CURRIE: Milkman a crucial link in WC’s cheese industry

West Carleton Online is pleased to introduce its newest column, West Carleton Long Ago. Column writer and West Carleton resident Terry Currie has been writing about the Ottawa Valley for many years. Even now, at 80 years of age, he loves to spin stories of brave old times long ago, stories of the “Great Fire of 1877’ of Mick Morissey’s Last Ride’ and a thousand more. He still lives on the family farm and heats with a wood stove. Currie is also president of the Fitzroy Township Historical Society. Every month, Currie will write on the colourful history of West Carleton.

A hundred years ago in West Carleton, every week on the farm was interrupted early one the morning by the distinctive plod of visiting horses’ hooves and the grinding of steel wagon-wheels in the gravel of the farm-yard.

It was the milkman, come not to deliver milk, but to take away the farm’s production of milk to the local cheese factory. A few gruf words of greeting between the farmer and the driver in the grey light of dawn and then the wagon headed away on its rounds.

By afternoon, the wagon would be heavily loaded with big 40-gallon cans of milk for the cheese-maker. At the factory the teamster walked the big cans to the scales, where each was weighednand the amount noted in the cheese-maker’s book, before the milk was dumped into the cheese-making vat. That was the method every week for several generations on West Carleton farms.

Cheese making was all the go in the Valley for 50 years; West Carleton had more than 20 cheese factories by 1910 and Ontario cheese was recognized as world-class.

Perth sent the famous Mammoth Cheese to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 as a means of advertising Ontario cheese. The 22-ton monster broke through the floor of the Exhibition Hall, garnering precious publicity.

The memory of that wonderful Ontario cheddar still makes an old-timer’s taste-buds tingle 60 or 70 years down the line.