The Norman Transcript

September 23, 2012

Norman was home to dozens of dairies


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The days of home milk and dairy product delivery are long gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think about them every now and then.

Growing up, our family — six kids in all — had to have been one of the better customers of Potts Dairy, which closed down in the mid 1980s. It operated for years on South Chautauqua Avenue.

The milkman delivered 12 quarts of raw milk, every other day, with a quart of cream thrown in on the weekends for pie topping. Earlier, our milk came from Brockhaus Dairy on West Main Street, west of what would later become Sooner Mall.

The 1950 Norman telephone directory lists four dairies in Norman: Gilt Edge, which later became Hiland Dairy, Potts Dairy, Johnson Dairy and Willow View Farm. Gilt Edge operated an ice cream parlor on Porter Avenue for many years.

Central State Hospital was probably the biggest dairy in town. Patients worked there, and they provided products for thousands of hospital patients and employees. That land is now home to Griffin Park and hundreds of soccer, baseball, softball and football players.

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The first real dairy in Norman was believed to have been operated by Sebron “Sebe” Howery. His farm was west of the railroad tracks and north of Acres Street.

The late John Womack, in his book: “Norman — An Early History,” says Howery was the first and last dairy farm that did not produce its own water. He hauled water in from his brother’s claim a half mile south. A small pond on Sebe’s claim provided a supply of surface water for the cows to drink. He sold his herd in 1899.

James Brockhaus of Noble remembers many more Norman dairies — family names like Boyd, Bowerman, Sloan, Leach, O’Hauer, Richardson, Zink, Morrow, Imhoff, Oliphant, Mapples, Johnson, Heitz and Kuhlman.

His own family ran a dairy near 24th Avenue Northeast and Robinson Street.

“I started milking cows when I was five years old,” said Brockhaus, now 84 and retired from the nursery business in Noble. “There was one cow that Dad would let me milk.”

Their farm didn’t have electricity, so they cooled the milk with ice from the ice dock in Norman. They bought 600 pounds of ice a day. They delivered to homes for 10 cents a quart and sold milk wholesale to Gilt Edge for 7 cents a quart.

“We had house-to-house until it got to where we couldn’t buy tires or gasoline during the war,” Brockhaus recalled.

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When pasteurization of milk became more expected, most of the raw milk producers quit delivering.

“The inspectors got so tough on the raw milk folks that many of them went out of business,” he recalled. “At one time in Cleveland County, there’s no telling how many dairies were here. When they came out with pasteurization, they tried to make people feel like it wasn’t healthy to drink raw milk. But we know people who are 100 years old and drank raw milk all their life.”

Remnants of some of the early dairies can be found inside the Southern Cleveland County Museum in Noble. Brockhaus and other volunteers keep the small, free museum open on Fridays and Saturdays. The building formerly served as Noble’s water department, fire department and town jail.

The walls are covered with relics of another era in the county: country school class photos, kerosene lanterns, farm tools, a mule team harness, milk bottles, butter churns and old kitchen appliances.

A milk separator in the corner came from Brockhaus’ family dairy.

“I’ve turned that thing a million miles,” he said. “Lots of memories here.”

Andy Riegereditor@normantranscript.com366-3543

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