HERITAGE LIVES: When Real Horsepower Roamed Local Streets


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Sunnyside Dairy horse-drawn milk wagon. (Source of photos: Celebrating 150 Years, Walking Through Welland)

By Terry Hughes

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What has four wheels and flies? The garbage wagon! An elementary school joke that was popular when we were kids. Many of our services including garbage pick-up were still being provided using real horse power. Another visitor to our neighbourhoods was the ice wagon. Ice was still being used for those folks who had an ice box where the cold air created by a block of ice descended to the food stored below and kept it cool. Refrigerators, however, were quickly replacing them at that time. During the summer the iceman was a welcomed visitor because we could always depend on him giving us a free piece of ice.
Probably the longest method of home delivery was for milk. The number of local dairies were numerous. Northside, Welland, Martin and Sunnyside come to mind. Each served certain parts of the city and relied on farmers for their supply of milk through their dairy herds. The fascinating part to home delivery was the milkman bringing quart bottles to your door and picking up the empties. On a certain day he would get paid for a week’s worth of service.
The uncanny part of this system was the part that the horse played. As the milkman filled his carrier with milk and jumped off to make his delivery, the horse instinctively knew that it needed to follow his master as he made the rounds without the guy standing inside the wagon.
The arrival of the milkman during the winter could be a real life saver. If conditions were too extreme, you could depend on getting a ride inside the wagon. On the other hand, one could hitch a ride by holding on the back of the wagon as well.
Horse drawn vehicles offered a bonus to everyone. Every time a horse would drop a load, the race was on to get the manure for your garden. This race made for some interesting neighbourhood competitions!

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog monthly. )

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Northside Dairy, Niagara and Mill Street, 1930.

Next Column: Finding Naturally-Made Creatures That Were Grotesque.


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