Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

When Dad hollered ‘milk,’ his customers brought kitchen pans

In 1913, Mom and Dad operated a small dairy farm a short distance from Ninth Street and Broadway in downtown Columbia. My brother and I were born there, at home. World War I was in progress, but Dad had not been called.

O.D. and Nancy Meyers worked hard and had good credit; they borrowed money and bought an 80-acre farm about four miles from town on the extension of East Broadway, toward Fulton. Four miles farther east was a busy crossroads farming community called Harg. This "town" has been in the headlines a lot this fall.

Dad had developed a small dairy business by 1914, selling "Clean Milk" and inviting customers to visit his barn and milk house. There were no standards and no inspectors; the sanitation and purity of the product depended on the integrity of the owner.

He hauled the milk in 8-gallon metal cans, poured some into a 1-gallon "measure," carried it to a customer’s back door and said a loud, "Milk!" The woman brought a pan, and he poured out a quart or two. They’d discuss the weather and local news, and then he’d be on his way. The horse, pulling a lightweight, four-wheel cart, knew the delivery route and waited for Dad at the place where he needed to refill the tall, gallon measuring "cup."

Over and over, Dad went to the next customer’s home and called, "Milk!" Dad had heard about Henry Ford’s inventions, and he could borrow more money, buy more cows, sell more milk to more customers. But he dismissed the thought: Ford’s vehicle would never be waiting for him at the next stop!

We all loved the farm. Mom was a city girl trained as a secretary and bookkeeper; she was the dairy’s "customer contact." Dad had to cut poles from the woods to bring rural telephone service from the Columbia phone line on the Fulton road to our farm.

Mom was also an accomplished pianist. When she took Jim and me to Sunday school, people welcomed her warmly because they had a pump organ on the pulpit platform and no one could play it. She went on Saturdays to learn to pump alternate feet to give the thing air; when she stopped pumping, there was no music. And there were about a dozen buttons with words: treble, bass, soft, loud and other things a musician would know. She was called to play for funerals, weddings and many community events. Jim and I went with her because "baby sitters" were unknown.

Vehicles had to stop, of course, when a chain was across the road. People paid a toll to the owners of the roads. Two men bought the dirt road between Columbia and Fulton. They paid to have the mud holes filled and the big obstacles removed; they owned the road and spent "big" money to have rough gravel moved from creek beds to the road’s surface. It was their right, of course, to charge people a small fee or toll to use the road.

My earliest memory of Columbia’s East Broadway is of Strode’s store and Happy Hollow. There was a chain across the street at the foot of a steep hill that we called Fyfer Hill - for the Fyfer family. Now I call that hill Hospital Hill. It’s too steep for me to ever ride my bicycle up all the way without walking. Happy Hollow was a row of shanties where unsupervised kids threw mud balls or rotten potatoes at cars or people for fun. Jim and I were not allowed to get out of the vehicle; parents hurried back to prevent an encounter. Mom and Dad used paper tickets and bought in bulk.

To be continued.

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.