June 24, 2013

Milkman Alley

Milkman Alley
By John R. Greenwood

The alley now called Lena Lane.
 Every Friday for over a decade my work day ended with this view--my vintage milk truck parked between Hattie’s on the left, and Mother Goldsmith’s on the right, facing Palmetto’s and the shoe repair shop across the street. The smell of fresh buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken coming from Hatties. The sound of clinking manhattans and gin and tonics coming from the crowded dining room of Mother’s. They are both firmly ingrained in my memory. Squeaky screen doors slamming in the August heat were the alley symphony heard throughout the city. This alley now closed to traffic holds a special place in my heart. I will share one particular story that is dear to me and one I love to share. 

Looking through the screen door at Hattie's today
 looks pretty much as it did 25 years ago.
On many days my boys would ride with me on my route. It would give mom a welcome rest and the boys loved riding around the city with me. On this particular day I had my oldest with me. He was probably about nine or ten at the time. He was a big help and everyone was used to seeing him with me. I would park in the alley and go in the kitchen to get the order. I would come back out hand it to my son. He would pick the order while I went to the next stop and got their order. I came out the back door of Mother Goldsmiths one day and there was a familiar face standing at the back of my truck, arms outstretched, with my son filling them with pints of chocolate milk. His name was Joe and he worked for the city. He was a jokester, a buster, an instigator, and a good friend. We had known each other from our many mornings having coffee at the counters of various diners over the years. When I asked my son what he was doing, he looked at me and proudly answered, “He says you give him all the chocolate milk he wants for free.” They were both grinning from ear to ear. Joe with his arms full of chocolate milk. My son feeling like he just earned a raise for taking care of business all by himself. In the years long after I had gotten out of the milk business, Joe and I would occasionally cross paths. We would always reminisce about that day in the alley. It would never fail to have us smiling and sharing tales about the good old days. 

The chocolate milk truck as it looks today

I spent a recent Saturday walking the streets and alleys of Saratoga. It was early morning, milkman hours, and it brought back dozens of similar type memories. It was hard work and I loved the experience. I can’t say I miss the seven day work weeks or the 45 stops I would do on an August Friday. I do miss the friendships and the taste of life being a old fashioned milkman provided. 


  1. Wonderful story about a way of life long gone. I live 2 blocks from this alley, and remember many of the things you write about. Thanks for reviving old memories.

  2. Oh my goodness, does this take me back. I remember walking to school in the morning, so lonely and longing for a home that the sight of picket fences and milk bottles sitting on the porches made me cry. I love your photos and LOVE that Hattie's remains unchanged. And wow, look at your old truck! Totally loved this walk down memory lane with you, my friend.

  3. I remember having a milkman when I was first married, back ion the early '70's. Milk in a glass container was better tasting.

    Your alley photo is outstanding. I hope readers click on it to enlarge it.

  4. Close my eyes and I can hear the squeaking brakes too.