Care for a Pint? Or a Gallon?
May 28, 2014 6:33 PM   Subscribe

The Drive Thru is quite ubiquitous in our everyday lives, whether it be burgers, banking or big-ass cups of coffee. Yet there is one Drive Thru concept that only survives now in isolated pockets throughout the country, and that is the Drive Thru dairy.

Alta Dena has been serving the residents of Southern California via their car since the early 1960’s. In Long Island, Dairy Barn locations have operated for just as long. Swiss Farms cover Eastern Pennsylvania. And dotting the country here and there are independent stores that keep on chugging along.

And let us bow our heads for Drive Thru Dairies that are no longer with us. In my own neck of the woods, Skinner Dairy served Northeast Florida for many years, and their iconic buildings survive now as other businesses.

Finally, let us remember the Dairy Market Express Drive-Thru of Lake Zurich, Illinois, whose owner decided that if you’re going to have a Drive-Thru Dairy, then by God, have a Drive Thru Dairy.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (43 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
We used to have two where I grew up, only one remains. Best pineapple softserve and the only place I know to get Manufacturing Cream in the area.
posted by rhizome at 6:49 PM on May 28, 2014

My family went to Dairy Barn for my entire young life. To this day I've never seen the back of the room where the people stand. For all know there's a dairy locker to rival NORAD back there.
posted by nevercalm at 6:49 PM on May 28, 2014

I hadn't thought about this place in a long time. It looks like the one that I used to go to in West Covina at N Orange and San Bernardino is gone now.

They also sold beer... drive thru beer. The catch was that to buy beer you had to step out of your car to complete the transaction. It was one of my favorite rituals.
posted by Hicksu at 6:49 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Related: I just watched this documentary made about a drive thru liquor store & bar (you can get mixed drinks made to order to go) called "Don't Fuck with the Lewises". The place is located next to the childhood home and run by Jerry Lee Lewis' sister Frankie Jean Lewis and hew equally colorful husband in Ferriday, LA. It's utterly fascinating and well worth the watch.
posted by item at 6:49 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

All of the Dairy Barns on Long Island are slowly closing and being replaced by The Barn. I haven't driven through one in I-can't-remember-how-long, but everybody was always high on the house-brand iced tea, which used to only come in half-gallons, but recently became available in to-go cups. I wonder what will become of it.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:53 PM on May 28, 2014

I saw a brew-thru on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Never seen them anywhere else.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:03 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

We had the Miller Milkhouse where you bought milk by the half gallon in returnable glass bottles.
posted by donpardo at 7:05 PM on May 28, 2014

And lets not forget the drive thru window liquor stores of Maryland, which up until the early eighties would offer drivers on-the-go not just booze but also a cup full of ice for only 50 cents extra, referred to without a hint of irony as a "go cup"
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:06 PM on May 28, 2014

We had a drive-thru dairy in upstate NY, the only thing about which I recall is the bastardized radio jingle my dad and brother and I would sing every time we passed it:

"Byrne Dairy milk is mighty fine
We make it with turpentine!
If you drink it every day
You will surely pass away!"

posted by none of these will bring disaster at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

While I've never seen a drive-thru dairy, my neighborhood did have, in my childhood (which is to say, during the 50's) a sort of early-proto vending machine, which dispensed cartons of milk, and which went by the wonderful moniker of "Maisie, The Mechanical Cow." It sat out in the middle of a vacant lot, on a little side street that cut through the woods, and I well remember being sent out by my mother with a handful of change to get a quart of milk from Maisie. Sadly, there seem to be no photos of Maisie available on-line (the only reference I can find, in fact, is in someone's comment on a Flickr photo set of advertising characters).
posted by Kat Allison at 7:25 PM on May 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

The enterprising J. C. Harbin had, among his other businesses in Memphis in 1919, a dairy on Highway 51 South at Raines Road a mere stone's throw from where Graceland stands today. This ad is from 1934, the year I was born.

A great treat during my depression-era childhood was for my father to pile all the children into the car and go to J.C.Harbin's to buy a gallon or so of cold sweet milk while my mother stayed home and, for the price of baking a skillet of cornbread, she had perhaps an hour of peace and quiet. This was usually a weekend treat. In the summer, the milk might be used to make ice cream, in a hand cranked freezer on the back porch. In later years Harbin closed the dairy, moved across the street, became a shopping center and gradually the Harbin name passed from commerce. Today old milk bottles show up on eBay.

Another Memphis dairy, Reed Brothers, while it wasn't a drive through, is memorable in my family because it sported a gigantic, milk jug shaped, water tank on the roof. The milk jug had been built from my father's design at the boilermakers shop where he worked. The building has been demolished but it seems they saved the milk jug for the children's museum.
posted by Anitanola at 7:40 PM on May 28, 2014 [16 favorites]

The drive-thru Baskin-Robbins on Folsom boulevard in Rancho Cordova doesn't quite carry the same history or cache as these, but I sure have some great memories.

More drive-thru ice cream, please.
posted by weston at 7:50 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hm, I drive by one of these every day, but I've never stopped in. For the last few weeks the sign out front has read:


which I guess is all one really needs to get by in life.
posted by pemberkins at 8:03 PM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

We still have drive through beer here but you can only buy a full case at a time, not six pack.
posted by octothorpe at 8:04 PM on May 28, 2014

The road I took to work when I lived in British Columbia had a drive-thru coffee shop on the right side on the way in, and a drive-thru offsales (beer) store on the right side on the way home. They had me coming and going.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:08 PM on May 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

As an Australian, I was surprised to learn that most other countries don't have drive-through liquor stores (or 'bottle shops', as we call them).

They've been ubiquitous in Aus since I was a kid, and before. They're attached to a normal walk-in liquor store or a pub, and sell everything that the latter sells.

The most efficient use of a drive-through is for the driver to wave the money out the window, and call out the denomination of the note. Then the bottle-shop guy can make the correct change and bring it out with the purchase (thus saving himself a trip back to the till), which he loads in your trunk (thus saving you the Herculean effort of getting out of your car).
posted by Salamander at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

They also sold beer... drive thru beer.

You haven't been to Australia I gather...
posted by Kerasia at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2014

Graff Dairy in Grand Junction, CO makes a nice break from the desert. Ice cream, milk, ice cream, cheese curd, ice cream... Okay, hungry now.
posted by underflow at 9:24 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

As far as I know the Milk Jug in Tucker, Georgia is still there. I used to drive past it at least twice a week. When I was a kid it was milk only, but now it's a full convenience store.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:27 PM on May 28, 2014

As a mom of a toddler who goes through a lot of milk, I can say that I absolutely wish these would come back in style.
posted by offalark at 9:31 PM on May 28, 2014

There was a drive-thru dairy barn in Houston that I vaguely remember going through with my dad in the early 70s. I wish I could remember more about it (was it also the drive thru beer barn I vaguely remember, or was that a different building?) but alas, the internet is silent on a cursory search with what little I remember.
posted by immlass at 9:50 PM on May 28, 2014

Used to live near one in Anaheim, though the idea of buying milk saturated by car exhaust was never appealing to me. Also had a drive-thru liquor store in nearby Orange. (Though more accurately it was a "drive up" counter with a cement carport in front of it.)

Great topic for a post, btw. This is the kind of ephemera that makes Metafilter great.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:01 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have two near to where I live in Huntington Beach, I always assumed that it was just a thing that people had in decently large cities with a focus on using your car to get around. Now I know that you all live deprived lives, free of the joy that only obtaining eggs, half-and-half and lotto scratchers without having to leave the comforting embrace of your automobile can bring. Good post.
posted by Punkey at 11:42 PM on May 28, 2014

Here's a Street View link to the one that's closest to me. It even has two lanes, although only one has the awning.
posted by Punkey at 11:51 PM on May 28, 2014

The Drive Thru is quite ubiquitous in our everyday lives...

well actually no. I think for a lot of people living in major metropolitan areas outside the USA the "drive thru" is a total oddity. In London I can't think of anything that is drive thru except petrol.

Its just you suburbanites in the USA that have drive thru everything.
posted by mary8nne at 1:28 AM on May 29, 2014

Wow. Growing up, I thought this was something that was normal, and since then, assumed that it had gone away.
Wrong on both counts, I guess. Farm Stores still has 50 locations in South Florida. (Here's one in Ft Lauderdale.)
And offalark, there are Franchises available!
posted by LEGO Damashii at 2:06 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Many of the Dairy Barns are indeed gone but if you do go to one, you have to know this: you drive up and place your order; they ring it up and shout out the cost; you say, okay, and tell them how you're paying ("out of $20" for example), and then they bring you both your order and the correct change in one trip.
posted by etaoin at 5:16 AM on May 29, 2014

I always thought, "Drive-thru pharmacy/Starbucks/whatever? I guess suburban Americans would rather stay in their glass and metal bubbles than interact with other people."

Then I had a baby.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:34 AM on May 29, 2014 [11 favorites]

The last time I went back to visit, the Milk Bottle Building was still there on Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City, but as the tipster says on Roadside America, the restaurant in it was closed. In it's earliest incarnation I understand it was a drive-through dairy, but it's best remembered for being a drive-through beer barn notorious for selling to underage drinkers in the 70's and 80's (so I am told).
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:13 AM on May 29, 2014

I remember an old drive through dairy in Ohio that had a giant tub of iced beer at the window.

They would hand you singles, in brown bags, right under the "Do not drink and drive" sign. Times have changed.
posted by cedar at 6:23 AM on May 29, 2014

Drive thru AltaDena dairies were ubiquitous growing up in the San Fernando Valley. Mostly we went to the market (Alpha Beta), but if we just needed a gallon of milk or a popsicle (treat!), AltaDena it was. There's still two I know of. One in Burbank and one in Altadena, CA that I pass on my way to a friend's house on Lake Ave.

Also, there's a drive thru Baskin Robbins in Burbank on Victory near Alameda.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:05 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a very nice one in Pleasant Hill, California: Meadowlark Dairy (Yelp link that has photos). Their cones come in three sizes and are wonderful on a hot day.

Last time we were there we saw someone give their dog a lick of their cone, gah!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:27 AM on May 29, 2014

The building has been demolished but it seems they saved the milk jug for the children's museum.

This is A Thing, it seems. Hood Milk Bottle at Boston Children's Museum.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:52 AM on May 29, 2014

I remember as a kid in Atlanta in the late 70s, going with my mom to the Golden Gallon, a drive-thru milk joint.

All of our Baskin Robbins in my part of Northern Virginia are drive-thrus; they are recently-built combo shops with Dunkin Donuts.
posted by candyland at 9:32 AM on May 29, 2014

What the?! I'm going to be in Lake Zurich in a couple of hours for an appointment! Where is this place?!

Anyone want a first-hand report?
posted by Reverend John at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

We used to get milk from a drive thru when I was a kid in Oregon! Only four of the Dari Mart locations have a drive thru, but they're still around. Aw, nostalgia. We would get milk in plastic bottles and pay a deposit to bring them back on the next trip for reuse. I was young, so I have no idea if you could get much beyond milk at the window. Honestly, my mother probably wanted it that way since my brother and I would already beg to get a chocolate milk along with the boring regular milk. I'm sure if we knew you could get snacks or ::gasp:: ice cream, it would have been nonstop whining every time we pulled up.
posted by dormouse at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2014

What the?! I'm going to be in Lake Zurich in a couple of hours for an appointment! Where is this place?!

Anyone want a first-hand report?

Reverend John, from what I can find the place is no longer in business. That one photo was all I could find and it dates back to 1990. But if by some miracle it still exists and you come across it, by all means tell us all about it. :)
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:59 AM on May 29, 2014

I can't tell you how much I loved the convenience of Farm Stores in Florida. They sold dairy products, eggs and cigarettes. They were the size of a Fotomat (remember them?)

To help the person out you'd say, "Half gallon of 2%, out of $5." Then they'd bring the milk and your change. Also, Farm Stores had GREAT ice cream.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:20 AM on May 29, 2014

You're making me nostalgic for Orange County. For the longest time we had a drive-up egg store, the Singing Hen Egg Ranch, smack in the middle of our mini-mall and subdivision suburb of Cypress. Sadly it seems to have succumbed to developers in the last decade.

It not only sold the eggs, they had the chickens who laid the eggs there too. If you want to appreciate the incongruity, here's a Google aerial map of where it was.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:42 AM on May 29, 2014

Also, there's a drive thru Baskin Robbins in Burbank on Victory near Alameda.

This may sound odd but I am VERY EXCITED about this and will be visiting soon. :)
posted by weston at 3:23 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

There was a drive-thru dairy store about 5 blocks from our home in Northern California in the mid/late 60s. It later morphed into (surprise!) a drive through coffee shop.
posted by Fibognocchi at 5:02 PM on May 29, 2014

Swiss Farms is one of my favorite local things.

When I was a child in the 1980s, Swiss used to sell milk in re-usable containers. When you were finished with your gallon, you'd wash out the plastic jug and return it to the store when you picked up a new jug. They've since stopped that practice.

They have great lemonade, and childhood parties (and barbecues now) are incomplete without Tea Cooler - iced tea and lemonade mix.

Sure, you pay an extra 25 cents per gallon, but sometimes you just want to get some bread, milk, bacon and eggs without getting out of your car. Or get coffee in the morning without having to wait in the Dunkin Donuts drive-through line.
posted by kellygrape at 6:04 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

AlonzoMosleyFBI: "Reverend John, from what I can find the place is no longer in business. That one photo was all I could find and it dates back to 1990. But if by some miracle it still exists and you come across it, by all means tell us all about it. :)"

Sadly, I drove up and down Rand Rd., and if it still exists it's well hidden. I also came up with nothing online before I left.
posted by Reverend John at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2014

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