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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Post Milk Churn

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JANUARY. 09, 2021

[161-365] 9th. January 2021- On my lockdown walk today I spotted this unusual post box which is a new level of repurposing for me. It brought back a lot of very fond memories of staying on my Grandparents farm back in the early 1960's. You don't see milk churns very often these days. The title of the Post is a pun on Post as we are in the Post Milk Churn era where milk churns are no longer used for milk and can now be repurposed for deliveries from the Post Man. So there are in fact three Posts, a Blog Post, Post as in later time period, and Post as in mail.

It was a dairy farm and by today's standards very small. But most farms were quite small scale back then. There was a huge national infrastructure in place for collecting milk, taking it to rural hubs for transport by train to the major urban areas of the country. Most of this relied on the milk churn as seen in this picture.

Staying on a farm was a very novel thing for us and everything that went on had a great fascination for us. There was virtually no indoor entertainment back then apart from an occasional episode of Dr. Who on TV, whose adversaries were so frightening I mostly watched hiding behind the sofa.

My main memory though was the whole dairy schedule of early morning milking, the cows being brought to the milking parlour, the dairy tank of fresh warm milk, where, if we took a small plastic cup out to my uncle from the kitchen we were rewarded with a frothy creamy drink, which left us with milk moustaches, and then the wheeling of the filled churns using a churn trolley, across the farmyard to the milk stand at the side of the road, which was a raised platform built to the height of the truck bed for easy loading.

The milking took place very early indeed and it wasn't often that we were up early enough to witness the morning milking, with the milk churns being collected by truck about mid morning. One of the highlights of the day was sitting on the churns on the milk stand waiting for the truck to arrive, when the churns would be collected and empty churns left in their place.

When I got back from my walk today I digitally rifled through all my old scanned family photos, mostly deteriorated old slides. I have not really gone through them in any great detail but in the dark recesses of my memory I had a feeling there were some milk churn photos in there somewhere. It turned out there were more than I realised so I decided to share them with you.

This is a poor crop of a larger photo just to show you that I was there with the churn on the churn stand awaiting collection.

This view below is of the farmhouse from the main road showing the milk stand with churns waiting to be collected.

This is the old milking parlour which was in the process of being replaced, hence there is no roof, but the advantage is that it shows the small scale of the operation and the number of cows (there may have been more than one group). The milk is all manhandled at every point, very little automation. My Uncle Dai is seen here carrying smaller churns into the dairy room at the end of the parlour. There is some sort of milking apparatus on the smaller churn.

Here is the new milking parlour and what is interesting if any of you remember the barn raising in the film Witness where the Amish farmers all come together to build it, is that this is what you see here on a much smaller scale. It's how things were done back then, my Uncle Dai is building the new structure with the help of two neighbours. The small room on the end is the dairy.

Here showing the finished milking parlour is a shot of Uncle Dai taking the two empty churns back to the dairy. I think that older car was my Great Grandmothers car, she was a Midwife.

This is Uncle Dai trying out my bike. No matter what he was doing, if we showed up to get in the way, he always had time for us, he was always cheerful, playful and had a great sense of humour, I cannot think of him without his big grin.

Finally, and I can't believe I found this one, an actual shot of the milk man collecting the churns. I think this is such a great shot, and had it not been for my lockdown walk today I would never have come across it. Very happy memories. For my 7th birthday I received a milk truck just like this one it was quite a large model and had white plastic milk churns on the back.

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