In 1940 Mr. Jim Bond asked me if I would like to buy the dairy business which was being operated by Sid Jones, on the Jim Hackett farm. Mr. Jones was going overseas and the dairy needed an operator. All I had was $25.00 cash but Mr. Bond offered me a very good deal and Floyd Wilson gave me credit for groceries until I could manage financially. Prior to my taking over this business it has been operated by many others, among them Mr. Gordon Bennett, who had come to this country from Lamont, Alta. He brought some cows so he had a fairly good supply of milk. He was the first one to sell milk in Dawson Creek. A Mr. Fraser persuaded him to start a dairy, as the people in town were tired of using canned milk. Mr. Fraser thought it a good idea for Mr. Bennett to make some profit on his cows, at the same time obliging the people. This was at the time when the old town was located about one mile west of the present site and was the original dairy for Dawson Creek. After the town was moved to the present location Mr. Bennett kept up his business which was growing. He had many customers and in order to supply the demand for milk he bought all Mr. Hackett could produce. About this time Mr. Bennett took ill and Mrs. Bennett took over the delivery route for a time.
Mr. Dan Fenton also had a milk route in town as business was flourishing. This he had until 1938 when the brothers Walter and Charlie Collins bought his business. They continued delivering milk to the stores, restaurants, hotels, hospital and private homes until in 1942 they sold out. Walter settled on his present farm. Charlie went into beef cattle but still had some milk customers.
In 1939 Mr. Hackett went overseas and Sid Jones took over his farm south of town along with his cows. He delivered milk and cream in town for about one year, then he went overseas in 1940. This is when I took over the dairy on Mr. Bond’s advice, or more accurately, on his persuasion. The Collins brothers were still delivering milk at that time but there were plenty of customers and not enough milk. It was very hard to get help at that time as men weren’t interested in milking cows and girls and women were looking for something more interesting than washing bottles and filling them with milk. The few that were responsible for keeping the place going worked very hard and got little rest. I had a hard time for a while to keep operating but gradually got things built up to a point where there was some profit.
In 1942 the United States Army came in and made its headquarters at Dawson Creek to build the Alaska Highway. Up to this time I had one delivery a day but there was such a demand for milk that I bought more cows and more supplies, if they were available, and put on a night delivery too. This meant much more work and longer hours with help being harder than ever to get. In order to put on the night delivery I had to do it myself along with the morning one. In 5½ years I had no help on either delivery. I never missed a trip, working a seven-day week. I had to have more milk than I could produce so I bought all I could get between Dawson Creek and Pouce Coupe. Among those I bought from were Gordon Bennett, Angus MacDonald, Charlie Hudson, Norman Dow and others with smaller quantities. At this time many items were rationed and it was difficult to procure what was needed. As there were several people delivering milk, every one needed bottles and cans so it was first come, first served when it came to picking up containers — every one was always short.
In 1940 the price per quart for milk was seven cents. When the Army came in 1942 I raised it to ten cents at which price the Government pegged it. I found I couldn’t operate on ten cents per quart so asked the Price Control Board for permission to raise the price to twelve cents. If this permission could not be granted I could be forced to sell my cows. I was allowed the extra two cents per quart but I was required to make a five page report to Ottawa at the end of every month with every quart sold accounted for. As I did my own bookwork I was kept busy.
There was no electricity or gas on the dairy farm and hence no proper refrigeration. We had an icehouse that was always filled with ice. A large enough quantity was stored to last a full year as it was used summer and winter alike. We used an icebox for keeping cream cool until it was delivered. So much milk was needed the cream supply was always short. The milk was cooled before bottling. To do this it was put in five-gallon ice cream cans, which were obtained from the restaurants. These cans were placed in a tank partially filled with cold water and surrounded with ice. Milk bottles were washed in hot soapy water, rinsed in clear hot water, then put through a hot sterilization bath. After this they had to be cooled before filling with milk so were inverted in a rack to drain and cool.
The first year or so the milking was done by hand then, as they could be afforded, machines were used. They too had to be washed and sterilized each time they were used.
There was no qualified veterinarian at that time but there were several men, able and willing, to give help when needed. Among these men were W.W. Smith, Joe Henderson and John Hudson.
We had to meet Government inspection — usually once a year — of the dairy premises. With what was available to work with and the primitive methods used it was at times hard to meet inspection requirements but we always got the “go ahead” signal.
Most of the feed used was grown on the farm, this being mixed with different varieties of supplements. There weren’t so many kinds of supplements in those days as now so the cows had to be satisfied with a less varied diet than they got now.
There had been a growing demand for pasteurized dairy products so in Feb. 1945 on the advice of Mr. Gordon Bennett the Co-Op decided to start a dairy in town. This was to have been known as the Progressive Co-Operative Dairy Association with Mr. A. Davie as president and Mr. J. Stephen as secretary-treasurer. A few shares were sold but not enough capital could be raised so this project was abandoned. The Northern Alberta Dairy Pool had been interested in opening a branch in Dawson Creek so in July 1945 they sent Mr. Lyle Dingle from Edmonton to get this branch started, and to operate it. He was an experienced man so he organized the original plant of the N.A.D.P. in Dawson Creek. It is located on the corner of 105th Ave. and 8th Street. Business increased steadily and Mr. Al Weir was sent to assist Mr. Dingle in 1949. Mr. Dingle took ill in 1950 and Mr. Weir took over as manager. There had been much expanding in 1949 and then in 1956 there was major expansion. There were thirty-two farmers and dairymen delivering milk to the N.A.D.P. They were too numerous to mention individually but some of the ones delivering the larger quantities to the Pool were: G.W. Bennett, Charlie Collins of Dawson Creek, A.B. Jorgensen Dawson Creek, and Clarence Washington also of Dawson Creek. The communities of Tomslake and Tupper Creek played a large part in keeping the dairy in town supplied with milk. Milk was delivered to Fort Nelson and many other points on the Alaska Highway. One man by the name of J.H. Christie had the fame of having the longest milk route in the world — Dawson Creek to Whitehorse. Ross Alexander had the first route in Dawson Creek from N.A.D.P. Many others have followed him.
During the time Mr. Dingle was manager he organized the shippers who brought milk to the dairy, also those who delivered it out. He organized storage space, although space of any kind was at a premium. More and more room was needed to keep up with growth and speeded operations. With these prevailing conditions N.A.D.P. is building a new plant which is located on 17th St., between 98th and 99th Ave. It will be in operation by the end of the year with Al Weir as manager and supervisor of all the N.A.D.P. branches of Peace River District.