National Dairy Month brings to mind my favorite (and only) milkman, Stan, who delivered Clover dairy products to my Fairfax, California neighborhood when I was a kid – only 5 or 6 years old back in the 1960s. All the kids would race out to meet Stan and his big white and green truck. Afternoon was when ice cream was delivered. Sometimes he’d have Clover coloring books or other fun stuff to hand out. That’s about all the memory I have, but it has stuck with me all these years. The fact that I knew and remember our milkman’s name amazes me and is a testament to the impact these men in white had on their customers.
It was while sitting in on an interview between Petaluma Argus Courier columnist, Harlan Osborne, and Bob Isaac – Petaluma’s last milkman - in 2010 that I discovered that Stan was still around and had a last name – Wells. Both Bob and Stan drove for the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery. Bob suggested I contact Herm Benedetti at Clover Stornetta who he suspected could put me in touch with Stan and he was right.
Stan and I exchanged a few emails. Although he didn’t remember me, he agreed to meet for lunch. Next thing you know I was sitting with Stan and his friend and fellow retired milkman, Joe Tallariti of Cotati and their wives at San Rafael Joe’s. My friend Rayne Wolfe was with me. Rayne is a professional journalist and I wanted her help getting the story down.
Both Stan and Joe are wonderful story tellers. I learned that they met while working for Lucas Valley Dairy which was later purchased by the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery.
Stan was the first African American man to deliver milk in Marin County starting in 1964 when he was hired by Bob Grady at Lucas Valley Dairy on Ida Street in San Rafael. His route covered Sausalito, Marin City, part of Mill Valley, Larkspur, Corte Madera, part of San Rafael, San Anselmo and Fairfax. Route A was Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Route B was Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Each route had about 125 customers. Back then trucks were not refrigerated and you had to make sure you had enough ice on hand – a major chore. Glass bottles, not cartons and wood crates, not plastic were the norm. It was a very physical job to say the least.
Stan was born in Texas and came to California when he was about three years old. He and his older brother, James, came by train to meet up with their father’s aunt, Madeline Starks, who ran the Lighthouse Cafe in Sausalito. This would have been around 1942. Stan’s father worked for Marin Ship at this time.
In 1956 Stan graudated from Tam High and then attended College of Marin and later San Francisco State. During college he worked at the Sunny Hills Institute in San Anselmo until he was drafted into the Army and went to Germany where he served as an MP in the Honor Guard.
When not delivering milk, Stan could be found playing the bongo drums at such old time Marin County night clubs as Ondine’s and the Trident in Sausalito where he remembers meeting Danny Kaye. Stan’s wife, Mardelle sang at Zack’s.
It’s been 12 years since Stan retired and yet sometimes he’ll wake from having a dream in which he is still manuevering the narrow and hilly streets of southern Marin County in his milk truck.