stores, local dairy farms are seeing huge increases in the demand for their home delivery services. And now, they are scrambling to find more trucks, drivers, and products, to get customers off of growing waitlists. (Source: Boston Globe)
One local dairy saw its business increase from 300 to 1,500 in a matter of weeks. Plus a growing waitlist with 300+ names on it. 

Just like I'm (probably) letting whatever sort of grayish melange my hair is going to be grow in during the duration, a lot of folks who've always wanted to try milk delivery are giving it a whirl. 

Dairies are hiring: Milk Man Person Wanted.

It remains to be seen whether demand will die down when the pandemic does, or whether it becomes yet another item that gets delivered. At which point, does an Amazon drone replace the milk delivery guy?

Whatever happens, the dairies are milking the trend for all it's worth.

But I betcha there aren't any kids jumping on the backs of those trucks begging for a chunk of diesel covered ice.

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