January 13, 2009

History delivered with the milk

Filed under: Back story,misc,Politics and history — Duchess @ 3:59 pm

When I was a child we used to get our milk on the doorstep in fat half gallon bottles with cardboard tops.  In the winter the milk often froze before we got to it and the top was perched on a frozen white spume.

Some marketing guy at the dairy must have had the idea that the caps would be a wholesome version of cigarette cards from a generation before. For a while, I remember, the caps had general knowledge questions on one side and the answer on the other. 

Then one long winter, when my brother had a paper route and I got up early to help him out, we poured icy milk onto our oatmeal, and, putting off the tramp through the snow ahead, we laid out our Collect All 36 Presidents of the US milk bottle caps. 

I had an idea I would memorize them in order, but it was so frustrating: I had any number of Washingtons, a Jefferson or two, John Quincy Adams and then nothing until seven Warren G Hardings.  I suppose I was meant to find some other history obsessed child desperately short of Hardings and trade mine for a Martin Van Buren, Ulysses S Grant, James Tyler or any other of those half remembered old white guys in fancy dress.  Alas, I did not.

Nor did I ever quite memorize the list.  I’m good on the first 8 or so and then get very dodgy until we hit Buchanan and Lincoln.  Next there’s another gap.  I am fairly sound on the 20th century, though I can’t get them quite in the right order until the late 20s.  (Do not ask me to perform this exercise with British Prime Ministers.)

So I very much enjoyed the following, which I came across on the over 50s blog, Time Goes By.  The President list has got a little longer since the paper route days, but by then it was my life, not history, so not so easily forgotten.

Any Brit readers of certain age will forever associate the accompanying music, Ravel’s Bolero, with Torville and Dean, but I digress. 

What I really want to say is I’ll give you a dollar if you can remember from all those years of American history a single fact about James K Polk.  Honour system here.  No looking him up on Wikipedia.

While the Americans are looking sheepish, shrugging and asking James K Who?  I leave you Brits with our own Jayne and Christopher. 


  1. Hi Duchess – I wanted to make sure you knew that my blog moved and didn’t know how else to get in touch with you. If you read in a feed reader, you’re fine, but if you’ve got me bookmarked, please go to the new address – http://inventingliz.blogspot.com


    Comment by Liz — January 13, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

  2. I always look forward to your newest post and I never fail to learn something. This one was no exception.

    Hope you are riding happy trails these days, Duchess.

    Comment by Midlife Slices — January 14, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  3. Polk. Dark horse. Broke Henry Clay’s heart because that was the election he was supposed to win. Mexican War. That’s all I can do; I tend to confuse him with Pierce because they both start with P.
    Remember I’m the guy who told you the only fact I had about Benjamin Harrison, viz. that he said “A cheap coat is the sign of a cheap man.” That’s quite enough about him. I’m glad you’re more secure on Buchanan, about whom I shall now burst into song.

    “You all despise conciliation,
    Contempt spills from your cups like wine;
    It’s not your task to keep a nation
    On its hinges, it is mine.

    I’ve no taste for Armageddon,
    Find scant logic in a gun;
    My one goal now, to hold the lid on
    Till anno eighteen-sixty-one.

    I light the lamp and call the Lord,
    Not deaf to howling from the brutes,
    Wishing this office could accord
    With gentlemanly attributes.”

    T P out.

    Comment by T P Perrin — January 14, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  4. I owe you a dollar.

    Comment by Duchess — January 14, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

  5. I’ve got nothing. I collect white house historical ornaments but haven’t gotten Polk yet. When I was a girl our streets of my home town running east and west were named after American Presidents in order. It was always easy for me to remember who came when. (with the exception of those pesky Adams’) Alas, it is a small town and so I only learned the order up to Tyler. LOL

    Comment by Smart Mouth Broad — January 14, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  6. I am new to your blog (and to blogging in general) but so enjoyed this entry. In Toronto, Ontario, however, our bottle caps did not include such fascinating info…but I do remember the frozen milk sitting atop the bottle. At least it was better than the powdered skim milk that my mother later tried to get us to drink…yuck,no thank you…Now days it is just fine for bread making.
    I look forward to reading more of your entries.

    Comment by marylou — January 16, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  7. Liz, thanks for the update — I was confused.

    SMB — up to Tyler beats me! But if you google Polk you will find he was actually pretty important. I don’t know how I missed him…

    MLS (Janie) You are always so kind about my posts… I worry about disappointing you. I like to think of Happy Trails as goals, even when I am not quite finding them.

    Marylou, thank you for dropping by.

    Comment by Duchess — January 21, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  8. […] can read the BBC report here.  Newcomers to this site might like to consider other doorstep deliveries. » […]

    Pingback by DuchessOmnium - Island to island » Cannabis delivered with the milk — February 6, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

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