By Barb Matthies
If you are 70 years of age or older you probably remember having your milk and cream delivered to your door each day by the local dairy. Mom or dad would place the right amount of change into the empty reusable bottles each night or early morning and place them on the porch for the milkman to exchange for full bottles.
The milk wagon was pulled up the street by a horse, Patty, Bess or Molly, whatever names their owner and master had given them. They didn’t have to be reined or told when to move along as they knew exactly when to start, when to stop and wait, and when to move on to the next homes. The milkman would return the empty quarts, pints or half pints in his metal carrier, which held six bottles, to the wagon, filling it again, and continue to go door to door with a good morning or how are you to-day to his faithful customers.
The children on their walk to school would always stop to pet Patty or Bess and often would end up feeding the horse the apples intended for their recess lunch.
Tavistock had such a milk business C. C. Matthies was embossed in the glass bottles. Charles Conrad
Matthies started his milk business in 1915 by going to a neighbouring farm and bringing milk to his family home at 61 Woodstock Street South, where patrons would bring their own containers to be filled.
In 1916 he bought Josiah Rudy’s milk business known as Silver Creek Dairy. He, also, bought a seventeen acre farm on Lot 34 & 35, Concession 12 of East Zorra Township (Highway 59) from Kaspar Kaufman, and lived and ran the C.C. Matthies Dairy from there. The building still stands on this property.
In 1942 Charles bought the farm across the road from Minnie Wettlaufer and built a new dairy barn and drive shed. Mr. Matthies had one of the finest herds of Ayrshire cattle in Ontario and if you visited the large new barn it was most evident by the rows of sleek animals stabled there, 26 cows-24 Ayrshires, one Jersey and one Holstein.
Pasteurization equipment was installed in the dairy building and that is when it took on the new name “Robleen Farms Dairy” named after his son Robert and daughter Eileen hence “Robleen”. A new bottle was made with the writing “Robleen Farms Dairy” on one side and a picture of a frolicking calf and a rhyme on the other side saying “O Boy Do I Feel Fine Try Robleen Milk I Just Had Mine”
Charles would employ some of the town teenage boys as well as his daughter Eileen, to help with the milk delivery on Saturdays and in the summer holidays.
In 1946 Charles sold the business to Henry and Harold Neeb who also bought out the milk business of Gordon L. Ratz who had been in the milk business as well for twenty years combining the two into one. The business was still run from the Matthies Dairy and was renamed The Tavistock Dairy.
In 1949 Mahlon Leis purchased the business from the Neebs. Mahlon and the Neebs still used the horse and milk wagon for a few years before Mahlon changed to a milk truck for deliveries. Mahlon continued to run the operation from the farm until 1963 when he built a new dairy at 101 Hendershott Street in Tavistock. In the coming years due to the changing market and products such as Jugs, ½ gallon, and juices the small dairy was no longer competitive. In 1966 he started a franchise out of Oxford Dairies in Woodstock offering a complete line of products. Tokens could be used for payment. Mahlon operated the franchise until 1974 when he sold out to Oxford Dairies which later became Beatrice Foods. Mahlon stayed in the milk business joining Maple Lane Dairies in Stratford a subsidiary of Beatrice Foods managing that plant until 1983 when he was transferred to the Company main plant in Kitchener until his retirement in 1987.
The Matthies barn and drive shed still stand on the property west of Tavistock.
Oh for that time years ago when our lives were so much more laid back that we took time to chat with our neighbours and stop to talk to the people on the street, instead of rushing in and out of the super market or corner store to quickly purchase our needs.
Fact and Fantasy – The Tavistock Dairy –page 130. Has more back ground to the local dairy industry.
Acknowledgement- Tavistock Gazette