Forgotten Crafts: Milkman

Once he was a common sight in every town and city: the milkman with his dogcart filled with milk churns. He would call at each door and fill your cup or pan with fresh, non-pasteurized milk. During hot summers, a white blanket was put over the churns to keep most of the heat out. Nonetheless, the milk was not fit for drinking right out of the churn. It had to be cooked first to kill the germs. Choosing the right milkman was no easy task since many of them tended to dilute the milk with water. In the worst case with not-so-clean water.

In the mid 1900s, a bottle system was introduced. Housewives would leave the empty bottles at the door and the milkman would replace them with new filled ones. Once a week he would come by to collect his money.

By the 1970s the bottles had been replaced with all kind of alternative packaging such as cartons and bags, which contained pasteurized milk fit for direct consumption. By then, the milk could also be bought at the supermarket and the occupation of milkman started to disappear: first in the larger cities and in the 1980s also in the countryside. Some managed to stay in business longer by transforming their milk vans into mini grocery stores. They were called "SRV-man".

Nowadays the SRV-man has also all but disappeared: the Dutch buy everything at the supermarket. However, I still remember the sound of the SRV-van's horn driving through the street and the excitement you felt as a kid in the summer, because maybe –just maybe– mommy would give you a guilder to go get yourself an ice cream.