Northshore milkman retires after six decades
March 24, 2010 · Updated 12:41 PM
Finally parking his delivery truck and retiring earlier this year, Glenn Strathy said he really enjoyed the work he did for a little over six decades.
"Still, I decided I'm 80 years old, let's see if there's something different in life than delivering milk,"
No, you didn't read that wrong. Strathy just retired from a long career - 62 years - as a milkman.
Along with a very few other Seattle-area companies, Kenmore's Strathy Brothers, Inc., is one of the few dairy delivery services remaining. And despite Strathy's retirement, the tradition will continue in the Kenmore area as Strathy was able to sell his route and his Northeast 175th Street depot to a new, younger operator.
"It's just a convenience," Strathy said regarding why some 250 or so customers still have milk delivered to their doorstep when they can get the same product from any grocery or convenience store. Because of the volume he buys, Strathy added he's able to charge his customers the same price as those grocery or convenience stores.
Strathy further stated his customers include everyone from new mothers to senior citizens, sometimes all in the same family.
"I've served three or four generations over that 60 years," Strathy said.
Other than a two-year stint in the Army during the Korean War, delivering milk is the only job Strathy reported having since he turned 18 and started his first milk route in 1948. Milk really was kind of the family business as his father and brothers also had routes.
"It was raw milk we delivered at that time," Strathy said, adding that, almost needless to say, he delivered a lot more product to a lot more people a lot more often when he first started. The main reason was a general lack of refrigeration. Strathy said many of his early customers still had old-fashioned ice boxes - literally wooden boxes with ice in the bottom. At most, a few had small refrigerators.
Probably predictably, Strathy added he became good friends over the years with a lot of the people on his routes. Still, he said the relationship was different back in the 40's. He and his brothers often had keys to their customers' houses and would just let themselves in if somebody wasn't home. Strathy said most customers had standing orders, but if he happened to notice someone still had a bottle of good milk left over, he would just adjust that order accordingly.
In some instances, Strathy was willing to do more than drop off dairy. After using his key to enter one customer's home, he found a note saying that customer was on vacation and to cancel the delivery. The note also asked if he wouldn't mind feeding the cat and locking the door on his way out.
Strathy said he gladly did both.
Over the years, Strathy, his two brothers and their father began to add more and more routes. In 1959, the sons bought out their father and Strathy Brothers was born. With some pride in her voice, Jean Strathy notes her husband's family once delivered milk from Queen Anne to Duvall.
"In other words, the whole north end of King County," she said.
Just as with mail service, Glenn Strathy noted (also with a hint of pride) that very little kept him from his appointed rounds over the years. For a long time, he even delivered on Christmas Day. Strathy said he easily recalls going out in heat, cold, rain and snow. He talked about getting trucks stuck in the latter and on top of fire hydrants.
"I think that's kind of the humorous side of the business," he said, adding that 1951 and 1952 were especially tough winters locally.
When he started, Strathy said he was out and about seven days a week. That eventually fell to six days a week and finally all the way down to three. And instead of putting milk in wooden ice boxes, it is now left in insulated cartons.
With his retirement, Glenn Strathy became the last of his clan to put down his milk cartons for good. Prior to his stepping aside, the last Strathy retirement took place some 15 years ago. What does Strathy plan to with his time now?
"That's a great question," he said. "My wife likes to travel... We'll figure something out."