Washington area dairies? We’ve just skimmed the surface.

John Kelly
Columnist February 25, 2012

At the risk of being accused of, um, milking it, Answer Man is once again headed to the dairy.

How else to handle the milky flood of e-mail and phone calls from people including Dorothy Daniel of North Arlington? In 1948, Dorothy was hired by Chestnut Farms Chevy Chase Dairy to demonstrate the cream-top bottle and spoon mentioned in last Sunday’s column. It was less a spoon for scooping than a plug for stopping.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

“You would hold the spoon in place and turn the bottle over,” Dorothy explained. “The cream would come out, and the milk would stay.”

Evelyn Goldman Sherman, now of Leisure World, wrote to say she was a Thompson’s Health Baby, one of the area infants chosen to appear in newspaper ads for Thompson’s Dairy. “I was Baby No. 1611,” Evelyn wrote.

Sarah Partridge Watson wrote to say she was a Thompson’s Health Baby, too. Is it time to have a reunion of all the Thompson’s Health Babies? Maybe check their bone-density levels or something?

Rosemary Brooks’s father-in-law was a Chestnut Farms milkman. She said the tiniest 1 / 4-pint bottle pictured last week was known as a gill — pronounced jill — and “was produced and sold to be fed to babies, with a nipple stretched over the top.”

Gaithersburg’s Ed Bugash remembers a distinctive bottle — possibly from Embassy Dairy — that had a baby’s face molded into the bulge at the top. Ed was only 5 at the time, but he recalls an advertising campaign associated with the bottle. “If you poured the milk with the head facing up, the milk would pour out smoothly, and if you poured with the head facing down, it gurgled,” he wrote. “Or it could have been vice versa.”

Ed can’t find anyone else who remembers this. “Can you help me prove to my family that I’m not crazy and simply making all of this up,” he wrote, with a hint of desperation.

Answer Man got in touch with Doug, who with his wife maintains the encyclopedic dairyantiques.com. Doug said the bottles were made by Baby Top Products Co., which claimed that pouring over the face got you whole milk, while pouring over the side of the head got you cream.

“The constriction in the neck was oval, so how you poured it changed how the oval sat,” Doug wrote. “It may have gurgled more one way and someone tried to take advantage of that, but I have never seen it.”

Of course, the reason for all this, wrote Marjory Olsen Olsonof Leisure World, is that back then, milk was not homogenized. “If you didn’t want the cream for a special use, then you had to shake the bottle to mix up the fat globules, every time, until the bottle was empty.”

John Gibbs’s father spent his entire career at Embassy Dairy, retiring as the company’s midnight shipper. “All accounting was done by him using hand, head and a lot of pencils,” John wrote.

When John was “milk boy” at Peabody Elementary in Stanton Park, he arranged for the drivers of the milk trucks to always hide one container of chocolate milk somewhere in the school’s daily allotment.

“It was my job to take the milk to each teacher’s room and leave the exact number required,” John wrote.

“No one ever could figure out how I would always have chocolate milk at lunchtime when everyone else had the little, white containers. I said I had friends who had connections in the right places: my dad.”

Mike Mescher’s dad drove for Thompson’s. “As long as I could remember, he was the ‘Smiling Thompson’s Milkman’ on their advertising material,” Mike wrote, adding that there’s a barn just southwest of Route 355 and Ridgemont Avenue in Gaithersburg with “Thompson’s Dairy” still painted on its roof.

Joan Heinicke of Millersville said her husband, Jack, got a kick out of the milk truck pictured last week.

“As a teenager, he worked at Harvey Dairy on 38th Street in Brentwood as a truck mechanic,” she wrote. “That was over 50 years ago, and he still remembers that those trucks were called ‘Divcos.’ ”

Gail Madden Griffin said it wasn’t just the milkman who delivered back then. Growing up in Deanwood in the 1950s, she remembers her family’s laundry being picked up and delivered by Bergmann’s.

Finally, all this delivery talk has Frederick’s Brian Beddow wondering about a large, green tin his mother used for storing potato chips. “She said the tin was left over from a potato chip delivery service in Rockville in the 1960s,” Brian wrote. “Does anyone else remember this service?”

Send questions — and answers — to answerman@washpost.com. To read John Kelly’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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