I remember holding a flashlight many times during those first few years while Dad made repairs to the truck so that he could run his route the following morning. I generally had no clue as to what he was repairing, but he sure kept me informed as to the exact location that the flashlight should be pointed.
This was a seven-days-a-week job. None of the farmers that we knew owned cows that only produced milk 5 days per week. When I was about 9 my father purchased his first new truck, a Ford F-600 from Sharp Ford on Virginia Avenue just south of South Street. Dad and his farmer customers worked well together.
I remember the farmers using their tractors to deliver their full milk cans to a passable road during snowy weather. Only the most traveled roads were plowed, and Dad had to stay on those. I remember riding with him on some of those wintry days. We would just have to stop and block the road while the full cans were unloaded from the farm wagon and the empty cans were unloaded from our truck. Then the cans were exchanged and the full ones were placed in our truck.
Once a week in the summer Dad ran his route twice, the second time being to deliver ice cream in 1- and 5-gallon tubs to the farmers that he picked up milk from. Mom always fixed lunch for Dad and me (when I was riding). It was generally a simple lunch meat sandwich. We stopped and got a cold drink and ate our sandwiches during the drive from the last farm and the dairy.
I recall a specific day when I was riding with dad. I was in grade school. Those trucks had standard transmissions, and the shifter was mounted on the floor. I watched him using the clutch to change gears all the time. Sometimes I was required to stay in the truck for various reasons while we were at certain farms.
One day while I was required to stay inside the cab, I moved over behind the steering wheel and pretended I was driving. I had probably done this several times before, but I imagine the truck was always on flat ground. This time we were parked on a slight grade. The first time I pushed in on the clutch the truck started bucking and jumping down the grade.
I was shocked and surprised. Even when I released the clutch the truck kept moving. My father was inside the bed of the truck. I’m sure he was rearranging the cans for future stops. Lucky for us he was working out of the doors on the driver’s side of the truck. I’m also certain that he knew exactly what I had done. He leaped out of the back of the truck and jumped onto the driver’s running board.
I quickly scooted over and he jumped in and slammed on the brakes. I never, never did that again. Dad hired the young sons of customers to assist him in the summer. I am still friends with a couple of those fellows. Toting those 8- and 10-gallon cans caused my father some physical problems in his later life.
I’m glad milk is now mostly transported in tanker trucks.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools