Amberry's Milk Run
I was 14 when my family arrived in Auckland from Lancashire in 1925. There wasn't much work around and Dad was out of a job for 6 months. He did odd jobs like gardening, and labouring for the Council and the Gas Company before getting the Amberry Milk Run over in Ponsonby. His area was Nelson Street, Union Street and all around that Freeman's Bay area. It all looks a bit different now - I can't even recognise a lot of the streets and most of the houses are gone now.
Dad had to be at the Milk Depot by 2am to get the horse out of the stable and load up the four-wheeled dray with the quart milk bottles. I used to help him sometimes at the weekends. Milk had to be delivered by 7am and it was a 7 day a week job. We never expected time off - rather like farming when you have to be always there to milk the cows.
There wasn't just one milkman for one street. There were other milkmen who had their customers in the same street. Dad would deliver to his own set houses, right up to the back doorsteps sometimes. The old horse knew just where to stop. It would plod along and stop at the next house as if it knew the run itself. One horse just would not lie down in the stable at night and did not get proper rest. It would get sleepy on the run and would nod off to sleep and put its weight on the shafts to doze. Other milkmen would say "There's that horse asleep again in the shafts!" It broke so many shafts it had to be got rid of!
One night I got a' great fright - a woman at Freeman's Bay opened the window and called out that her husband was away, and she was lonely. But I got out of there smartly! I wasn't very thrilled, but Dad thought it was a great joke.
Dad had one afternoon a week to go around to collect the money - it was all 'charge' in those days. Sometimes they couldn't pay their bills so they would have to pay for the milk daily then. and no more charging it up.
Our friends the Wilkinsons worked for another Milk Company called Stonex Bros. They sold loose milk in cans. They used a quart dipper to put it into smaller cans and then take it to the houses and dish it into the billies. They had a cart with two wheels so it had to be balanced just right. If it was balanced then there was no weight on the horses at all.
Dad got £5 week for that job plus free milk. I don't think any of us liked drinking milk but Mum made rice puddings and I suppose we drank it that way. Dad worked for Amberry's for 4 years until we all went sharemilking at Pukekohe about 1930.