Thursday, May 13, 2010

Adventures in Dairyland

I'm a Wisconsin girl - not born, but raised.  And I still live here.  I think it's in some formal charter somewhere that it's my duty as a Wisconsinite to be interested in dairy ephemera.

No problem there!  Milk caps, unused boxes, dairy coupons - these things all predate me, but not by very long.  I do remember that a few of our neighbors on the street where I grew up were still getting their milk delivered into the mid-Seventies.  They must've cancelled the service after that, though, because I haven't seen a "milk man" since.

How nice must it have been to have dairy delivered right to your door!  And, "Your son looks like the milk man" jokes aside, it seems like it would've been an enjoyable (and respectable!) profession.  If you think back to recent movies that portray a happier, simpler time (like "Pleasantville", one of my favorites!), many of them feature a milk man, who's friendly to everyone he encounters.

What's interesting about my collection of dairy ephemera is that most of it didn't come from around here at all!  I bought nearly all of it online.  You can still find this kind of stuff for pretty cheap on Ebay and Etsy.  There are a couple of "secret" shops online (wholesale) where I find neat items, too.

Take a look at these dairy coupons from the 40s - they're in 1 cent and 5 cent increments!  I know the average household only made $1500 back then but still, it just seems so quaint to see that you could use a coupon for a penny.  I like to imagine traveling back in time to the Forties, with the money I have now.  I'd live on Park Avenue!  I'd spend my nights at the Rainbow Room! I'd sit on the board of major museums!

Okay, back to reality.  So, the book shown here has a total of a dollar's worth of coupons - I wonder how far that would've taken a family?  A week?  Longer?  Seems like it would've been kind of expensive to have these booklets printed up if they would've been used right away, so I'm guessing longer than a day, for sure.

When I look at these coupons, I always wonder if the farm stated on the cover is still in operation, or if it was bought up by some conglomerate in the 70s or 80s. (Update:  I just Googled "Brantjen Farms, and the land was sold for McMansions in a planned community called "The Spirit of Brantjen Farms".  Interesting.).

I love my collection, but I also enjoy working with these little guys in my art.  Here are some of the pieces I've made with dairy items:

I tried to keep the integrity of the caps and coupons so that the viewer could see the great graphics on these wonderful items.  I LOVE that cow, and even though it's technically not a dairy product, it came from a dairy and I think the orange graphic is fantastic.

I haven't bought any dairy items for a while, but I'm sure some more will pop up sometime.  Isn't that what having a "collection" is all about?  :D


  1. Wonderful pieces, Mel. And I love your stories and thoughts behind them. I remember milk delivery, paper milk bottle caps, and the sound of the bottles clanking together. We could learn a lot from that era.

  2. One of my favorite ATCs from you is the map of Wisconsin with the little plastic cheese wedges :D I remember reading that the tradition of home-delivered milk is being revived with glass bottles and all (for a price, I'm sure)

  3. Thanks for your nice comments, Frank and Carolyn! :D

    I think milk delivery would be wonderful but like you said, Carolyn - I'm sure it probably costs a FORTUNE. It's funny how something so commonplace 50 years ago is coming back as "fancy-schmancy". :D