Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Beginnings this New Year's Day

Submitted by Connie Cortright

Through the Milk Door
Happy New Year!!

New Year’s Day is a time for new beginnings. Writing for “The Barn Door” is a new beginning for me. I appreciate the chance to share some thoughts with my new online friends.

Another rather new beginning for my husband and I was a move to our new- or rather old- house. It’s new to us, but was built in 1926, so, in reality, it’s very old. It’s in a very quiet and well-established neighborhood in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

We’ve discovered many unique features in our historic house when we moved in. We found a little door about a foot square near back door. After doing a bit of research, we learned that this tiny door was a milk door.

What’s with the milk door? My grandmother would’ve had no problem answering this question because she lived in the time when milk doors were an everyday item, probably as common as “email” boxes today.

Milk doors were found on houses that were built before 1940. They were located close to the side door where the milkman would deliver glass quarts of fresh milk several times during the week. Used before the days of refrigerators, these doors allowed him to deliver milk well before the occupants were awake.

The doors opened from the outside to reveal a small area located in the walls. The empty bottles were left in the milk door with the order for the day stuck in the neck of a bottle. The order would then be filled by the milkman. (I don’t think there were any “milk ladies” back then!) There was another corresponding door inside the house that would be opened by a hungry boy or girl when it was time for breakfast.

Our milk door with added locks
Milk doors have disappeared from use in these days of supermarkets and convenience stores. They are now quiet and quaint reminders of days gone by. The outer entrance for the milk door on our house was boarded up and several locks placed on the door inside the house. Sadly, I imagine previous owners feared this little door could be an entryway for thieves and sealed it up – a sad commentary on the days we live in.

I’ve read that these little doors were, in fact, sometimes used as emergency entrances for the owners when they were inadvertently locked out. A little child would be hoisted up and lifted through the milk door and unlock the door from the inside. What an adventure for that tyke! I wonder what happened when the youngest child got too large to fit through the door!? Most of us can probably remember a time when we wished there was such a hatch out of our problems!

I’d like to invite you, dear reader, to explore with me life and living in times past.  Come with me each month to wander in simpler, homier times and get a glimpse of Midwest life during the 20s and 30s. I hope you enjoy these bits of information as much as I enjoy sharing them with you. Also, see my blog Through The Milk Door for more fun-filled facts from the past.

God bless you during 2013!


  1. Hi Connie,
    I'm a newbie here at Barn Door as well. I enjoyed your post. I remember seeing those little milk doors in older homes. My novel coming out in April is set in 1933 Lake Geneva, where I grew up. I never thought to include a milk door in their kitchen! I'm familiar with "Tosa" from back in the day when I had friends from college who lived there.

    1. Thanks. My husband and I visited Lake Geneva last year. Looking forward to reading your book in spring. My WIP also takes place in the 30s, but in Dubuque, Iowa. Very interesting doing research for that era.

  2. Welcome, Connie and hi, Pam. I remember those little doors in friends' houses in downtown Racine. We had one, too, in the house my folks rented before we built our own new house (in 1966).

  3. Thanks for the chance to share tidbits of life during the 30s in this blog. I look forward to sharing other glimpses of that era.


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