Local History and Genealogy Notes

Petaluma Co-Operative Creamery Driver Identified!

Albert Vietheer (1925-2008) is the driver in the photo labeled "unidentified Petaluma Cooperative Creamery driver" shown below that was featured in "My Milkman Memory" post.

The original photo appeared in the February 16, 1955 edition of the Petaluma Argus Courier with the following caption: "Santa Rosa bound - Al Vietheer, one of the several drivers employed by the Petaluma Co-Operative Creamery, gets ready to board his truck, just loaded with dairy products for Santa Rosa. The local creamery has built up a considerable trade at the county seat, and maintains a plant there for milk processing. Butter and cottage cheese are supplied from the plant here on Western Avenue."

Using Ancestry.com and other resources available at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library I discovered that Albert Clarence Vietheer was born in Petaluma in October of 1925 and was the son of Albert and Myrtle Vietheer. Albert, Sr. owned Al's Paint Store which was located at 140 Main Street. Albert, Jr. lived with his parents and two sisters: Arleen and Gladys at 832 Western Avenue.

After serving in the U.S. Navy as a seamen during World War II, Albert, Jr. returned to Petaluma, married Marileigh Runge and secured a job at the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery where he would work for the next 40 years. 

Albert surely witnessed a lot of change in the dairy industry during his time with the Creamery. Perhaps someone took down his story?

  • Buttke Family at the Buttke Dairy -- Photo by Brenda Hawkes - Hawkes Photography photo

    Buttke Family at the Buttke Dairy -- Photo by Brenda Hawkes - Hawkes Photography

Buttke Family Dairy Named Outstanding Dairy of the Year

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – May 9, 2012 – The Sonoma County Fair is pleased to announce that the Buttke Family Dairy of Sebastopol has been named this year’s Outstanding Dairy of the Year in the North Bay. The Buttkes will be presented with the Edward J. Maddalena Memorial Trophy on Farmer’s Day at the Fair, August 5 in Chris Beck Arena.


Established in 1977, the dairy is run by owners Doug and Judy Buttke and son, Nick, 33, and they are passing the tradition along to their four grandsons as well. The Buttkes milk 150 dairy cows and run a herd of beef cattle on 750 acres of leased ranch land along Blank Road in the hills south of Sebastopol. This is a true family farm, with all three generations working together to handle the chores—milking, feeding, cleaning and more—365 days a year. Dedication and teamwork allow them to preserve the rural lifestyle they cherish.

“It’s definitely the lifestyle that keeps us plugging away every day so that we can stay on the land and do what we love. On a ranch, we are able to work together as a family in the country. I just couldn’t see us living in the city,” says Judy Buttke, a fourth-generation North Bay dairy rancher who is a member of the Corda family of Petaluma. “We are hoping that dairy farming and agriculture will remain viable in Sonoma County for future generations.” In 2011, Judy Buttke and Joyce Leveroni, both active North Bay Dairywomen  put together a written history called Dairy Families 75 Years Sonoma and Marin Counties that is now a part of the Sonoma County History and Geneaology collection. Thank you Judy and Joyce! Judy is the Chairperson of the annual Dairy Princess Contest and Ball, now in its 55th year and also serves on the District 3 Committee of the California Milk Advisory Board and is District Director of the California Dairy Campaign. Doug previously served on the Sonoma-Marin 4-H Dairy Replacement Heifer Committee. In addition to Nick, the Buttkes have a daughter, Clarette McDonald, who lives in Valley Ford with her family and works as the office manager at Dairymen’s Feed & Supply Co-op in Petaluma, and another son, Glen, who drives for Chisholm Trail Hay Transportation.

Palm Trees in Petaluma

Palm trees at Golden Eagle Shopping Center June 9, 2012

Have you noticed the palm trees recently planted by the new owners of the Golden Eagle Shopping Center on East Washington Street? Believe it or not palms were once used as street trees in Petaluma as can be seen in this Sonoma County Library photo taken in 1926.

Looking north on Main Street (what we know today as Petaluma Blvd. North) at Lakeville Street 1926. SCL Photo 15401

Petaluma Depot on Lakeville Street 1945. Courtesy Evelyn Lawson

Who knows maybe it won't be long before we see a palm or two planted at the depot site on Lakeville Street.

My Milkman Memory

Unidentified Petauma Cooperative Creamery Driver 1955. SCL Photo No. 9766

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.

Joe Tallariti and Stan Wells April 19, 2010 San Rafael, Calif.

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.

June is National Dairy Month!

Window display at the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery. Photo taken by Decker & Deckter Studios.

75 years ago this month the National Association of Chain Drug Stores sponsored a milk promotion, a gesture of good will to dairy farmers. Special sales efforts were made at soda fountains of the chain stores to help dispose of an existing milk surplus. The promotion was from June 12 to July 10, and was known as National Milk Month. "Keep Youthful -- Drink Milk" was the theme.

 In 1938 a more widespread milk campaign was planned under the sponsorship of the National Cooperative Milk Producers Federation and the National Dairy Council. Participation was solicited and pledged by the Institute of Distribution, representing the chain variety stores, also by the chain drug stores, the food chains and restaurant chains.

At the request of the sponsors and co-sponsors of this second National Milk Month, the National Dairy Council served as national headquarters and prepared the campaign poster and other materials for use by the chain stores, about 6,300 in number. The 1938 campaign was "Drink Milk -- Benefit Yourself--Speed Recovery."

The official campaign name was changed from National Milk Month to June Dairy Month in 1939.

More June Dairy Month historical hightlights to come in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!