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, June 10, 2001, pg. 2

Members of the Albion High School Class of 1971 (which includes yours truly) will be returning here from across the country on July 28 for our 30th anniversary reunion. No doubt we all have our own memories about growing up in Albion, even from our elementary school years. One memory is paying 15˘ each week at Dalrymple School for daily milk beginning in 1958, our Kindergarten year. At 1:30 p.m. each day, pupils that paid their milk money would sit and sip locally produced milk from a straw out of locally- labeled glass half-pint milk bottles. I think it was the Home Dairy which was just a few blocks away from the school. Those that didn’t pay had to sit and watch. The delivery man would come in with these metal container racks that held the milk bottles, and we would peel off the top label and insert our straw. "Milk" was a daily routine for us. After 1963 our milk came in new cardboard cartons.

There was a time in Albion where we had many area dairies and neighborhood stores which sold locally manufactured or packaged milk, butter, and cottage cheese. Area farmers would bring their milk to town to get processed. The dairies would then deliver the milk to your doorstep, and place it in an insulated container that sat on your porch.

Local Albion glass milk bottles in various sizes were issued by at least these dairies/firms: Albion Dealers (Universal Bottle), Albion Milk Dealers, Coldpack (which also issued tokens with that name and I’m looking for them), Gem Dairy, Gold Top Dairy, Haven Hills Farm, Hearts Desire Dairy, Hicks Dairy, Home Dairy, Humphrey’s Dairy, Kreger Dairy, Riverside Dairy, Starr Commonwealth for Boys, Sun Dawn Farm, and Sweeney. There are probably other Albion ones, too, as there use to be lots of dairies in town.

Not all had bottles made with their names on them, however. Some only had their names printed on the caps. Most of dairies had the names molded into the glass itself, although larger sizes sometimes had the names painted on the side. Bottles came in half-pint, pint, quart, and half-gallon sizes--all glass. There were also cottage cheese containers. Frequently there was a coded date (the last two digits) that would be molded on the bottom, such as "57" for "1957."

As government regulations changed and the U.S. economy moved towards mass production, milk sales shifted towards the "super" markets, and Albion’s small hometown dairies were closed during the 1950s and 1960s. The last dairy processor in Albion was the Home Dairy, located at 101 N. Ann St. and managed by Clifford Foley. It was taken over by the Ashley Dairy of Battle Creek on August 1, 1963. Thus ended local milk processing. Milk was still delivered "the old fashioned" way on porches by the Albion Dairy owned by Joseph Leik (1925-1982) which distributed Sealtest products made in Jackson. That ended in 1970 however, and with it went home milk delivery.

Today, an occasional half-pint bottle may surface in a garage somewhere, full of cobwebs or with an old crusty paint brush laying in it. Those insulated milk containers that used to sit on porches sometimes became newspaper receptacles, or storage boxes in garages. How many of our readers still have old Albion milk bottles?

From our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of a 1951 Gem Dairy pint bottle we borrowed courtesy of Harold Mills. We’ve even put some unexpired milk in the bottle for effect. Harold’s father Glenn Emery Mills (1899-1969) owned and operated the firm. His initials spelled GEM. Mills came to Albion in 1929 and purchased the W. W. Osmun & Son dairy which was located in a barn behind 210 W. Ash St. After a few years Mills moved the dairy to the Market Place next to the chicken hatchery where it operated briefly, and then finally to 412 N. Berrien St. behind the high school where it operated until 1958. Today the former Gem Dairy building houses the Pyramid Pattern Company.

Gem Dairy Bottle


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