Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Ode to Carnation Milk !

I was 15 years old before my folks brought a frigidaire into the house. Maybe some of you  remember those whiskery ´jokes from that era....... What did Elmer Fudd say when they caught him sleeping in the refrigerator ? He simply excused himself saying that he thought it was a " Westinghouse " !! It was , in fact , a Westinghouse that they bought ...... and when my Mom died in 1993 I brought it home to Quebec City and converted it into a freezer. It was still working well when I sold the house last year to move back to Saint John....... Now since refrigeration in private homes was not common in my area until the early 50s we depended greatly on daily milk delivery when it was available during the war and even afterwards so folks counted on and stockpiled , when possible , cans of evaporated milk........ either Borden's or Carnation . I can still envision the Borden cow , Elsie and the slogan.... "good milk from contented cows ".... I wonder how they figured out whether the cows were happy or not ? And when Roy Meade ( lived across from old burner in the Cunningham house with wife , Ruth ... and son , Kenny.  The Cunninghams were Roy's in-laws) dropped off our two quart bottles of milk at the back door at 5: 30 a.m. on a cold Winter morn ...... and going to get them at 8:00 a.m. .... finding three - inch columns of top cream thrust upwards .... out of the bottle ....... the effect caused by Mother Nature's 20 below zero weather. Great memories ..... and oft times hard to fully portray to others.

Mom and Dad used Carnation milk on almost everything .... but especially on their cereals in the morning and in tea and coffee always ! .......... and they went on using evaporated milk until their deaths ..... or lastcall / closing time as my Dad often put it........well into their upper eighties. So when my Dad finally answered the call in 1986 my Mom found herself alone and no longer had my father to browbeat into driving her from one supermarket to another all around Saint John to buy up cans of Carnation milk on sale so she cried hard times to neighbours , friends , etc getting them to do her bidding ! To our sweet nextdoor neighbour , Katie (Johnston-Doyle) , for example , " If you're going downtown , Katherine dear , would you mind picking me up " a few " cans of canned milk , please  ?" And then she 'd explain to Katie that at such or such a store Carnation milk was on sale ... 3 cans for $ 1.50 .... which was a real bargain ! Anyways I also went home more often after Dad's death .... a good 9 - hour drive from Québec City where I was living back then ......and she would do the same to me.

The last time she sent me for Carnation milk was in early 1992 just before her final hospitalisation. She had found coupons for the dadblasted milk from some new market which had just opened up north of Saint John on the road to Sussex... a small hamlet named Quispamsis ( nowadays a spreading metropolis !)....... often referred to by Josie ( my Mom ) as "Quithpamthith " when she wanted to put on the wee girl act and be coy ! The price that day has stayed embedded in my mind to this day........... $00.58 a can , two for a dollar !! I brought her home three flats of twenty each !! and stored them away in her closet under the stairs. Josie died in 1993 and I remember well delivering 141 cans of Carnation milk to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in our local parish for their soup kitchens and the poor. The poor thing would die a second death were she to see the price we pay nowadays for but one can of her beloved milk Maith thú , mo mhuirnín ! And a fine gal you are , darling !!

As Elmer Fudd would say , " Put to 'WEST' on October 29, 2008. May it 'WEST' in peace !" ... after 57 years of service.


  1. Gerry,

    I have confess that I have returned to Carnation milk for my coffee at home. Buy them at Costco. A return perhaps to childhood memories. Blame it on enculturation.


  2. Welcome to Pokiok , Michel... and many thanks for your a propos comment. I drink my coffee black..... but I still remember well the Carnation and Borden condensed milk days.. and with Carnation at $1.73 a can nowadays I believe I hear my Mom bemoaning the fact each time I visit her grave. Please come back again et encore un gros merci de m'aider à faire démarrer ce site sur l'histoire de mon petit patelin et les gens qui l'ont créé et peuplé. Ciao et reviens bientôt.

  3. I always have a few of the smaller cans in the pantry. You just never know when you might need it. I loved Elsie too. Isn't she still around?

  4. We probably have a can too , Cindy Anne... backup for a needy occasion. I'll check out Elsie the next time at the supermarket.Thanks for dropping by ......