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Got Milk? (1970s)

Welcome back, Monroe history lovers. This week’s history will take us about the east side of town and beyond. As you’re aware, I spend a great deal of time researching, compiling, and presenting Monroe history, but sometimes I just get caught up in my own historic memories of Monroe. I guess I’m old enough now to justify that. So, this week I’m going to reminisce a bit and share a fond memory from my youth. I sense that many of you may have a similar memory of your own and I invite you to share it by leaving a comment.

Some time back in the mid-1970s, and typically on a Sunday evening, a silent alarm was sounded in our home. An alarm that was usually triggered innocently enough by the simple opening of the refrigerator door. WE’RE OUT OF MILK!! What were we to do in the morning?! What would we pour on our cereal! Would Dad have to drink his coffee black?! You folks of a certain age will remember that due to Connecticut’s Blue Laws, all the stores were closed on Sundays, that is until 1979 when the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that closing stores on Sundays was unconstitutional.

Once the initial panic died down, my dad was called to duty. His mission? Find a milk machine, and don’t come home until you do! So, off we went in his contractor’s van, his pockets jingling with change and a lit Camel cigarette hanging from his lip. There was little discussion as I recall. The tension in the van was palpable. We lived in the southeast corner of Monroe, so we headed over to the machines at Ligouri’s Drive-In (Bill’s Drive-In today). If the machines paid out, we were home before the Camel burned down to its filter. But, if the machines were empty, and often times they were, we enacted Plan B.

This is when it started getting intense. We never headed west to Stepney. Instead, we headed for the border. Several miles of back roads later, we were in Shelton standing at a machine on Walnut Tree Hill Road near Thompson Street. If we were lucky, we’d score at least a quart, enough to get us through the morning until Mom could properly replenish our supply. But, in the grave event of another strikeout, which did happen on occasion, we set our course toward Huntington Turnpike and on to a milk machine down in Nichols.

As best I can recall, that’s the furthest we ever drove to find a milk machine that would pay out, but who knew how far Dad would have driven to not return home empty handed in shame. By that point we were just a mile north of the Stratford town line! Although it was stressful at the time, it’s a fond and funny memory now, and something the kids of today could never imagine let alone experience. Today they could order their milk on their phones, and have it lowered to their kitchen table by a drone.

I miss those happy little milk machines with their lit MILK sign shining like a beacon in the distance. And once you arrived and approached one in hopeful anticipation, well, they almost seemed alive. There was always a gentle humming sound in the air, no doubt a refrigerator compressor. Then came the ceremonial offering of the coins, each one plinking its way through the internal mechanisms and down into the coin box. Then, if the milk gods were smiling upon us, there was a short buzz followed by a dull thud. That glorious thud was the sound of a wax coated carboard carton of milk dropping into the bin below. Jackpot! Dad then victoriously lifted the door and collected his prize. Then it was back to the van where he lit up another celebratory Camel and we headed home. Mission Accomplished!

Thank you for indulging me this week with my reminiscing. With the crazy fast-paced world we live in today, sometimes it’s nice to escape by reflecting back to a simpler time. Please share this post with your family and friends, and as always, thank you for your continued support and interest in Monroe’s dairy-rich history. Now, it’s your turn. Where did you folks over in Stepney and beyond go for your emergency milk runs on Sunday evenings? Until next time. Whole or Skim? It doesn’t matter, Just don’t come home without it.


Kevin Daly
Historian, Monroe Historical Society
Our Past is Always Present

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