Marshall Historical Society

Conversation with Curtis Cook - 1987
by Janet Dangler

We lived in Augusta during the Milk Strike. I remember it very well. 1931. The farmers all had cans then, and Bennett and Burke used to pick up the milk in Augusta on a big, flat-bed truck and take it to Vernon to be processed at the Dairymen's League Plant. The farmers were afraid of its being dumped on the way between Augusta and Vernon, so about 15-20 of them always rode the truck with the cans and they would all have pickaxe handles or something to discourage people who wanted to dump the milk. I can remember seeing a big flat bed truck with about 15 farmers on it, and all of them carried some kind of club. They didn't get any milk dumped on the way to Vernon! They were armed with all those clubs.

They were trying to get a better price for milk. Milk at that time was about $1.10 a hundredweight, or a little less, which for 40 quarts is about 15 cents a quart. They wanted more money and they didn't immediately get it; the strike got over in a few days. A lot of the farmers - the sneaky ones - would take their milk into the plant at night; then they go ride the truck the next morning to keep people from dumping other people's milk while theirs was already in and taken care of. There were a lot of dishonest farmers in those days, and that was a dishonest thing to do because they were supposedly supporting the milk strike, yet they were taking their milk in at night and getting rid of it. And then dumping other people's milk, some of them. I remember that much; I was - let's see - 18 or 19 at that time. Maybe I wasn't that old, maybe 15 or 16.

There were very few cheese plants around at that time; some would feed (the excess milk) to the hogs, and the hogs would grow very fat very quickly on it. And at that time the farmers didn't have as much milk. The farmers that had 10 tons of milk, which would be 800 lbs. - well, that was quite a lot of milk at that time. 10 tons is nothing today. The farmer who's making a ton today is a poor farmer - or a small farmer. A lot of them made butter. Once in a while, disgusted farmers, who supported the milk strike, would waylay a tanker which had milk in it on the way to New York and riddle it with bullet holes so a substantial portion would leak out; but mostly the milk did not go to New York - it was processed locally. It never came to anything, ever, because it was so poorly organized.

I remember the Depression very well. I was 12 years old when it started, and I went through 4 years of high school without one penny of spending money. In 1935 they hadn't picked up much. I was only making $12-15 in the Mill and that's for 40 hours. It lasted a long time. It didn't start to pick up until around 1939. We came out of it quickly after the War started, when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Gasoline was 12-15 cents a gallon. We ran a gasoline station, so I know how much it was. We pumped gasoline for a living in 1921 until 1937 - not a very good living, either. I remember the Depression very well.

I remember the big complex where Hinman's garage is now (brick building on the corner of Rts.12B and 315), the L-shared complex with stores and barber shops and so forth. Benny Smith had a barber shop, and Fred Nelson had a grocery store. Between 1945-50 it was torn down. JC Earl, or somebody, had a farm machinery place in there. There were five or six stores. There was a kind of a covered porch along (the stores) and wooden steps going up. For a long time there was a blinking light at the intersection where Rt. 315 hits Rt. 12B, and it caused nothing but problems, because it slowed traffic down and people were always hitting each other. During Prohibition, the Deansboro Hotel was a grocery store under Applegate.

(On the way home from this interview, I remember seeing the 72-foot chimney at the former Condensery torn down. Mr. Cook and I both witnessed a bit of history.)

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