Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Speaking Of Milk, Do You Ever Wonder?

Do you ever look at something most every day and are oblivious to what you are seeing?

I love a tid-bit of history now and then...

I have held these milk cans close to my heart since a friend gave them to us 9 years ago. Her husband passed away and she cleaned out a lot of her possessions. Bob and I were setting up house at the time, buying a farm, and the friend said, "You will enjoy these."

A few days ago (not 9 years ago) I noticed the words on the can. The picture below is from the top of the lids, the sides of the cans are stamped Polk Milk Company, Berne Ind. I love anything related to dairy, it does not necessarily have to be related to goat milk.

Then I learned a bit more...

Before the advent of stainless steel tankers, there were milk trains that ran through dairy areas. In many cases the farmers toted their milk to small train stops (some no bigger than a garden or tool shack), and from there the milk train would carry the milk to the larger cities. Some of the private milk trains carried cans, some of the company owned trains had "milk tank" cars.

Come to find out, the milk company listed on my cans was from Indianapolis, Indiana. Berne is located in northern Indiana, known for its cow dairy farms and cheese, inhabited in the early years by Swiss Mennonites. Interesting! I can see the cans being transported back and forth between Berne and Indianapolis, both on a farmer's wagon, and on the old train.

Then I started reading about the milk trains. There are songs, movies, and all sorts of jokes floating around about milk trains. But, truly, there were actual milk trains that transported milk across the countryside. And many times people caught the milk trains if they needed a lift somewhere, some even rode the train to school.

Back on the farm...the farmers would strain and consolidate the milk into the cans, and then cool the milk in a spring house, later in history in a bulk tank. Then, either the farmer or a coop truck would come around and pick up the cans and take them to a creamery, or they went directly to the milk train.

So...perhaps I am the one slow on learning, but the next time I see one of these old milk cans...I will remember that they do hold a lot of history!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mary!

It´s time to say... I like your blog, I like your Soaps an I really like your Goats!

Have a nice week
Brigitte from Austria

Anonymous said...

Good post!

Lynnanne said...

Ahh... yes. We have a couple of my husband's grandmother's milk containers... we use the one to fill with water during stormy seasons to flush toilets! :)

I'm West of Burne ... maybe an hour's distance. Interesting tid-bits, thanks!

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

if those milk cans could talk... I love that kinda stuff too.

Alix said...

That is super cool, Mary. Liz from Eternal Lizdom and Becky from Courteous Chihuahua would love this post. I'll have to tell them about it.

Mary Humphrey said...

Hello Brigitte, so nice to meet you! Thank you!

I enjoyed the trip through learning about the milk process, Alix, Joanna, and Amy. Even though the dairy process is not new, learning how the cans was transported (truck, farm, train) was cool.

And I am from Indiana, so the heritage of the cans (as silly as that might be) fascinated me.

The stories talked about New York, other states, and Indiana as well. I had to do a lot of reading to put a tiny bit of information together.

The photos were wonderful! There are a lot on the internet.

Daisy Soap Girl said...

Oh my gosh Mary. You bring back such memories. I remember those cans. Mu aunt & uncle had cows and they would milk the cows and take those cans into town. They would also have cream from that milk to make butter. It was so good. I was young but I remember those can. You are so blessed to have them.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Interesting post, Mary. I have never heard of the milk train.

brett said...

dear mary, my name is bret and i'm from south bend, in. i love the story about the polk milk cans. my dad was employed at polk milk in indianapolis in 1949. i could tell you alot about polk milk. if you ever decide to sell the polk cans, i would be very intrested. that would be a great gift for my dad for his birthday. my e-mail addr. sbbm47@gmail.com /thanks for bring back memories,brett

Diane said...

Hi Mary,

I really loved your blog on Speaking of Milk, Do You Ever Wonder?

I have a web site which caters to the reading enjoyment of the homesteader. I know they would love to read your article.

If you would be so kind, may I have permission to feature your article on our front page?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Ontario Canada
519 378-6624

Mary said...

Hello Diane -

Yes, you may use the article. I would be delighted.

The only thing I ask is, several days after I wrote the article, I moved the blog to Wordpress. The new address for this article is:
http://anniesgoathill.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/speaking-of-milk-do-you-ever-wonder/ .

If you do link back, please use the new address.

Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Amazing. I have not seen a Polk Milk Can like that. My grandfather was a Polk Milk delivery driver and we have a picture of him that was in the paper next to his Horse-drawn milk wagon in which he delivered milk bottles door to door. I just found my first mint-condition Polk's Milk bottle yesterday at a flea market. Now I have to find that milk can and a creamer spoon. I have one of everything else Polk. Thank you for sharing.

Mary Humphrey said...

Great find on your Polk milk bottle! I hope you find your can and ladle.

These are pieces of history that we can appreciate, that is how I look at it.

Thank you for your comments.