Local History and Genealogy Notes

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!

Sonoma Marin Fair Photos

Photo No. 7


The Sonoma County Library has approximately 40,000 photographs in its collection. Often times photos are given to the Library with little or  no identifications such as these taken at the Sonoma Marin Fair in Petaluma. If you see anyone you recognize please let us know. Thank you! 

Photo No. 1


Photo No. 6 Judy Herrerias and unidentified man circa 1973

Photo No. 7

Photo No. 8

Photo No. 3

Photo No. 5 Fred Jorgensen (right)

Photo No. 2



From Grain Elevators to Hatcheries

An estimated 65 people turned out for a talk on Petaluma's agricultural history and architecture presented by yours truly at the Petauma Arts Center on May 10th. This was the second of four lectures offered by the Arts Center as a way to celebrate May being National Historic Preservation Month thanks to sponsors: Century 21 Bundesen, Heritage Homes of Petaluma and Callie and Mircea Kindrish.

Photo courtesy of Lee Torliatt

On May 20th at 4 PM Bill Wolpert, AIA will be talking about the rehabilition plans for the old livery stable at Steamer Landing Park. It was a fun evening and a very appreciative crowd. As is often the case when I make a presentation there was way more material than time. One thing that I had hoped to share with the audience are the titles of some of the books I referred to as part of my preparation for the talk. For instance, Historical Buildings of Sonoma County: A Pictorial Story of Yesterday's Rural Structures by Jack Withington. For those interested specifically in Petaluma's poultry history Thea Lowry's Empty Shells: The Story of Petaluma, American Chicken City. Of course a must read for anyone interested in Petaluma's history in general is History of Petaluma, A California River Town by Adair Heig. Although I didn't talk about tank houses, barns or other out buildings one finds throughout Petaluma's landscape (subject for another talk I'm sure) I did want to let people know about Tom Cooper's book Tank House California's Redwood Water Towers from a Bygone Era and the work of Sue Abbott who wrote The Changing Landscape of Sonoma County Dairies: An Interpretative Guide.

Photo taken by Katherine J. Rinehart 2001

There are many buildings I would have liked to have included in my presention including the former Small's Scale that stood at the corner of C and Second Streets until about 2001. Jack Withington describes this property as having been one of the busiest public scales in Sonoma County with every load of poultry or other animal going to market and every shipment of hay or grain being bought or sold in Petaluma having to be weighed.  Confusion was the order of the early morning writes Jack, stating that "a madhouse rush to get the trucks weighed empty, then out to farms to be loaded, and back to the scales to be weighed in full." According to a report prepared by Susan M. Clark of Clark Historic Resource Consultants that is on file at the History and Genealogy Library, the scales were opened by Alvin Moretti in 1940. Moretti had a trucking business and hauled feed for Hunt & Behrens, M. Vonsen and G.P. McNear. When Basin Street built a parking garage on the block bound by Second, C, D and First Streets Small's Scales was moved to Petaluma Boulevard South and I'm told the building currently sits behind Van Bebber Steel next to the Petaluma River.

Holm Tractor & Equipment Company 1958 SCL Photo No. 13696

Another building I might have included is the former Holm Tractor & Equipment Company which is now home to the Petaluma School of Ballet and Pangea Silkscreen at 110 Howard Street.

Arolo Dairy Supply at 833 Petaluma Blvd South circa 1957 SCL Photo No. 10706

When you take a minute to consider all the different types of businesses that existed to support Petaluma's rich agricultural past and those still with us today it is really quite amazing the number of buildings that come to mind. Everything from the auction yard to hardware stores to pump and well specialists like Arolo Company and Jerry and Don Yager Pump and Well which is operating in the old Petaluma Co-Operative Hatchery on Bodega Avenue. The list goes on as does my interest of Petaluma's agricultural past and present. Given the positive feed back I've received it is likely that I'll be giving From Grain Elevators to Hatcheries presentation again. So stay tuned!

Oral History Workshop

Thanks to the Friends of the Santa Rosa Libraries we are pleased to offer a free oral history workshop on June 16th in the Forum Room at the Santa Rosa Main Library. For more information please see Oral History Workshop Flyer