Winford Elrod used to get up at 4 a.m., milk cows, bottle the milk, load the bottles on a truck, deliver them to homes all over Gainesville, then get back to the dairy in time to milk again.
That was the kind of dairy that operated in Hall County and other parts of Northeast Georgia during the 1940s and '50s.
Dixie Truelove, whose family has operated dairies in Hall County more than half a century, said during that era as many as 50 to 70 dairies were in operation.
Many of them were on Thompson Bridge Road, Elrod remembers. His uncle, Deward
Elrod, was one of those dairymen.
Winford graduated from River Bend High School in 1940 and joined his uncle in the business.
People's Dairy was located where Lakewood Baptist Church is today. It ran a herd of about 100 cows, milking about 80 of them at a time. Dairying was and is a seven-day-a-week job.
Milking machines already were in use, so Elrod and his co-workers didn't have to milk by hand unless there was a power failure. "Then you were out of luck," he said. "It took nearly all day, but we got them milked somehow."
He remembers once during a snowstorm power was out for about three days, but they got their milk delivered, putting chains on their truck tires.
Seldom ever did they miss their customers, Elrod said. "We got it delivered some way or another."
People's had two trucks that would take milk to residential areas all over Gainesville, New Holland, Gainesville Mill, Chicopee and other sections.
Customers had standing orders for so much milk every day or every other day, or they would leave a note in their empty bottles on their doorsteps to let the milkman know. Milk at that time cost 35 to 40 cents a quart.
Other dairies operating up the Thompson Bridge Road corridor at the time included John Allison, Howard Pinson's, Ernest Pinson, Sam Holcomb, north of Thompson Bridge where Holcomb's Mill and store once operated, and Charlie Hall.
Numerous other dairies milked cows at locations over the county, including Clark Jones at Flowery Branch and Ray Haynes on Clarks Bridge Road.
The Elrods sold their dairy to Delmar Lee and Floyd Smith, and Winford became the first employee for Pure Milk Co., which Charlie Hall started on Main Street across from the former Hall County Detention Center. Now 85, he retired in 1988 after 30 years.
The dairy business is vastly different today, says Dixie Truelove, whose family runs one of only three remaining dairies in Hall County. The other two are Donald Oliver and sons at Skitt Mountain, and Harry and Jason Allison on Clarks Bridge Road.
Two dairies remain in White County, one owned by Scott Glover, and the other by Jerry Holbrook.
Truelove said in the old days, there was less emphasis on sanitation, which is tightly controlled today. Like others, the business is more computerized, and records are very detailed. A cow's family history reaches far back in time, and dairy farmers can tell how much milk each cow in their herd is giving.
Milking machines have been updated, too. They automatically shut off when a cow has given all her milk. In the past, workers had to keep a closer eye on their cows to take the milkers off when they were through.
Dairies don't bottle their own milk today, but sell it to producers. The Trueloves' dairy, for example, goes to producers in Maryland and Virginia. However, it could end up at Mayfield Dairies, which processes milk in Gwinnett County, or in your local Kroger or Publix supermarket.
The Trueloves milk about 150 cows twice a day. They haven't lost power to the extent they would have to milk that many cows by hand because they have back-up generators.
"Besides," says Truelove, "Jackson Electric promises their power won't go off."
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times, and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle, N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays in The Times and on gainesvilletimes.com.