STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA — There was a time when you called your local milk man to get him to deliver an extra bottle from the nearby dairy.
That’s where names like Hammert’s in Anadarko, Quality in Tahlequah, and Townley’s in Oklahoma City came from.
Steve Gilliland remembers seeing old milk bottles float through his house or sitting on a shelf in his dad’s office.
“Dad loved Oklahoma history and he loved the dairy industry.”
He didn’t know his father was actually collecting them until much later.
“He probably did it for several years before I knew what he was doing.”
To see an old milk bottle is to look through the milky haze of history.
Just about ever county in the state used to have a local dairy that bottled milk products including sour cream, yogurt, and even cottage cheese.
The dairies delivered in glass bottles with their labels proudly displayed.
The Glencliff’s, the Terrills, the Farriss’s, and Frazier’s served thirsty customers up through the 60’s and 70’s before plastic bottles and big grocery chains took over.
“We don’t have near the number of dairies that we used to,” says food researcher Chuck Willoughby, who knew Steve’s father from his work at OSU.
Dr. Stanley Gilliland was a fellow researcher at the Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center on campus.
Stan got his career started by washing glassware in a lab.
No one at the office really knew he was collecting old bottles either.
Willoughby recalls, “It’s just one of those things. You’d go into his office and he always had some kind of memorabilia. I wasn’t even aware of his collection at home until after his passing.”
Stanley Gilliland died in 2010.
His family didn’t have the room to display a bunch of old bottles, but Chuck knew right where to put them.
With the help of another Oklahoma dairy, Braum’s, the collection moved to the front lobby of the Ag Products Center, very close to Stan’s old office.
Willoughby says, “It serves as a reminder of Stan’s contribution to the dairy industry but also Oklahoma’s past.”
You can’t cal the milk man to pick up these old empties anymore, but you wouldn’t want to.
Their window into the past might not be especially clear, but it’s unique just the same.