Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, August 16, 2015, pg. 12

Many of our older Albion residents may remember the GEM Dairy, an acronym for Glenn E. Mills, the owner. This dairy was located at 412 N. Berrien St. behind the Washington Gardner High School across the street from Union Steel Products. In later years the building became location of the Pyramid Pattern Company. The GEM Dairy was one of several dairies in the Albion area which produced and delivered milk to area residents in the 1930s and 1940s. Milk would be delivered to the doorstep of customers by the various dairies, and their bottles had their names on them. Albion dairy bottles make great collectible items.

The GEM Dairy processed the milk that was delivered to it from area farmers, and also operated a popular retail dairy bar. Many young people went there after school for ice cream or a soda, and it was a popular "hang out" location.

In the summer of 1941, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation sponsored a three-month fellowship to study the so-called Quality Milk Program in Calhoun County. One of the students, a Hal C. Whittemore from the University of Michigan, was assigned to study the GEM Dairy in Albion. Whittemore subsequently became a prominent architect in southern California, based in Pacific Palisades.

The published findings of Whittemore’s report were not flattering. During this general time period, Albion’s overall milk supply (except the Haven Hills Dairy Farm) had been given a "poor" rating by health officials, and findings were published in the Albion Evening Recorder which stated on September 3, 1941: "The recent inspection by the State and Calhoun County Health Departments show that milk consumed by the City of Albion is not up to the standards prescribed by the two departments."

Regarding the Recorder article, Wittenmore remarked (Pg. 26): "Then the calls from both disturbed citizens and from the plagued dairymen began flooding the newspaper office. The dairymen were disturbed because everything said was true and they had no alibi to give the consumer."

The 1941 report gave the results of Methylene Blue tests and temperature readings of the producer’s milk as it arrived at the GEM Dairy for processing. The producers (farmers) listed who brought the milk to the GEM Dairy to be processed were: Manley, A. Shultz, C. Smith, Kaiser, Loder, F. Radee, M. Allman, and Jim McMann.

Although the 1941 report was not favorable to Albion’s situation, it did include some precious photographs of the GEM Dairy. From our Historical Notebook this week, courtesy of Gerald Dean, we present a 1941 photo of the GEM Dairy, and another photograph of the owner, Glenn Mills, with his brother Ralph on the right. How many of our readers enjoyed going to the GEM Dairy on N. Berrien St?"

1941 GEM Diary (photographs thanks to Gerald Dean)

Owners Glen and Ralph Mills


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