Being a milkman wasn't fun, so how come you could have a good laugh about being a milkman?
During the very early 1970s Edinburgh Corporation initiated a massive building project at Clovenstone and Wester Hailes. They created hundreds of new flats for families from throughout the city to move into and make a life for themselves the way we all did at The Stairs.
Douglas Blades saw an opportunity there and deployed a perfect marketing stance-he identified customers' needs-milk-which was a daily requirement for all families and determined how he could meet their needs
As families began to move in he dropped further leaflets advertising his milk business. A significant number of kids from The Stair helped Douglas to distribute the fliers to each flat and then revisit the house a few days later to see if they were keen to sign up. These included Boo-Boo Hanlon; Alison and Ruth Blades; Iain and Peter Hoffmann; and also Paul Forbes.
It wasn't straightforward and Douglas had some significant competition from other milkmen including Murchies Dairy, who rather ironically he got his milk from at Leven Street, Tollcross.
Whenever we got a new customer signed up it was a red letter day. We made dozens of visits with him in his red Austin, which he must have chosen for this very purpose to accommodate the crates of milk in the back. Looking at old diaries I assume he was going about with a girl called Ali at that time, because I reference that name regularly-or was that Ali Douglas or Ali Blades?
When the business was up and running I used to help Douglas with the milk deliveries early in the morning for six months or so in 1972. If I couldn't make it Iain took my place; on occasion Paul came out too. It wasn't without its teething problems however-there were occasions when the pick-up broke down and we weren't able to deliver the milk-I mention that on 1 August, 1972 Milk a disaster...van broke down!.
Each Friday evening I used to go out with Douglas collecting-I assume that was customers paying their bills-on a few occasions others came along too-17 March, 1972 Paul, Iain, Ali, Gail and I went out with Douglas collecting money. We were clearly along for the fun and craic-I assume the boys were in the back of the pick-up. Boo-Boo sometimes helped on a Friday too. Sometimes I record that it was wet or freezing, but there were compensations-on Friday 5 May, 1972 ...after collecting money in the pouring rain Douglas, Boo-Boo, Iain and I went to the chippy...
Full credit to Douglas for being so entrepreneurial and also atypically hard working-he could be a tough boss to work for too, but I generally enjoyed being out with him. Despite the jokes being a milkman isn't an easy life-the author Raymond Briggs speaks of this in his book Ethel and Ernie his lovely pictorial biography of his parents-he also brings out similar themes of loneliness, the cold, the unsociable hours in his classic The Snowman about poor old Santa having to do the same, but even worse going down chimneys-rather appropriate analogy at this time of the year.
Douglas eventually went on to sell the business to Murchies, before, if you'll forgive the pun, moving on to pastures new!
So how could you laugh at being a milkman? Well we've all heard jokes about the milkman-here's my contribution:
She confirms that she wants 45 pints. "Milk baths are good for your skin," explains the woman.
"Oh, OK," says the milkman. "Do you need it pasteurized then?"
"No," says the woman. "Up to my tits will be fine."