Shady Nook Dairy

The following history has been gathered from an interview and subsequent newspaper feature written by Melodie McCullough for the Peterborough Examiner, March 22, 1999.  The article was sent to the Historical Society by Jan Rowland, Cedar Valley Road, Fraserville.

For 35 years, Clifford Larmer was part of the Shady Nook Dairy operation, first as the son of the owner, Wilberforce (Wib) Larmer and then as the owner himself.   From the age of 13, he would don his Shady Nook uniform and cap and set out for the village of Millbrook each day by horse and wagon from his father’s Holstein dairy farm four miles northeast of Millbrook.

His father was the first to bottle and deliver raw milk in 1923, starting from scratch, milking his cows early in the morning and then delivering immediately after.  The milk was kept cold using blocks of ice, but had to be delivered every day, seven days a week because it wouldn’t keep longer than a day.

The milk was delivered to doorsteps in glass bottles that the customer returned each day.  They were sterilized and reused over and over.

Before this, nearly everyone in the village kept their own cow, and would supply their neighbours who didn’t.  But with bottled milk arriving daily, the cows soon disappeared.

The business grew and the routes expanded into Cavan, Bethany and Mount Pleasant.  In 1940, pasteurization became compulsory.  The Larmers built a pasteurization plant on the farm, using steam motors to run it because there was no hydro.  It was at about the same time that trucks took over the work of the horse and wagon, but only for part of the year.  During the winter the trucks couldn’t be counted on to make it through the snow-covered roads.  The winter of 1946-47 was particularly bad, Cliff remembered.  “The roads were all blocked and I couldn’t get to Bethany for three weeks.  So I had to take the milk to Cavan Station and put it on the train and ship it up.  They were depending on the milk supply.”

During the war years, help was scarce and Cliff said it was nothing to work 18 hours a day.   In 1945, the pasteurization plant was moved to Millbrook for convenience.  Electricity became available.  And Cliff married Mary Eakins, leaving the family farm to live in an apartment above the dairy plant.

In 1953, Cliff bought the business from his father, but five years later he sold it because of back problems.  By this time stores had begun carrying packaged milk in cartons and the days of glass bottles and home delivery were fast disappearing.   The Shady Nook Dairy did not last long after Cliff sold it.

He went on to work as caretaker at the Millbrook High School for 19 years, retiring in 1979.  Cliff also served on Millbrook Council 1949-51 and on the school board for one term.   He spent his retirement years at his residence on King Street West in Millbrook before moving to the Applewood Retirement Residence in Peterborough.  Cliff died in 2005 and is interred in Grace Presbyterian Cemetery (County Rd. 10 & Fallis Line) with his wife Mary.

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