COLUMNISTS

Milkman delivered joy to these country kids

Susan Manzke
Susan seated and her sister Karen standing. Cousin George is in the background.

This hot weather reminded me of my childhood in Lincoln Estates, Illinois. Of course, we had no air conditioning. We were lucky if mom let us turn on a fan. She didn’t care for the draft that she felt blowing from the fan.

Most summer days were spent outside with cousins and friends. Dad worked nights for United Air Lines and needed his sleep. My sister and I had to take our noise outside—even when we were trying to be quiet, somehow Karen and I got to giggling. Out the door we raced, holding hands over our mouths trying to keep our laughter from bursting out.

One thing that brightened a hot summer day was when the milkman was scheduled to make a delivery. Oh, we weren’t thirsting for milk. It was something else in the truck we wanted. We wanted ice.

Back in the 1950s, milk delivery trucks were cooled by ice. At least the Weber Dairy trucks were not refrigerated.

Our delivery driver was named Wally. The only reason I remember his first name is because behind his back we called him Wally from Walla Walla, like the Washington city of Walla Walla.

Wally the milkman's delivery day meant something special to these country kids on hot summer days...ice!

If there was a little milk left in the bottle in the refrigerator, we’d pour the last into a pitcher. Then Mom would quickly wash out the bottle so she would have one to hand in. If we didn’t have one to turn in, there was an additional deposit fee.

We waited for him to drive down our gravel road, leaving a dust trail behind his truck, as he went from distant house to distant house.

When Wally drove up our long driveway, or our neighbor’s drive depending on where we were playing, we’d run behind his truck.

Our pursuit of Wally only happened in the summer. What we children wanted was ice.

Sometimes Wally took out a sharp tool and chipped off shards of ice from the blocks that kept his cargo cool. On a few rare occasions, if he had enough, he gave us a whole block.

Those blocks of ice were extra special. Of course, they lasted longer than the melting shards in our hands, but they were also a special treat for us.

If we were lucky, we had paper tubes of Lik-m-aid. This candy treat was a sweet/tart powder that melted in your mouth. It was an inexpensive candy that did not melt in the summer heat like anything chocolate.

Girlfriends who begged for ice from the milkman, Donna and Marilyn with Susan’s sister, Karen. This photo was taken by Susan with her Kodak brownie camera.

A block of ice was a neighborhood event. At least, four or more of us were together. We’d take our Lik-m-aid, rip it open, and pour the candy out onto the melting ice. We’d then take turns licking the sweet/tart powder into our mouths—no one was concerned about spreading germs.

Because of the color added to the candy, our hands and faces turned into sticky rainbows. Our mothers didn’t mind, as long as we didn’t get it all over our clothes, too.

I don’t know if Wally gave ice away to other kids along his route. Our parents were only concerned about being able to pay for the bottled milk that was being delivered. I know sometimes we were counting pennies so we would have enough money to buy a glass gallon bottle—I don’t remember how much the milk cost but some days we couldn’t buy any because we were broke.

I know Wally is gone from this earth, but I hope he knew how much joy he delivered to us country kids. The milk was good but the ice blocks made for good memories, like the one I’m sharing here today.

            Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com, www.susanmanzke.net/blog.