Driving a Milk Truck !

I shot this photo at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, Spencer, North Carolina. It really brought back memories!

I shot this photo at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, Spencer, North Carolina. It really brought back memories!

Driving a milk truck !

At the end of my first enlistment, in 1962, I was discharged from the Navy. I tried several jobs during the time I was a civilian. My most memorable employment was driving a milk truck. A small local dairy in Milton, Massachusetts, named Thatcher Farm hired me to deliver milk to their customers. Thatcher Farm has been owned and operated by the Manning family since 1891. The company delivers milk door-to-door to the local community in and around Boston. In 1962, they operated a small fleet of Divco “Step ‘n Drive” milk trucks similar to the one in the photo. I drove a 1939 Divco while delivering milk for Thatcher.

Divco called their trucks, “Step ‘n Drive” for a good reason. In order to enable the driver to make quick entry to and exit from the truck, each Divco had sliding doors on each side of the truck. To drive, a person would remain standing at the steering wheel, while operating three pedals with his two feet. The accelerator pedal was not a pedal at all. It was a small button on the floor where the driver’s right foot was positioned. To apply pressure to this button, the driver would use the toes of his right foot while he kept most of his weight on the heel of his right foot.

The driver was essentially, standing on his right foot and holding the steering wheel with his left hand while his left foot (and leg) were busy operating the clutch and foot brake pedal. His right hand was used to shift gears with the large floor-mounted gear shift lever.

The clutch and foot brake were in a single pedal that the driver operated with his left foot. In order to completely release the clutch, the driver’s left leg would be raised into a position where his upper leg was parallel to the floor. As that pedal was pushed toward the floor, it would disengage the gears for about half its vertical path. At the half way point, the brakes would start to be applied. If this pedal was pushed quickly all the way to the floor, the pedal would stick, and the parking brakes would be applied. Thus, the driver could pull up to a customer’s house, quickly engage the parking brakes, and jump out of the truck with a wire milk-basket carrying several bottles of milk in his hands.

Needless to say, it took some practice to get accustomed to driving while standing on one foot. Of course, one had to have pretty good balance to operate the manual shift, steering wheel, etc., while driving up and down the hills and rounding the curves around Boston.

As a new driver, I was told many stories of the times that drivers had fallen out of their trucks while attempting to make turns, climb hills, and shift gears with their doors open. I guess some of those stories were true. Luckily, I managed to avoid that problem.

(The trucks also contained a large tiller that the driver could use with his right hand, to gradually apply the breaks without applying the clutch which was useful while descending hills.)

I drove the Thatcher Farms milk truck during the months of November and December of 1962. Because Massachusetts is pretty cold during those months, we had to be careful that our cargo didn’t freeze. (If I remember correctly, milk starts freezing at about 31 degrees F.) Of course, the back of the trucks weren’t heated, so we placed blankets over the milk bottles to keep them warmer. Another factor that helped prevent the milk from freezing was the vibration of the truck. Divcos had four-cylinder engines that shook the whole truck. It takes a lower temperature to freeze a liquid that is being shaken. However, I can remember at least a couple of occasions, when, while driving that truck, I would hear loud bangs, as frozen milk bottles exploded in the back of my truck. Boston gets pretty cold in December!

After a couple of months of this, the Navy started looking much better. So, In January, 1963, I re-enlisted in the Navy, and headed to Brooklyn Navy Yard to report to the destroyer, USS Putnam (DD-757.) I guess I preferred a cold signal bridge to a cold milk truck.

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 Photographed from Belton, South Carolina

Earlier this year when I read the following in the news,

On August 21st 2017, for the first time in 26 years, a total solar eclipse will occur in America — “The Great American Eclipse” as it has been dubbed by its enthusiasts.

I started making plans to be in the path of totality to view and photograph the eclipse first hand. I made hotel reservations, purchased protective eclipse glasses, and invested in an eclipse filter for my longest telephoto lens. I decided on a  hotel that is several hours away from the path of totality,  but I wanted to visit and photograph other locations in that general area. I chose a hotel in  Kings Mountain, North Carolina,  west of Charlotte that would allow me to go into Charlotte for a photo shoot downtown, on Sunday.  I always try to go to bigger cities’ downtown on Sundays for the easier driving and parking.  I planned to drive over to South Carolina in the area north of Greenville, where I felt that the higher altitudes of the foothills and mountains would be cooler and less overcast.

Several days before the 21st, I made a trip to that area to scout out locations to be ready for the day of the eclipse.  I visited several state parks including Caesars Head and Table Rock that were at higher altitudes. However, everywhere I went, the park rangers and others were predicting huge crowds for eclipse day. I finally decided to just go to areas within the path of totality where I had planned to go anyway and ended up in Belton, South Carolina, on the day of the eclipse.

I love photographing early twentieth century railroad depots because they represent so much of the history of an area. Here is one of my shots of the Belton Depot from the day of the eclipse.

Belton, S.C. Depot

For many more railroad related photographs, please take a look at my Trains gallery at allenforrest.com.

The Belton Standpipe is a historic and interesting structure nearby.

Belton, S.C. Standpipe

After shooting photos of the railroad depot and standpipe, I setup my eclipse-shooting gear in front of the depot, and got the following shots (from beginning to end) of of the eclipse. I was a little disappointed in my photographs, but this was my first attempt at shooting eclipse photos.

Total Eclipse Begins
Total Eclipse Begins. Total ecliplse as seen from Belton, South Carolina. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 was a total eclipse visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States. Not since the February 1979 eclipse had a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States.
North Carolina, Eclipse
Moon takes first bite of the apple as it starts to eclipse the sun,
North Carolina, Eclipse
Moon Gradually Covers the Sun
North Carolina, Eclipse
Moon Gradually Covers the Sun
Total eclipse as seen from Belton, South Carolina. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 was a total eclipse visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States. Not since the February 1979 eclipse had a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States.
Total eclipse as seen from Belton, South Carolina. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 was a total eclipse visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States. Not since the February 1979 eclipse had a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States.
North Carolina, Eclipse
Gradual Uncovering of the Sun After Total Eclipse
North Carolina, Eclipse
Belton Eclipse Observers
North Carolina, Eclipse
Belton Eclipse Observers

For more  of my eclipse photos as well as some of my sunrise and moon pictures, please take a look at my new “Solar System and Beyond” gallery on my photo website.

Many thanks for taking a look!