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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Working at the Dairy Plant

From the New York City bus terminal I took a Greyhound but to Syracuse. This was my first trip on a Greyhound bus. When I lived in Holland I heard so much about this bus, how it would travel all over America, and here I was traveling on it myself. I arrived in Syracuse at noon. I went straight to the old apartment place where I used to live. When I arrived there, the apartment was empty. From the neighbors I found out that some other Dutch boys were drafted in the army, and Frank and his friend had moved in with a Dutch family. I had known this Dutch family very well, so I gave them a phone call and told them that I was looking for a place to stay. So they told me to come to their house we could talk things over. The Vanbodens were very nice and suggested that I could stay for room and board in their house if I wanted to. Frank and Fred were already living there, I had shared the apartment with them before. I had to share the bedroom with Frank, but that wasn't any problem as Frank and I always were good friends before. Mister Jim Vanboden was working at a milk production plant in Syracuse, it was called the Netherland Dairy. Mister Vanboden was trying to get me a job at the Netherland Dairy. Late in the afternoon the day I arrived at the Vanboden's house he called the manager at the dairy and asked him if they could use me at the plant. The manager said yes I need somebody right away tonight. He said that he needed somebody that night to load the trucks. I said, "Mister Vanboden - tell him I'll take the job". I was still wearing my army uniform, but I changed real fast to get ready for work that night.

A variety of milk containers

In 1957 during the Eisenhower administration there was a slight economical recession. Many people around Syracuse were laid-off from the factories. So I was very lucky to get a job, and I was always willing to work. Starting to work in an American dairy production plant was quite an experience. The only dairy work I ever had done in Holland was during the wartime at a real dairy farm. I had seen a lot of cows and milk, and that was about all.

Mister Jim Vanboden took me to work that night and introduced me to the plant manager. After a few papers were filled out he took me for a quick tour through the plant and showed me my working area. As he had said on the telephone I had to load the trucks that night. I was told in order to work in the plant I had to join the teamster union. The work I had to do was inside the icebox loading dock. I was given a load-sheet with a truck number, and whatever order was on the lead-sheet I had to put on the truck. I really worked very hard that night, but somehow I didn't know what I was doing. I had, problems recognizing the different sizes of milk products. I didn't know what a half-gallon, quart, pint, or half-pint of milk was. In Holland the only bottles of milk I ever saw in my mother's house were liters. So I made a lot of mistakes that night and the trucks I loaded had to be unloaded and reloaded again. So after work I was called into the manager's office. He explained how important this job was and loading those trucks had to be very accurate. The manager said, "you are the hardest worker I have ever seen, but I can't use you on this job". The manager was very nice and told me to report for the day shift as he was going to put me on a cleaning job. I cleaned halls, the walls, all the steps around the production plant, and whatever needed a good clean-up job I was called to the spot. With my Dutch background of cleanliness I scrubbed until everything looked spotless.

I was doing this cleanup job for several weeks, when one day the plant manager walked by and complimented me for the job well done, but he also said he had a better job for me. So the next day I had to report to the second floor in the production plant where all the milk and by-products like, half and half (12% butterfat), table cream (20% butterfat), whipping cream (40% butterfat), chocolate milk (3.5% butterfat), and buttermilk (1.5% to 2.0% butterfat), and skim milk (0% butterfat) were pasteurized. There was an older man who was in charge to see to it that all those products were properly pasteurized and put into well cleaned large holding tanks. From the holding tanks those products would go to the filling rooms. After the holding tanks were emptied I had to crawl through a small manhole inside the tank, and clean it with soapy water. It was a strictly manual job. Once I got inside the tank in no time I was soaking wet from perspiring, because there was very little air in the tank. It was very important that those holding tanks were cleaned spotless; otherwise, the milk products would have a high bacteria count, regardless of how good you pasteurized the products. I guess the manager noticed how clean I did all those other jobs, that he trusted me in cleaning all his milk equipment. The New York State health department would come in our milk plant twice a week to inspect our milk equipment. They would always use a blue light when they inspected holding tanks. They would shine the blue light through the manhole of a holding tank I just had cleaned, and if there was any milkstone build-up in one of the tanks I had to go back in there and clean the inside stainless steel wall with an acid solution. Milkstone inside any milk equipment would harbor bacteria, and that was against health regulations.

CONTINUED: Learning the Dairy Business
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index