September 15, 2008

Back When There Were Milkmen Galore

Tim Herr, who lives in New Holland, sent us this photo of his grandfather Ira H. Herr (1888-1977) standing in front of his 1936 Chevrolet sedan home delivery-milk truck on his farm.

Tim also added this fascinating story about the dairy business.

He wrote:

"The farm was at 150 Marticville Road in Pequea Township. Ira H. Herr began his dairy bottling business in 1923. After several years of operating under the name, I.H. Herr, he, and his wife, Mamie Hess Herr, named the enterprise Spring Vale Dairy. The standard of the dairy business at that time was to deliver milk to the customer's home seven days a week. This pattern continued until the gasoline rationing of World War II forced Sunday home deliveries to be discontinued. Later during the war, home delivery was cut to every other day.

"The farm routine began with milking the cows early in the morning, bottling the milk, and then taking it onto the routes for distribution starting at 4 a.m. with return to the farm at 8 a.m. This schedule continued until sometime between 1940 and 1942 when Ira began to pasteurize the milk. With the pasteurization process, the milk from the previous day was what the customers purchased.

"Ira established two milk routes. The one route was through the Willow Street area, the second route was primarily focused in Martic Township, supplying the towns of Marticville, Mount Nebo, Pequea, Martic Forge, River Corner and New Danville. Supported by a dairy herd of over 100 Ayrshire cows and heifers, each route required 200 quarts of milk for the day's delivery. Additionally, chocolate milk, orangeade, and each Monday, $700 in cash was also carried in the truck. Butter, homemade ice cream and ice was purchased by visiting the farm.

"The large amount of cash carried by the delivery person each Monday was an additional service to the customer - the cashing of Friday and Saturday paychecks. It was standard that a family had only one car, the husband worked during the day so that the wife could not drive to the bank, and banks closed at 3 p.m.

"By the early 1950s, the home-delivery milk market had changed. Consumers no longer judged the quality of the milk on high cream content. The demand was for homogenized milk. To stay competitive, Spring Vale Dairy would need to make a major financial investment in equipment. Competition had also drastically increased. When Ira began the Willow Street route, there were no competitors. By 1953, there were 16-18 other dairies also selling door-to-door in the Willow Street market. Additionally, the larger Lancaster City dairies partnered with local real estate agencies to receive information on new resident move-ins so that these dairies would solicit potential new customers directly. With these changes, Ira retained his farm and dairy herd, but sold his milk routes to Turkey Hill Dairy in 1953. In 1960, Ira and Mamie sold the farm and dairy herd to their son and daughter-in-law, Lloyd H. and Darlene E. Herr."

Tim also sent along a very long list of local dairy farms that once had bottling operations. You can find it on by using the keyword "milkmen." If you don't have Internet service, call the Sunday News at 291-8788 and we'll send you the list.

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