(Extracted from a recording made with Mrs Dorothy Tanner on 13th February, 1992, by John Ruffell)
Mrs Tanner's father had one of the milk rounds in Alcester, and as a young girl, helped with the milk deliveries:-
"When I was 10 or 11, on my way to school, I would deliver the milk fresh to people who wanted it early. At 13 or 14 I was on a bike with a two and a half gallon milk bucket on the bike, with a pint measure and a half pint measure. If the customer was out, you had to go into the house sometimes, find a jug, and put in what you knew they wanted. The delivery was twice a day. My Dad had to go to Arrow or Kingley and fetch the milk twice a day, morning and afternoon, and you didn't take the afternoon milk around the next morning! We waited while the cows were milked, the milk was put through a 'cooler', and we brought it straight to the customers. The milk went off quite quickly, so some houses would have half a pint in the morning and half a pint in the afternoon. If a storm was about the milk would turn very quickly. People used to sink the milk into the ground to keep it a little longer, and use muslin over jugs to stop the flies dropping into it.
"With cream there would be great big pans out in the cold dairy, probably overnight, then you would skim the cream off into little cans, and then the skimmed milk would be sold cheaper to the poorer people.
"My Dad had a horse and trap. He used a churn on wheels to walk round the town delivering the milk, but I used to do the outlying parts with the bike in all weathers, and covered about 20 miles.
"The Dairy was in Swan Street where the Cotton On is now,- that is where I was born. The Dairy was where Coulter's is now, and the horse was stabled there in bad weather, but there was another stable down the Stratford Road.
"It was too bad if you spilt any of the milk, because you probably get to the end of your round, and one or two had probably had an extra half or pint, and you'd have to go all the way back to the dairy because somebody else wanted a bit extra!
"On the bike I have had two buckets, one on each side, which balanced better really. Then we came to bottles, but not completely. Deliveries were twice a day except Sundays and Christmas Day when there was only one. My Dad used to always like going round on Christmas Day
because he liked to see the children with the presents. There were no holidays, - I can't remember any days off!
"I used to go as far as Oversley, and up to Gunnings Bridge, - after the bridge it was dead, nobody would go that way unless they were going to Great Alne! The round was very contained in the town and we knew where everybody lived, - I could have told you every house. If anyone was poorly, we would know, because you had to knock the door, and everyone had to bring a jug to the door.
"When the gas first came, an old lady in Gas House Lane, who lived on her own would ask me to light the gas at about 4pm, - because she was scared of it, and I would be asked to get somebody's coal in or run an errand!
"We used to take the money on Friday and Saturday morning, but never reckoned to take money on a Sunday! Occasionally there would be a £5 note, and my dad would ask where that had come from, - a £5 note was almost unheard of in ordinary takings, and my dad would wonder how people had come by one! Dad's brother was a bookmaker and on the rounds we sometimes collected the bets! - I would put these in my wellies because we weren't supposed to do this, but we used to pass them on!
'When the Mop came, the caravans used to be in a field down the Stratford Road, and we would have to be up early to be the first there to sell some extra milk, and we nearly always got paid in pennies. It was wonderful to sell an extra two gallons! There were two other milk rounds but we had the biggest one.
"The bottles were washed in the Dairy, just hot water and soda or something, - bit primitive really! We washed the buckets in the Dairy, but I expect today the hygiene wouldn't be thought very good, but nobody suffered -not to our knowledge anyway! In later years, my brother took it over for a while, when he came back from the second world war, but there was so much that had to be done for hygiene then, that it was sold to Quinnies.
Autumn 1992 Index
© J. Ruffell 1992