Dairy Barn, Chicken Delight And The Soda Man

When I look back, I continue to be amazed by how EASY things were living on Long Island in the 70s and how very quaint some of our every day conveniences seem in retrospect. These things pre-date drive-thru ATMS, (although you could speak to an actual LIVE teller from your car and stick your deposit through that tube that got sucked up like Augustus Gloop in “Willy Wonka), drive-thru pharmacies, drive-thru dry cleaners, and grocery home delivery. Today, we could live our entire lives out of our cars.

Dairy Barn, pictured above, is total iconic Long Island. Before I confirmed otherwise with friends, I vaguely remembered driving INTO it, like a meat locker version of a car wash. As you can see from above, that’s not quite how it worked. You drove up to a window, and gave some young, undoubtedly stoned, teenager your order which usually consisted of bread (they only had white, squooshy bread), eggs, orange juice (not the best, I might add), butter, etc. The guy would disappear into his inner, refrigerated sanctum, slide the glass doors closed and start pulling things off shelves. Then, he would reappear with our bag, my mother would pay, in actual CASH, and off we’d go.

Perhaps these trips were a stop gap between deliveries from our actual MILK MAN! Yes, we had a MILK MAN who would creep up our back porch stairs, and leave glass bottles of milk in a tin box which made a distinct sound when the lid slammed shut. The coolest thing about the Milk Man was that once a year he brought bags of Halloween candy.  Was it free? Did my parents order it so it was one less thing they had to worry about? I never ONCE laid eyes on the Milk Man or received an answer to this one remaining mystery of my childhood.

Not only did we have a Milk Man, we had a SODA MAN. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why we needed a bi-weekly CASE of soda, glass-bottled with non-screw off caps, but I do know that it made my brother, who my mother referred to as the “soda jerk” (only in this particular context, not in life) very happy. There was “cola” and orange and cherry and lemon-lime, such artificially pretty colors all lined up in a heavy plastic, red crate-like tray. When it was finished, and on some designated day, the empty bottles would be left somewhere and like magic, they’d be replaced by a whole new case of pretty-colored liquid.

The soda was kept in the garage next to our extra freezer. This freezer was nothing short of miraculous. About once a month a delivery truck would pull up and a uniformed man would wheel, dolly-full by dolly-full, boxes of glorious frozen food. There were gorgeous and perfectly sized and flash frozen pork chops, steaks, ground beef and lamb chops along with the most delicious croissants I have EVER tasted. There were cans of concentrated orange juice, bags of frozen French fries that were all stacked so lovingly that I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. Perhaps this was a foreshadowing to my first job during the summer right after graduating from college as someone who SOLD, over the phone, going down the Syracuse-area phone book name-by-name with a ruler to keep my place, the exact same service. My job was to convince people to allow a salesman into their home, to discuss the benefits of having something like a side of beef stored in a freezer that they may or may not already own. After that, my job was done.

Growing up, when my father was either working late or at a hockey game, we would have the great fortune of ordering from Chicken Delight, what I remember to be the holy grail of poultry.  The chicken, fries and very soft rolls would come, broken out into the individual meals we requested, in two domed cardboard plates stapled together. It came with little packets of honey (which I never ate) and wet naps. It brought instant happiness into our home.

Home delivery of crappy-yet-totally-delicious food is so pervasive now that it shocks me that my favorite local Chinese place has the gall NOT to deliver. “Wait, you want me to GET UP and DRIVE the HALF MILE to your little hovel of a kitchen just for the best Chicken Chow Foon around???? Fuck YOU!”
Back then you didn’t have to pump your own gas (truth be told, I will choose full serve over self despite the higher prices) but you did have to stand and wait in an actual line with actual standing humans at McDonald’s. You had to walk into an incredibly hot and LOUD dry cleaners with that dry cleaner smell instead of having someone pass you your clothes through a car window. There was certainly charm (not to mention human interaction) in those day-to-day things while now we just scream into a speaker with a faceless person on the other end.

1 Comment

  1. This is a walk down memory lane. Amazing that the milk man came to the back door. I remember that, too. The glass bottles with nothing put a simple paper wrapper at the lid. Enjoyed this!

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