Drivers from the left: Ern Ferris, Not Known, Norman Rossiter, Arthur Catchlove, Dave Spink, Stanley Whitehead (son), Reginald Whitehead (Owner), Harold Nash, John Black, Not Known, Ike Friday (daughter), Tom Friday (father). (supplied by Ivan Rossiter)
I first started to work for Whiteheads dairies for extra pocket money, the dairy was situated in Munsgore Lane about halfway between Borden school and Oad Street I was about thirteen and even though mum and dad gave me pocket money I was always told that if I wanted something then I had to work for it! So I asked our local milkman Dave Spinks if he needed a hand on the weekends and school holidays, and that’s how it all started.
I first had to apply for a work pass to prove my age and also so that I did not do too many hours (not that it was ever checked by any Government official) but I had it and so all was above board. We had a large milk run starting at Borden School then into the Village and Mount View Estate and on into the full length of Borden lane, then returning back up Borden lane and into Hearts Delight and through via Wrens rd to Bredgar. We then turned left into Primrose lane down past the construction site of the M2 and halfway down Primrose Lane and turned around by the cottages on the right, there’s a left hand bend in the road and headed back up through the Village and turned down Bexon Lane that runs by the side of Bredgar church.
We then followed the full length of Bexon Lane down the hill and turned right at the bottom onto Bottom Pond Road that eventually leads to Wormshill up as far as “The Blacksmiths Arms” and then back down the Village and turned left at the church and headed towards Bicknor . Bicknor was our last delivery point so we would stop in a layby and do the books and then head back to the dairy via Oad Street.
On a good day it would take about eight hours but on collection day or a bad weather day it could take anything up to ten to twelve hours.
My mum and Dave went to school together so mum did not worry about Dave and people trusted people then, so off I would go with a packed lunch that I or mum had done the night before and set of about four thirty in the morning to find Dave up in the Village somewhere .
Spring and Summer was obviously the best time to be out and about in the early mornings when the sun is not even up and you can watch the birth of a brand new day, I personally think that this is the best time of day and always have done there’s just something about that time of the day that is just perfect and seems to put life into some sort of perspective. The birds would be waking up and animals on the move some waking up and some going to sleep,
While Dave would be driving the van I would be sorting out what was wanted for the next drops and by the time we got there all would be sorted out and we would both jump out the van hand crates in our hands and Dave would do the right hand side of the road and I would do the left , returning with whatever empty bottles we had and once again he would drive and I would empty the hand crates into the bigger crates and also move the full crates of milk forward so that it would be easier to get to the milk . There were several varieties of milk as in ordinary pasteurized (Silver Top) Channel island extra creamy (Gold Top) and a special milk that was in a taller bottle that had a bottle cap to it that had to be taken off with a bottle opener, the milk in these bottles looked and tasted like Carnation milk and could well have been the same. We sold milk in one pint bottle and half pint bottles and also Orange Juice in quarter pint bottles.
Spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb so they say, and they are not wrong there as in the start of spring you can still get some very cold winds blowing and that can be very uncomfortable when you are carrying wet milk bottle in your hands as the cold and the wet will tend to make the skin on your fingers crack open so we would try to stop this by wearing fingerless gloves but it didn’t seem to help too much and many a time I have gone home with very cracked and open fingers, but spring turns to summer and the better weather and also the birth of different animals and the fruit starts to come through so it’s really the best time of the year . I remember quite clearly on one spring morning we saw a ewe in a bit of distress so we stopped to see if we could help the shepherd in the delivery of the lambs and he was more than grateful for our assistance and a drink of orange juice was had by all to celebrate the birth of the twins, so somewhere out there that year were a couple of lambs named Dave & Roger.
You could never go hungry in spring, summer or even autumn come to think of it, because there was always something that you could eat in the fruit side of things as in Cherry’s, apples ,pears ,plums ,wild blackberries and damsons, no wonder Kent was called “The Garden of England “ and the smell of hops being pulled and dried in the Oast Houses was again just the best smell that could get up the nose, there is definitely something about the smells in the country that tells me everything is fresh and wholesome especially after a good summer rain. And of course working on the milk run you were never without something to drink, my preference was milk and not the orange juice.
You had your different characters that you delivered milk too and the first one I can recall was the lady that used to run the kitchen that was on the site of the M2 at Bredgar. We called in there one to drop of milk and two to get something to eat I would knock on the back door and she would open it and there was this large motherly woman all bosom and hips standing there with her hands on her hips and after she had sorted out the payment for the milk for the week she would say “what would you like to eat today! Mouse trap roll (cheese roll) and a custard tart” she would put them in a bag without me even saying anything (didn’t matter if I liked cheese or custard) you got it; I can still taste that cheese roll to this day. There was another women that I can recall who we used to call “ the Beauty Queen of Wormshill” what a nice lady she was, a sandwich short of a picnic I think but harmless as the day is long and God certainly did not grace her with good looks at all, she lived in the house on bottom Pond road where it splits to go up to Wormshill in a large rundown house with an unkempt garden, she would see us coming up the road and walk out to collect her milk and give you a large grin and a smile and all you could see was a line of broken and bad teeth and I don’t think she had ever washed or changed her clothes from one day to the next ,and we would say “how are you today Queenie” and again that big grin would shine through or she would just laugh and shrug her shoulders . Farther up the road and into the village of Wormshill there was a lady that lived opposite the pub “The Blacksmiths Arms” and she had a dog that no matter who went around to deliver the milk it would go for you, we used to take it in turns to do the delivery so I said to Dave this particular morning that I would go and also fix the dog’s little red wagon to stop him from having a go at us. He looked at me a bit puzzled and I asked him for the twelve bottle hand crate and put four full bottles in the middle of it even though she only wanted two bottles each day, yes I thought nicely balanced. I then proceeded to open the gate and walk up the path and around to the back door and if my timing was right it would stop the dog, my timing was perfect just as I reached the corner of the house to turn left I swung the crate down and the dog hit the corner at exactly the same time and wallop straight on the snout and down he went like a sack of potatoes ,he looked up shook himself and never bothered anybody again when they entered the property, Dave just stood there stunned and laughed like a drain for the rest of the day . For those that are worried about the dog he was OK not a mark on him and we became the best of buddies and he was always pleased to see me but always gave the hand crate a wide berth for some reason.
As we left Wormshill and drove towards Bicknor we would call into the Colonel, s place, a large country house on the right as you leave wormshill and he was a typical Colonel always in his gaiters and sports coat and spoke very similar to the character out of the TV show Bootsy and Snudge (Bill Fraser). He mumbled constantly and very hard to understand as in “morning boy (cough) nice day for it eh”, as far as I was concerned any day was a nice day for it whatever IT was. Moving on to Bicknor and as you leave the village on the right hand side a gentleman was restoring the Manor House and I never ever got to see the end product or in fact whether he did eventually finish the project , so if anybody has a picture of the finished Manor House it would be nice to see it.
Autumn and winter would have to have been the worst season to do a milk run. The trees start to drop their leaves and the wind can be very chilling, the leaves make the roads very slippery and when you are cold and a twig springs back and clips your ear it can be very painful and as I mentioned before the fingers cop a bit of a beating and of course you have the snow. I remember the winter of 1963/4 and it snowed very hard that year we had snowdrifts that were up to six foot deep and on several occasions had to be pulled out by tractor and it was so cold we would stop the van and get out and kick the tires to try and get some warmth back into our cold feet. The fields had a fence about ten foot inside the edge of the field this was put there to try and stop the snow from blowing onto the road and blocking the road, the fence would be positioned as to which way the wind blew if the road was facing west and a northerly wind was blowing then the snow would hit the fence first and build up there instead of blowing into the road way, needless to say it did not always work as in 1963.
Winter would play havoc with the milk as it would be so cold it would expand in the bottle and pop the foil top and then the milk would freeze and start to come out of the top of the bottle, I have seen it out by about three inches on many occasions, and the birds would also peck the foil tops as soon as you put the milk on the doorstep so that they could get a drink of milk, there is nothing cuter than seeing either a Robin or Bluetit sitting on a bottle of milk having a drink.
Christmas time was always the best time for tips from the customers not that that was the only time that you got tips, you got them every week not from all the customers but you always had the customer that needed two or three bob change and you would rummage around in your money bag trying to find the correct change until they would say” keep the change” and then you would look up in surprise and smile, dip your lid and say “thank you have a good day “and walk of thinking that you had done well. We would split the difference on tips and Dave would pay me what we had arranged as payment for the day it was usually the same each week, mind you there were some days that we really earned our keep as in it would rain all day and you would go home soaked to the skin or so cold all you wanted was a hot bath and a hot cup of cocoa or soup so that you could get warm. But on the whole it was a great job and gave me a good insight to how things got done as in if things are not done in an orderly fashion and planned then anything can go wrong.
I sincerely thank Dave for all his guidance during my time with him; sadly I understand that he has passed away, we had some great times together and it was a pleasure to know the man he had a great sense of Humor and work ethics and nothing was too much trouble for him if you needed a hand he was always there.
Written in memory of Dave Spinks milkman for Whiteheads dairies. Rest in peace Dave. Regards Roger Martin