By Elynn Lee Bautz:
It seems unbelievable today that urban and suburban households once enjoyed home delivery of milk and other dairy products. Homes in Whitefish Bay and elsewhere were constructed with a ‘milk chute’ next to the back door and therefore near the kitchen.
A milk chute was a square opening in the wall with a little access door both outside and inside the house. The milk man came through the alley in his small dairy truck and delivered the family’s daily order by opening the outer door of the milk chute and placing a bottle of milk, cream, or buttermilk, or a pound of butter, on the linoleum-lined shelf inside. The lady of the house retrieved her dairy order from her milk chute and placed the items in her ice box. Empty bottles were washed and replaced in the milk chute for the milk man to pick up on his next visit.
The milk chute as an architectural feature has another significance for me as a young child. We had many wonderful neighbors in Whitefish Bay, but none more special to us than our very dear friends across the alley and three doors south of our house. The parents were friends, and their boys were friends.
The lady of this household was a lovely and kind person who occasionally locked herself out of her house. When this happened, she came to my mother’s back door and said, “Oh, Eleanor! I’m locked out again. May I please borrow Elynn?”
The then took me by the hand and walked me down the alley to her back door and her milk chute. She lifted me up into the milk chute, where I scrambled through to the inside of the house so I could turn the deadbolt on her back door and let her into her house.
She was so grateful and always rewarded me with a treat of some kind. Then she walked me back up the alley to my mother’s back door after the milk chute experience.
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