‘Tale of the Milkman’ presented at Historical Society March 21

A milkman from Elton Dairy. (Courtesy of the Bristol Historical Society).



On Thursday, March 21, beginning at 7 p.m., the Bristol Historical Society will host, “Tales of the Milkman,” a presentation on the history of the dairy industry in Bristol.

Leading the discussion will be Jim Cleveland and Bernie O’Keefe, and Al Goodwin will serve as the emcee. There will also be representation from other area dairies, such as Gifford’s dairy, which bought out Peplau Dairy, formerly located in Forestville.

“This got started because most of us are familiar with the Elton Dairy  Jim [Cleveland] worked there, my grandfather worked there,” said O’Keefe. “But, we’ve just been talking about it, and it really is a period of history and we just said maybe we can do something with it.”

Local historian Tom Dickau explained that there were approximately 20 dairies in Bristol between the 1920s and the 1970s when supermarkets caused the dairy to become obsolete.

There is a distinction between a dairy farm and a dairy. A dairy farm is where the cows that produce milk would be housed and looked after. A dairy was a separate facility where canisters of milk would be brought, the milk would be repackaged, and from the dairy, the milk would be delivered to the homes in town.

Cleveland worked for the E.H. Elton Dairy after returning from World War II after serving in the U.S. Navy. He explained that he and other dairy workers would arrive at the pasteurizing plant at 4 a.m., in order to deliver milk early in the morning. And, milkmen worked every day of the week, and every day of the year, no matter what the weather.

The gentlemen even recalled the difficulties milkmen faced during the Flood of 1955, when much of the state was closed down, but the milk still had to be delivered.

All who attend will be treated to fresh ice cream from Gifford’s dairy, now located in Maine.Cleveland explained that not too long after the Giffords moved to Maine, the government announced that whole milk contained too much fat, and that milk sales fell off  except for skim milk. But with the large amounts of milk still being produced, Gifford’s dairy began to make their homemade ice cream.

“And they make, probably, the best ice cream you’ll ever taste,” said Cleveland. Dickau said that Gifford’s ice cream can even be found in a few locations across the City of Bristol.

The Bristol Historical Society, 98 Summer St., will host the program on Thursday, Mar. 21, at 7 p.m.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.