Remembering Carbondale


A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the Racketbrook Creek that runs through Carbondale. I have had many comments about it; the most interesting from my brother Dean who lives in Pittsburgh. He remembers things I have forgotten over the years.

For instance, he says he recalls skating on the Racketbrook when it froze over in the winter. "Of course," he wrote, "we had to dodge the large rocks."

I wrote about Stephens Brothers Dairy on the Brook Street side of the creek. He has some recollections about this, too.

During World War II, when gas was rationed, the Stephens people switched to horses that pulled rubber-tired wagons painted brown with gold lettering, the same as the company's trucks. In the winter, bobsleds were substituted for the wagons.

All of the wagons except one were drawn by large brown horses. The exception was one that covered the route in Jermyn and Archbald. That had a team of two spotted ones.

The animals were stabled in Sam Cox's barn a block or so up Brook Street from the dairy. Dean says the steeds were exceptionally intelligent.

When they returned from their appointed rounds, they stopped at the dairy and the wagons were unloaded. Then, according to my brother, the driver would command "home" and the horses, still attached to the wagons, would head to the barn by themselves.

He says some of the boys who worked in the barn told him that sometimes they'd take a couple of horses down to the Racketbrook and let them play a little.

It was possible to go to the dairy and purchase skim milk which wasn't available in stores or from the delivery man. Mom used it for cooking and many times dispatched Dean or me to the dairy with a two-quart pail which was filled with skim for a few cents. Dean says he still has the pail hanging in the kitchen of the family home in Pittsburgh.

Stephens Brothers and most of the other dairies that delivered milk door to door are long gone, but they are not forgotten. There is a big demand among collectors for the glass bottles with their names in raised letters on them. Many are listed on eBay.

The bottles aren't the only dairy memorabilia that's being collected. eBay lists those stackable crates that a dozen bottles were placed in for traveling on routes and the metal carriers milkmen used as they walked from door-to-door.

One thing I didn't find on the internet was the wooden crates in which bottles were packed for shipment from the manufacturer to the dairies. Stephens' emptied four or five of them every day and usually gave them to neighborhood kids. With a little imagination you could make a lot of things out of them. Forts, for instance.

Ed E Rogers is a Carbondale native who spent more than 70 years as a reporter and editor for regional newspapers. He frequently shares his memories of his hometown with Advantage readers. He can be reached at

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