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El Monte Truck Line


The fleet c.1920s

If you've ever played the I-remember-when game, you know how easy it is to get caught up in the scents and sounds and flavor of the "old days." Certainly that was the case when my sister Ellen and I started looking for memorabilia relating to our father's truck line and how it fit into the history of El Monte Valley. Keep in mind the fact that I was a late-comer to the family so lots of my information is from old pictures and hearsay.

Joe Head, with some start-up help from John Wilkinson, began hauling milk out of El Monte Valley along about 1920.  Previously, each dairyman had shipped his milk via the train in Lakeside. This had to be done twice daily, and that is the job that Dad took on.  Later he began taking the milk directly to the creameries in San Diego (Arden Farms, Qualitee Dairy, PM Dairy and Hages come to mind).

Most of his stops situated along El Monte Road (Vanoni's, Scholder's, Denlinger's, Peet's, Wilkinson's, Foster's, Melville's, and Furrier's) but there were a few dairies located across the river. To save time in transporting the milk, Dad would run the El Monte Road route while my oldest brother, Norman, would take a smaller truck and pick up milk from the cross-river diairies. At a meeting spot in Lakeside, Norman 's load was transferred to Dad's truck, and Norman then went on to Grossmont High School for his regular day schedule.

As time went on, some dairies changed hand's, some failed during the depression years, and some just closed due to old age.

It was always a great treat when I was little to get to ride along with Dad, watch him work and listen to the neighborly chatter at each stop.

Joseph Head

Joseph Head c.1976

Each dairy barn had a deck built to a level even with the bed of the truck. By removing a sideboard, the ten gallon cans were wrestled on board and maneuvered into position in the load. "Wrestle" is an apt term when you consider the weight of ten gallons of milk is 80 pounds.  The load was kept covered by bulky tarps to discourage excessive warming while on the way to the creameries.  Once there, the cans were again wrestled onto the conveyor belts, dumped, washed, and set out on the dock for reloading onto the truck.   

Dad's morning run saw him leaving the house each morning at 6am and returning by 11:30am or 12:00 noon. The evening run was shorter, 6:00pm to 10:00pm. He kept to his schedule faithfully, never took a vacation, although he did consent to a Sunday off now and again when one of my brothers, Laurie, Norman, George or Ernie would take the route.

Added to the twice daily runs was the responsibility of keeping his trucks in good running condition.  Both he and Norman were good mechanics, and through their expertise and diligence his 1926 and 1928 trucks continued to travel the road until he retired in 1952.  By then the milk producers were turning to refrigerated trucks and tankers.

As a side note, during the war years the call was put out for people to turn in tires to help the war effort.  Tires were a rare commodity for the civilian population, and most people found it next to impossible to acquire new ones. But Dad put all but one truck on blocks, and hoped that one would stay mechanically sound for the duration.

Also during the war with its shortages, Dad had frequent riders--friends and neighbors needing to get to Lakeside or points beyond but not enough gas coupons to use for their own vehicles.

~ Allene Head Savage  

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