Ah, to have the luxury of dairy-farm-fresh-to-back-porch deliveries of milk, in glass bottles, and the delightful chance to say hi to handsome Thad Andrews and his trusty furry helper, Brown Molly. My fictional character, Mr. Andrews, always had a smile on his face and pleasant greeting to any encounters along his route. Brown Molly, as she pulled the milk cart, wore a tattered, straw hat, decorated to match the seasons or holidays. They were a fixture in the small town of Cedartown–he knew just about everyone’s business and everyone loved to see him coming.
In “Tilly Loves Johnny,” I explored the world of being a milkman in 1929, when milk was delivered to households first thing in the morning, ready to be consumed throughout the day. It wasn’t pasteurized, the milk was whole or a thicker cream, none of this 1% or 2% or blueish skim milk. If butter was on the order, pale yellow pounds were left for the woman of the house. Imagining how that milk, cream, and butter must have had so much flavor makes me wish I could visit 1929 as a taste-tester!
I don’t drink a great deal of milk anymore but, just the same, writing this makes me thirsty for a tall, cool glass of fresh milk. It is the taste of warm, summer days or a cookie treat.
I’ll never buy anything less than 2% but my taste buds would love whole milk, if I ever gave into the decadence. I actually grew up in the 50s and 60s when powdered milk was a staple on the pantry shelf of our kitchen. Anyone remember powdered milk? All these years later, because of the little bit of sludge left in the bottom of the glass from the powder that didn’t quite dissolve, I still have trouble totally draining the glass.
Powdered milk was invented in the early 1800s and is, obviously, still around today. I actually still keep some in our pantry for those absolute emergencies when I’m out of milk and need just a small amount for a recipe. Or, if I ever get ambitious enough to make homemade hot chocolate mix using cocoa, sugar, and powdered milk. Being a hiker myself, I’ve wondered about carrying powdered milk in our packs but haven’t as of yet. Maybe someday, if necessary. Beyond that, though, I head for the real deal.
But back to our milkman and his horse. As I was doing research and looking at pictures, the imagery surfaced from the depths of my memories. Probably a few times before I turned 5 or 6, we had milk delivered by a milkman and his horse-drawn cart. I can picture myself a little bit intimidated by the white-clad man but also enjoying the thrill of being allowed to gently pet the horse’s big snout. Who knows how many encounters there were with man and horse but the cartons containing milk-filled glass bottles, tucked next to the back door on the stoop, in the early hours, is a photograph in my brain. Then, the empty bottles set out in late afternoon or evening. Those pictures resided in my head and how much fun it was to reclaim them.
Thad Andrews and Brown Molly are integral to the story told in “Tilly Loves Johnny” just like so many people wandering in and out of our lives become integral to our own stories.