Milkmen of yesteryear

SEVERAL days ago I fell into a generation gap. I try not to fall into them more than once a week, but sometimes I run over. I was talking to a 10-year-old friend about my father. In the conversation I said, ``His best friend was a milkman.''

``A what?'' said the youngster.

``A milkman,'' I answered matter-of-factly.

``What was he? Made out of milk?''

This kid seemed a bit stupid. ``No,'' I said flatly. ``He delivered milk. Also butter and eggs. Like the iceman delivered ice!''

The kid's eyes glazed over. ``People carried milk and eggs and ice around? For what?''

Evidently this is what happens. Whole pieces of social planking drop out of the structure of history. I can remember milkmen clearly. I can even remember they were the last to give up horses for delivery, because going along a street the horse remembered which house to stop at better than the milkman did.

I could see the youngster really didn't know what I was talking about, so I explained. ``People left a note at the door saying how many bottles they wanted.''


``Yes, bottles. Milk came in bottles. The milkman would pick up the empties, put them in the rack he carried, and leave full ones. Then the people would bring them in and take the cream off....''

``Cream? There was a bottle of cream stacked on top of the bottle of milk?''

``No,'' I said patiently. ``The cream was in the milk. The top half of the bottle....''

I could see this was slightly confusing information, so I didn't bother to introduce ragmen to the conversation. Neither did I mention scissor-grinders, who came around fairly often to sharpen our kitchen knives. But I couldn't let him off too easily.

``Later on in the day,'' I said, to give him something to think about, ``the waffleman came by. I could get a crisp, freshly cooked waffle, covered with powdered sugar, for a penny.''

When I left, the kid was talking to a friend and pointing in my direction - probably telling him I was from another planet.

And I guess I was.

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