This week I posted about Dairy horses on Facebook and people loved the memories. No story of the Clark Dairy in Ottawa could be complete without reference to their very fine horses, which was the pride and job of Mr. Clark and every member of the staff in the Dairy.
In the the 1920s when the Clark Dairy began business they started in a very modest way. Their plant at the corner of Bronson Avenue and Imperial in Ottawa was small, but sufficient for the business they then enjoyed. Their delivery system consisted solely of two wagons.
In the 1930s, a handsome new two-storey building teemed with activity; and thirty-five wagons were needed to cover the city, with seven handsome streamlined motor wagons.
The barns, situated many blocks from the Dairy plant, were just as fresh and spotless as busy hands could make them. There 34 splendid horses: Percherons and Clydesdales were as meticulously groomed as any local society beauty. They stood like sentinels as “the white stockings” gracing their legs were soaped and washed and hooves polished. Coats were combed and brushed until they glistened. The barn included five splendid prize winning animals and the famous Dark Secret, a prize winning champion of the Central Canada Exhibition, and four consecutive times a prize winner at the Royal Winter Fair, in Toronto.
Every day was a show day for the Clark Dairy horses, and the horses knew the route better than the drivers. The red and white delivery wagons were kept immaculate. Clark Dairy was a self sustaining concern, having its own staff of painters, horseshoers and mechanics, so that every necessary job was given attention. Mr. George J. Scandrett. the office manager, had a wide experience in the dairy business and was a former member of the Ontario Milk Board.
The Clark Dairy horse handlers felt that horses were a lot like humans in feelings and habits. They knew when it was time for their feeding, they also know when it was time for them to return to the stable. The handlers also had to know what types of shoes the horses wore in the various seasons. A Dairy horse’s shoe was made of hard rubber around a steel form. Some horses wore their shoes longer than others and some wore their shoes out in two months. When the streets were icy in the winter time, the horse wore a special type shoe with prongs that dug into the ice for a firm hold. These kept the horse from falling. But, often times, the horse slipped even with these shoes on. They had to curry them each day to keep them looking nice and had to be extra careful about their shoes. Walking on pavement everyday of the week was hard on a horse until he they get used to it.
The Clark Dairy horses were said to be the best in the business, as they knew every stop on the route and it took them only two days to learn a new customer stop. They had one horse that apparently had too much fire for a Dairy horse and smashed up the first five wagons he was attached to. As a last resort they sent him to a mud clogged Ottawa Street usually handled by a two horse team. That horse was a good worker for the Clark Dairy and did his job for two horses and never lost a minute starting up just as the milkman returned from the porch. Horses of course could master terrible roads, which was a bane to the delivery service.
The Dairy horses got bushels of presents every Christmas from the Clark Dairy customers. Lumps of sugar, carrots and apples and even when there was sugar rationing the horses were thought of first before family along the route. Bakeries were a great favourite of the delivery horses and sugar buns were fed to some every day. On Sundays these business were closed and some of these horses would not budge waiting for their treat and they would stamp their feet on the sidewalk demanding their sugary treat.
According to the Ottawa Citizen there was a Clark Dairy horse, back in 1946, who every day peered expectantly through the windows of the post office canteen in the basement of the Langevin Block, to the great amusement of civil servants. The horse had a reason for his Peeping Tom tactic. Seems the driver used to scoop up a handful of sugar cubes from a convenient bowl on the canteen counter, with which to treat his faithful horse. The animal nuzzled the window pane daily to remind him!
Good delivery horses were scarce and eventually they disparaged the horse and saluted the automobile. The blacksmiths that worked for the Clark Dairy ended up changing oil and greasing trucks. Although the automobile certainly eliminated piles of manure that clogged some streets, it introduced a whole new set of global carbon complications. In the end the demise of horse power and the ascent of the automobile illustrated two characteristics of energy transitions: they don’t always solve problems and rarely perform as advertised.
The Ottawa Journal Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 30 Nov 1909, Tue • Page 1 The Ottawa Journal Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 20 Aug 1935, Tue • Page 9 Carleton Place Dairy Horses
Bill Crawford Harold Forbes & Flossie delivered our milk from the Carleton Place Dairy. I remember feeding her carrots from our garden, and apples from our neighbours tree.
Norma Ford Bill Crawford – your post brings back so many memories of Harold Forbes and his milk wagon. Holding onto the back bumper in winter and sliding with the ride. Harold stopping and chasing us away. He always gave us a ride first until he figured we were too far from home. Happy memories.
In 1913, John Clark of Eastview took action to force Clark’s Dairy Ltd., which had taken over the business of Patrick Clark of Lake Deschenes to change it’s name (“Silver Springs Dairy Farms” was chosen.)
In 1919, H.J. Clark was manager of Clark’s Dairy, 185 Lyon Street, before he moved to Smith’s Falls to form Clark’s Sanitary Dairy there.
In 1920, Clark’s Dairy – said to have it’s origin in the 1850s – was merged into Producers Dairy and the Clark Dairy name disappeared from Ottawa until Harry J. Clark returned from Smiths Falls to start a new Clark’s Dairy in Ottawa. (According to Bruce Elliott, Harry’s brother Albert “Ab” Clark operated a separate firm from his farm at City View.)
I hope I’ve made that clear enough so someone can explain it to me 😉
Here is Citizen note from July26, 1920, on the old Clark’s Dairy merging into Producers. (E.W. Clark was Harry’s uncle.)