We're Union Guys

We’re Union Guys

On our milk routes, we carried quite a bit of cash. Dad would ensure that we had sufficient change and small bills to start the day and this would not increase much on normal days. However, on Fridays and Saturdays, most of our customers paid us since every other Thursday was DuPont payday and on opposite Thursdays Atlantic City Electric and many other companies paid. DuPont pay week would be our largest collection week and since it wasn’t convenient to stop at a bank to deposit (especially on Saturday, when, at the time, banks weren't open), we had to carry it with us and put in night depository.

To assure that we wouldn’t have a lot of money on our person (in case we were held up - an event that was remote, but possible), but we needed someplace to hold the money until we could get it into the night depository. Dad always told me to promptly hand over whatever was in my pockets if I was ever held up. That way the thieves would be satisfied and hopefully I wouldn’t be in any danger.

Our truck’s design had a center section that was exactly two milk cases (or crates) wide and we could stack the cases about 4 high, though we usually only did three. One both sides of this section were higher sections (due to the rear wheel wells) that were one case wide and these were usually stacked two high. The higher section on the right hand side wasn’t used for cases, but it had an insulated box that ran almost the entire length and height of the section. This was two shelves high and we used it for specialty items such as cottage cheese, butter, cream, etc. At the very top of the box was a shallower shelf with three slide in trays (one behind the other) in which we put ice (in the summer) to maintain a cool temperature within. We used the front two trays for ice, and in the back tray was an ice bag that filled half the compartment and our bank bag with the money we weren’t carrying with us behind it.

We needed to stop about half way through our route to rearrange our stock (and in summer, put more ice on top of the cases). This was due to the fact that the cases in the front now held mostly empty bottles (yes, bottles! - this was the 50’s and 60’s after all). We would move the empties to the back and pull forward full cases. Also at this time, we would put most of the money into the hiding place only keeping enough to make change for the rest of the route. Sometimes, we would move money there more often if we had quite a bit in our pockets, especially loose change which can get pretty heavy. (If she were still with us, Mom could testify to how many right hand pockets had been stitched and restitched in our work pants).

Now that the ground work is laid, on to the story. It was a Saturday on a Dupont pay week and I was over 17 and delivering the milk by myself. I had shifted the load about an hour before and had also added a second batch of cash receipts (and all the checks) to the stash. I was nearing the end of the route when I drove down a road that had been made into a dead end when the NJ Turnpike had been built. At the end was the Wright farm and just before that was a customer (two elderly sisters) who lived on one side of a duplex, this was about a mile and a half in. We had two stops on that road and did a turn around at the duplex (the Wrights had a couple of milk cows and didn’t need our services). 

When I turned onto the road, I noticed that a pickup with two guys in it who had been following me for about a mile also turned into the road. I drove to the end and pulled in to the duplex and they followed and pulled in so I couldn't back out. I went on with my delivery and knocked on the door to be paid, but no one was home. In fact, the cars from the other side of the duplex weren’t there either, meaning there was no one home period. I turned around to face these guys fully expecting to face a weapon and to be relieved of what was in my pockets.

One of them pointed to the badges on their caps and said, “Hey there, we’re union drivers just like you”. I told them this was a family business and we had no union needs. Then they explained why the stopped me, they had a two package set of jewelry containing a watch, bracelet, necklace, etc. each and these had just happened to “fall off the truck” they were driving. They went on to tell me I could have them for $50 each. I explained that I didn’t have that kind of money, they lowered the price to $50 for the lot and I still protested that I didn’t have it. They said, “Surely, you must had enough in your pockets to pay $25 for them”. But, I explained that the money wasn’t mine and I had no way to repay it. They finally got the price down to $5 each, but I showed them that I only had $2 in my wallet and really had no need for the goods. With that they got back in their pickup and left.

I sat there for a bit, wanting to make sure they were long gone before I got back onto the main road, but Dad’s money was safe for another day!

Davdan @ 2008-2018