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Co-op Dairies

by Dick Berry

I left School in 1944, I wanted to be a cabinetmaker, but there wasn't any jobs in that line. So, an acquaintance of my dad's, Arthur Barker, who worked for the Co-op milk got me a job on the milk. My first day there I went out with Arthur and his milk lad Ronnie Mort, their round was up Darcy Lever. On my second day, I had to go out with Johnny Quinlan on a Dandy. A Dandy was a pushcart with racks on where the milk bottles were slotted in.

We started at the bottom of Bridge Street at the Co-op bows street, left the dandy there after filling our hand-bottled carriers, and went off delivering our milk. When we had finished that part we had to push the Dandy up Bridge Street, to St George's Road and deliver in Bath Street, Palace Street, Duke Street, and Poole Street. We carried on up St George's Road to Back Lane in to Back Clarence Street, to Poole Street and then Church Street. From Church Street, we went back to the Dairy to unload the empties, and restock for the second half of the round, which was the full length of Clarence Street and Lyndhurst Street then back to the dairy to unload. That was the round finished except for the kit milk which we had to deliver to the Co-op shops in the town, like the bank in Bow Street and the power plant at the side of the Bank. We also went to the restaurant of the Co-op store in Knowsley Street, there they always had whatever milk was left in the kit and they always treated me to toasted tea-cakes and a mug of tea, I had to leave the empty kit there, so that I could go home. The kit would be picked up by wagon and taken back to the dairy.

After a few days, I started to do the kit milk on my own, so that Johnny could go home because he lived up Tonge Moor But I had to pass the shops anyway when I was going to catch the Deane Tram. My wage was 32/- a week (£1.60).
I had been with Johnny a few Months When he got his Army call up Papers, so a man out of the dairy called Ronnie Carter came on the round and I worked with him for a few weeks before I was sent on a horse and cart with George Davis who's lad had taken Ronnie's place in the dairy. George lived near the top of High Street When we started the round in the morning we came out of the dairy and went up Charles Street which was facing the Dairy gates. Along Hulme Street into Deane Street, then Cross Street, delivering milk all the way. Then we cut through into Turton Street and Knowsleys' mill canteen. From there we came to the bottom of Turton Street, and into the bottom of Waterloo Street, cut into Derbyshire Street and carried on into George Arthur Street. Part way up George Arthur Street was a Pig bin and while we were delivering our milk Jerry, our horse would go to the Pig bin take the lid off and help himself to bread crust he found there.

Near the top end of the street, a lady always came to the door with bread crust for Jerry, But if she wasn't quick enough Jerry would press down the latch with his nose and pushed the door open with his head.

By now the cart was more or less empty, and we went back to the dairy to unload the empties and reload with more milk, and headed off up Kay Street for the second part of the round, Which was up Blackburn Road, round 'Back' o'th Bank Area.

Saturday was our checking day. Collecting money and giving out the checks, and particular Saturday we had a different horse because it was Jerry's rest day, And the horse, we had normally worked on Albert Pasquills round and was used to finishing at the same time as the mill buzzer sounded at mid day. (in those days the mills always worked on Saturday mornings). We were collecting money, probably in someone's house when the buzzer sounded. We came out to find horse and cart had gone, he had taken himself back to the dairy and George had to run all the way back to bring him out again, so we were very much later finishing that day.

In the winter, I can remember trying to walk down Chalfont Street in the snow, and looking as if I was on stilts with the compacted snow on the bottom of my clogs. I had to keep stopping to kick the snow pads off. The horse had special studs screwed into his shoes, so that he could keep his footing on the ice. When we had finished our round and got back to the dairy, we unloaded the empties, and if we had any broken full ones we had to book them in or else we would have been charged for them. The horse was taken out of the shafts and George would take him across to the stables, were he would groom and feed him. My job was to take the horse blanket to the drying room and hang it up.

The smell in there would bring tears to your eyes. When we were wet through and cold we used to hang about in there but we couldn't stand it for long, the smell took your breath away. I enjoyed my time with the Co-op milk but it was a cruel job in the Winter.