MOORE DAIRY MEMORIES
In the spring of 1962 I was in the 8th grade, 13 years old and in search of a summer job. Timing was very poor for me as at that time a young person had to be at least 14 years old to secure a part-time job. However, I found out some way or another that Moore Dairy was in need of an ice cream cart driver. Evidently because this was a "commission only" position, my age did not necessarily preclude me getting the job. And so, my tenure with Moore Dairy began as an ice cream route salesman albeit on a bicycle. The cart had two wheels in front, one in back attached to an enormous and heavy icebox. The box was filled with ice cream bars, pop sickles, pushups, ice cream cups and frozen chocolate malts packed in dry ice. On a level street the cart was manageable, but quite hard to pedal. (I have always attributed my half-mile track successes in high school to pedaling that cart.) My normal route was from 5th and Clark north to 16th Street, east to Linden and back south on Maxwell toward the center of town. This route took me by some of the most densely populated kid neighborhoods in Ames. Sales normally were brisk on a hot day. One of the first afternoons I worked the route, I decided to see how much I could sell down by Carr’s Pool. As I started down the BIG hill, it became readily apparent this decision wasn’t a good one. I engaged the rear brake and left a black rubber trail all the way down the hill. I did have presence of mind to let off the brake several times, but ultimately ended up with 6 or 8 bald spots. The tire had to be replaced and my boss, Lester Scott, was not too pleased with me. I only pushed the ice cream cart back up the south entrance that one time! I tried Carr’s Pool one more time by walking backwards in front of the cart while my buddy steered it down the hill. I discovered I could go back up an easier route using the street to the north of the pool. But it took me far out of my way and sales suffered. Sadly, sales weren’t very good anyway as most swimmers and parents weren’t interested in ice cream, plus the pool was selling snacks, too.
In the fall, at age 14, I was promoted to working behind the long, chest-high ice cream counter after school. I remember running out of the west Central Jr. High building as quickly as the bell sounded to get ahead of the swarm of kids that would head toward the dairy for ice cream cones. The west and north dairy store doors looked like revolving doors right after school was out. And for about an hour the front end was pure bedlam. My biggest fear came when I had to work alone and an adult would come in asking for a 2½-gallon milk dispenser refill. That meant I had to drop what I was doing, leave the counter unattended and go to the back cooler. Bad things could happen when I left the front end unattended. But, we made much more money on milk sales than we did scooping dime and quarter cones, candy and gum. So, milk and bulk ice cream sales came first.
The kids didn’t care that Moore Dairy made its own ice cream. But, Mr. Scott, aka "Scottie," loved to make ice cream. He only made it once or twice a week depending upon the time of year. Ice cream days were very special for dairy employees because normally there was some to sample, if your timing was good. Left over commercial ice cream scraped right off of the mixing paddles is a treat like no other. Homemade ice cream does not hold a candle to it. But beware, on the other hand, that flavored ice cream before it is frozen and cured isn’t worth getting out of your chair for. Customers had lots of ice cream cone choices. Besides the normal vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavors, we offered butter brickle, chocolate chip, butter pecan, cherry nut, chocolate marshmallow and my favorite, lemon custard. There were also always at least three flavors of sherbet. Scottie was very proud of his ice cream and loved to experiment with new flavors from time to time. We normally got to taste those as well. The dairy sold its ice cream mainly in half-gallon and gallon paper cartons as I recall. The scooping ice cream was made in three-foot aluminum canisters and allowed to season for a week or so before it could be used.
At age 16, in 1964, I was finally asked to join Ed Telkamp, Scottie and two other full timers in the milk production part of the business. I was happy that Mr. Scott told me to come to work in the late mornings and early afternoons when cleanup began. Otherwise, they started at 2 a.m. and I didn’t want those hours at all! I remember distinctly three things about milk production. First, fresh, raw milk came in from the country in two ways: in five-gallon, heavy aluminum cans and on tank trucks. (By the way, I believe you can still see evidence of the old loading dock in the rear of the building even today). The cans were very heavy. Secondly, all milk went through a centrifuge. One of my jobs was to clean out the centrifuge’s contents. Let us just say that in those days, without pasteurization, no one should have ever drank raw milk fresh off the farm. Thirdly, in the early 1960s, whole, homogenized, pasteurized glass bottled milk was our best seller with the blue cellophane wrapper. It was followed by pasteurized only in the red wrapper. (You might remember the 2-3" of cream that floated on the top of pasteurized only milk. My mom used that for whipping cream). 2% milk marked in green cellophane was our third best seller. Skim milk in the yellow wrapper was the cheapest and dead last place. We dumped literally hundreds of gallons of skim milk down the drain at the end of every processing day because very few would buy it.
Once a week cottage cheese was made in two large vats. I remember the stainless steel V-shaped vats as being about four feet deep, three feet wide and eight feet long. Cottage cheese is made in a fermenting process. I never knew what the recipe was, but it came from Swea City and was a trade secret. It was very good and I was told that it was used by Anderson-Erickson for many years. I just remember the cottage cheese milk base as very rich and creamy with a saltier taste than other competing products.
Finally, if you worked for Mr. Scott in the dairy and wanted to be accepted as a true dairy processor, you had to drink and learn to enjoy buttermilk. I’m proud to say, even though it took the majority of the three years I worked for Moore Dairy, I did eventually learn to drink and enjoy buttermilk and still enjoy it to this day.