Eugene McLaren, February 12, 2016

Title

Eugene McLaren, February 12, 2016

Subject

Wagar Brothers' Dairy
Dairy Farming
Ice Cream
Troy, NY
Milk Delivery
Upstate NY
Wagar Family

Description

Eugene McLaren recounts his years working at the Wagar Brothers’ Dairy ice cream bar from the late 1930s to 1941. He also discusses his job as a milk boy for Miller's Dairy. McLaren delivered milk around Troy, New York.

Creator

Carly Faison

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Date

20016-02-12

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.8mB
audio/mpeg
12.4mB
image/jpeg
2.2mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

16-019

Coverage

Upstate New York
1924-2016
Poestenkill, NY

Interviewer

Carly Faison

Interviewee

Eugene McLaren

Location

194 Davitt Lake Rd
Poestenkill, NY

Transcription

EM: Eugene McLaren

CF: Carly Faison

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

EM: Born in Troy, New York in 1924. I grew up early life on the east side of Troy and when I was about 6/7 years old, we moved to Brunswick on Spring Ave. road east of Troy.

How he came to work at Wagar Brothers’ Dairy:

[TRACK 1, 00:43] Lived next to a farm, started working there. Freshman in high school started peddling milk for farm. Passed law in NYS in 1930s that milk had to be pasteurized. Millers’ Farm started utilizing larger pasteurizing plant, which was Wagar Brothers’ Dairy. All local farmers brought their milk to Wagar Brothers’. They had more cream than they needed to sell so they started an ice cream bar, a popular thing to do in the mid 1930s.

[TRACK 1, 2:43] My brother Edward was peddling work for Wagar Brothers and I was peddling for Millers’ Dairy so we both had that connection. We both were recruited to start dipping ice cream. “We were there the first night and continued on doing it basically during our high school years-evenings-during the summers.”
[TRACK 1, 3:16]

CF: Can you explain what you did at the ice cream shop?

EM: “Basically what we did is dip ice cream. They didn’t open up during the day then because they were all busy with their regular farm work and dairy work and everything. Around 5/6 o’clock in the late afternoon they would open it. My brother and all the people dipping the ice cream would show up then and start serving the customers. They were out in back making ice cream and doing all the other things, filling the cans, taking them out of the freezer… I’d do some of that occasionally but not too much. It was a very busy time, during those late 1930s it was very popular a lot of people would take a ride in the country during the evening. I remember lines during the hot weather. We had about four or five serving windows, each window was lined all the way from the booth back to the road. We’d keep very busy, we did a lot of sweating and working.”

Peddled milk in the morning before school.

“Weekends I used to take a ride over the gravel roads and take a midnight swim. That was basically our ice dipping routine.”

[TRACK 1, 5:45]
EM: Didn’t peddle for Wagar’s but I was up at Wagar’s every day because that was where we picked up the pasteurized milk, took out the cans of milk from the cows and poured it into the big scale for milk so they know how much they got and keep a record of how much was pasteurized. But then they would do the pasteurization bottling and the next morning I’d go off and pick up the cases of milk for delivery down in Troy.

CF: Can you describe what the ice cream shop looked like?

[TRACK 1, 6:00]
EM: “Built on as an addition to the pasteurization plant, which was in the back away from the road. They had the platform where trucks drove in and poured their forty quart cans of milk into the scale and they weighed it. On the west side of that they had a garage bay where the trucks could back in and load up the bottled milk. Then they had the milk pasteurization bottling equipment in that space which is presently right behind the addition which was built for the ice cream. The ice cream which you see today was basically an addition to the old pasteurization bottling plant.” Then there was an office where you went in and signed the papers saying how much milk you brought in.

[TRACK 1, 7:38] process for buying ice cream

EM: Right behind the shop is where they made the ice cream and stored it. We went into the deep freeze to get the containers of ice cream out. We had probably half the flavors that they do today and we had to keep them all full. We had the screen windows on and we tried to keep them closed to keep the flies out. We kept them closed when we talked to the people. They just lined up in four or five lines depending how many windows we had open. We served them one at a time. Took the money and gave them their cones and went on to the next customer. It’s a busy time.

[TRACK 1, 9:00]
EM: After buying ice cream most customers would walk around the area, the only house close by was Will Wagar’s, he lived right there and supervised the ice cream thing. “There were no other houses around, it was just open space. People would walk around and eat their ice cream there. A few of them would take it in their cars and head off. There’s always a good crowd of people around.”

CF: Who did you work with?

EM: Worked with around 3-4 people serving at a time. My brother and I, Warren, and I forget who else.

“Over a thousand days in a row I peddled milk in the morning before school without missing a day. Not one day out of school in a thousand days. People don’t understand that these days.”

[TRACK 1, 11:16]
EM: I had a first period pass in school so I didn’t have to be in school until a quarter after nine. Fifty cents a day I got paid.

CF: Do you remember how much you got paid at the ice cream shop?

EM: Oh, I don’t. It’s the same order of magnitude I think.

CF: Can you talk about the ice cream that you sold?

EM: “The popular ones are still the popular ones: chocolate, vanilla, vanilla-chocolate mix, orange pineapple was a high favorite, butter pecan was a big favorite, coffee was a fairly large favorite. They had some odd ones like blueberry and pineapple occasionally and things like that. Things I remember popular are those normal ones. Rum raisin was a popular one. They had other odd ones off and on at different times I just don’t remember them all.”

[TRACK 1, 12:45]

CF: What was your favorite?

EM: I liked orange pineapple and butter pecan. I used to eat a lot of it then.

CF: How did you sell the ice cream?

EM: We had basically all cones and we had some cups if people didn’t really want a cone. They had big scoops, bigger than they have today. I think it was 6 cents a scoop for one big scoop, then 2 big scoops is 12 cents.”

CF: Who made the ice cream?

EM: I think Will Wagar. Sy Wagar was one of the partners but he managed the farm, corn, oats, stuff they grew then. Explains where Sy’s house is. Sy’s wife Polly used to sit at the window with a parrot. Lester Schulman helped with the ice cream making quite a bit. Ben Pinney was in charge of the dairy operation, pasteurization and bottling of the milk.

[TRACK 1, 15:06]

CF: Any particular memories of the ice cream shop that stand out?

EM: The actually operation of working hard and hot and sweaty. Didn’t have air conditioning in those days. What stands out is the end of it, going to have a swim at the lake. Otherwise it was pretty routine. No major incidents that I know. Nobody getting sick.

CF: Who were your customers?

EM: Customers came from all over the area. They came from the outlying towns of Brunswick, Poestenkill, Wyanskill, a lot from the city of Troy actually. I was surprised how many people came from what distances. Partly they came because they wanted a ride in the country. More from the city of course because they had a bigger population, but also a lot of country people, farmers. “It was a pretty general attraction from the whole area.”

[TRACK 1, 17:00]
CF: Was there a lot of repeat customers?

EM: Oh yeah, we’d get to recognize a few of them they’d be there so often. I don’t remember names. “I remember recognizing that come up to the window. You knew ahead of time what they’re going to order. Oh yeah, there’s a butter pecan customer coming up.”

EM: I don’t really remember any customer service problems, only minor problems like somebody dropped their ice cream.

CF: Can you describe your relationship with Warren? How long have you known him?

[TRACK 1, 18:46]

EM: Oh I’ve known Warren since we’re both kids. Dipped ice cream together. We were in the same class. He liked to brag he was the youngest kid in class and that surprised me because I thought I was. We graduated and took a trip to Boston together, did things like that. And the alumni events we planned, class of 1941. We worked together doing that.

[TRACK 1, 20:07]

CF: How long did you work at the ice cream shop for?

EM: Probably I worked there from the time it was opened until I got out of high school, which was 1941. After that I went to the army and left this area. I went around the world with the army and went through Teachers’ College in Albany. After that I went to Switzerland for a year to do graduate work. Then I went to Albany for a year. Got my doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis. Did geochemical research work in Oklahoma. Finally I came back to Albany in 1960. I was the head of the Science/Math areas at the Teachers’ College. Sue and I bought this house in 1960 and lived here ever since.

CF: That’s around the time Moxie’s opened?

EM: I guess. Moxie did a few things first. He’s our neighbor, he used to come around and cut our hay. We used to do a lot of things together with Moxie and knew Pam when she was just a little kid. In 1960, they didn’t do ice cream. Moxie was doing farming work. Later on, he took a job as a chef at the cafeteria in Albany. Then he started a fast food business in Albany. It was only as Pam got older that they started the ice cream, which had been closed for a number of years. When they opened it up I don’t remember. It must have been in the 1970s or so.

[23:53]

CF: Do you and your family go to Moxie’s to get ice cream?

EM: We go occasionally. I like the ice cream and think it’s very good. Moxie makes very good ice cream. It’s not as smooth as some of the commercial ones because I don’t think he uses the starch that they do. Yeah we go. Doug [son] goes more than anybody else.

[24:45]

EM: Moxie and I got to know each other by being neighbors than through the ice cream place.

CF: Can you tell me a little bit about peddling the milk?

EM: Yes I did that about a thousand days in a row. Henrv Miller’s father, Oscar Miller, ran the farm. I was only 6 or 8 years old when I went up to the farm watching them. They had basic milking machines and they bottled the milk by hand. When I got a little older, maybe 10 or so, I got to helping him on the route a little bit. When Henrv took over, his father retired, that’s when I started peddling regularly with him at 12 years old. That was doing my high school years. Basically I got up every morning and get ready, he’d show up between 5:30am-6am with all the milk. He lived next door. We’d go around and peddle milk, and by that I mean deliver. I’d run the milk to the door and grab the empty bottles and put them back in the case. He’d drop me off at high school around 9/9:15. On weekends I’d go the whole route with him and get back around 12/1. Then I’d have some lunch and go up to the farm or ride my bike. When I was 16 sometimes Henrv would take the day off and I’d drive the milk truck and do it myself. Most people don’t think you can do that when you’re 16 but I did it. In the summer I’d drive the truck around the fields for hay and drove the tractors and drove the horse-pulled rake to rake the hay. When I started actually driving the truck I’d take the milk to the pasteurization plant, drop it off, and pick up the bottled milk, take off and deliver them all. I did that full time for about six months to a year after I graduated high school and then I had a summer off from college I did it full time, then I went in the army and it was all over.

[TRACK 1, 29:40]

CF: Can you tell me about your route?

EM: The route started down Spring Ave. about a mile across the Wagar Flatts, we called it. We’d go to Church St, go down to Wynanskill, then we’d go down Spring Ave. to South Troy, circle around different blocks down Washington Square, go around the railroad tracks at 6th Avenue, that’s where the black population was, we had a bunch of customers along there. We’d go where the old Troy High School was. Then we’d circle around North Troy, then go up to Oil Mill Hill, back through Brunswick, and back home. It would take about six hours.

[START OF TRACK 2]

[TRACK 2, 2:02]

CF: When you would bring the milk to the door, would you bring it inside the house?

EM: Usually not inside the house, we’d leave it on the porch next to the entrance door. To the winter time when it would freeze there would be insulated boxes and we left it inside the box. If it was in an apartment house we’d go inside the first door and then go up one, two, or three flights of stairs and leave the milk at the door of the apartment house. Over in Wynanskill in the rural areas, we’d leave it at side doors or back doors.

CF: How many times a week would people get milk?

EM: Daily. Seven days a week. It wasn’t until after I left in the 1940s that they did it every other day.

CF: How much milk would people get?

EM: Most of them would get one to two quarts, some would get a pint, some would get some chocolate milk, leave a note out occasionally they want some heavy cream or light cream. We had a few stores on the route. We’d leave 6-8 quarts. In the summer time sometimes you’d get on the running board, when customers were close together you didn’t have time to get in the truck.

CF: What was your favorite part of your job?

[TRACK 2, 4:40]

EM: Oh, I don’t know. I liked peddling the milk. I liked the exercise and fresh air. I didn’t like it in the winter, we’d get stuck in snow drifts. Church Road we’d have to get out and shovel. I used to drink chocolate milk on the route. Herv would stop at Famous Lunch and have a hotdog with me at 10am. I enjoyed the job really and I’m not sure what my very favorite part was.

CF: Do you have a particular memory you always think about when doing that job?

EM: Ice cream dipping I remember. It was sort of fun doing that.

CF: Did you wear a uniform?

EM: No, just normal clothes. School clothes. One thing I continue to the day, I wear long underwear in the winter time.

CF: Did you have to wear a uniform at the ice cream shop?

EM: No, we had a white cap I remember. We were white coats, like a lab coat type of thing. Not sure if it was mandatory or if we just did it. It didn’t have insignia or anything. I think they did the laundry for us.

[TRACK 2, 7:27]

CF: Did you have a favorite part of working at the ice cream shop?

EM: No, you did everything there. You got the ice cream, kept the containers filled, sold it, and dipped it, and took the money, and it’s all one thing.

CF: Is there anything you disliked?

EM: I liked the ice cream. And I liked going to swim afterwards.

CF: How many days a week did you work at the ice cream?

EM: I don’t think I did it everyday, but probably anywhere from 3 or 4 to 7 when they needed me. It was an on-call thing. They tried to spread the work around so everyone that was doing it got some time in. It was paid by the hour.

[TRACK 2, 9:42]

CF: How many months a year was the ice cream shop open?

EM: I think it opened like it is today. They opened around Memorial Day and closed around Labor Day.

EM: I saved up my money for college. I didn’t make too much, fifty cents a day and whatever I made in the ice cream shop. My parents didn’t have money to provide me a college education. I had something like $60-$70 saved for college. I got lucky, at graduation in high school I learned I won a prize for the highest grades in science and math and got a check from the scholarship for something like $80. So that was more than I had saved during all my working time.

CF: What did you do for fun?

EM: I rode bicycles. I used to spend all the time I could riding bicycles around the country. I filled a hundred miles just riding around the local area. Or go up and play around and do whatever I could up at the Millers’ Farm. I had a little homework I had to do occasionally.

Duration

30:00 - Part 1
12:52 - Part 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1 00:43 - Ice Cream Shop
Track 1 6:00 - Serving Customers
Track 1 11:16 - Flavors
Track 1 24:25 - Peddling Milk

Files

McLaren_Feb122016_photo.jpg

Citation

Carly Faison, “Eugene McLaren, February 12, 2016,” CGP Community Stories, accessed August 3, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/251.