Jumping the Milk TruckApril 28, 2011

On winter mornings before school Mickey Goolsby and I jumped the milk truck. It was a squarish, van-looking vehicle, custom built with no back. It was just open, and had long pipe handles on each side and across the top so we could hold on. Milk and cream were delivered house to house in glass bottles – quarts and pints.

Milk Truck

Drawing by Allen Polt

The driver was a brawny – looking guy named Homer who barked orders at us like he was overpaid. “House on the right – three quarts, one cream,” he’d shout. And if he thought we weren’t running fast enough he’d go into instant sensory overload. “Did you stop for lunch, or what?”

Anyway, we’d grab whatever order Homer said, step backwards off the truck running and head for the rear of the house. No one locked their doors, so for some customers we’d just run into the kitchen and put the milk in the icebox, grab the empties and head full speed back to the truck. Some customers would leave a cookie or candy bar on the table for us to snatch on our way out.

Homer never stopped rolling and we never stopped running, except to grab more milk and head out again. Dodging cars as they whizzed by was part of the thrill. We didn’t care. It was a pride thing.

A few people had refrigerators by then – 1945, as I recall – and every kitchen was different. They weren’t always used for just cooking. Sometimes the lady of the house would be preparing breakfast or something and standing there with nothing on but her foundation garments. We’d run in and run out, yelling “hi” on the way by, pretending not to notice. It happened so fast most of them didn’t have time to blush.

In a day when the word “cool” was only used to describe the weather, Mickey and I knew what cool really was. Cool was jumping the milk truck and all the girls in high school knew it. I was just fifteen, but I could carry four quart – bottles, two in each hand, without using the rack. It seemed we never stopped running and we were in great physical shape for football, basketball, and track after school.

Sixty-five years later Mickey remains a good friend and we reminisce and grin about some of the things that happened back then, like the delivery I made to a certain elderly spinster lady customer. The first day I ran in she was ironing something on the kitchen table with nothing on but a pair of dangling earrings and some rouge. That was long before looking at naked people became fashionable. I thought she was going to faint when she saw me. I just put the milk down and ran out as fast as I could. As I jumped off of the porch there was a loud bang. I didn’t know if it was her falling or the screen slamming. I never saw her again so maybe she started ironing in the pantry.

Mickey and me

Mickey and me

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