Williams Dairy milk bottle
photo from Our Oakland

The Williams Dairy was an Oakland-based dairy that was in business from 1938 until 1974. Many people around the East Bay (Oakland, Walnut Creek, Castro Valley, San Leandro) fondly remember having Williams deliver their milk and other dairy products. Harold Williams bought the dairy at 3600 Telegraph in 1938 in partnership with his brother Willard. In the 1967 the Williams Dairy, Inc. was still listed at the same Telegraph Avenue address in the city directory. It was listed in the city directories of the 1940s at 3818 Piedmont Avenue, so that may have been its original location. The phone number listed on the bottle is OL2-2816, OLympic 2-2816.

order 'fan', courtesy of Dorothy LondaginIt ran for many years, but like its competitors, was doomed by rising costs and changing times:

"...but it has been operating in the red since 1972. Nor is the prospect bright for the 50 union members who lost jobs with Williams' closing, for this was the last dairy in the Eastbay exclusively devoted to home delivery. Once there were dozens. In 1947 some 1,300 union members were 'milkmen'... 'The giant chains, Safeway and Lucky, can handle vast quantities of dairy products with fewer people than we can. Union scale is the same for a Safeway and a Williams driver. But one Safeway driver can make huge deliveries to six or eight stores in the time it took my driver to service a few homes.'" 1

Williams Dairy customers sound like they were a loyal bunch that missed it greatly when it closed:

"One 14-year customer wrote 'cut-your deliveries, raise your prices, but come back, oh please come back, to Castro Valley.'
Most cite product quality, even more than the convenience of home delivery, as reason for their loyalty. But as they talk to Harold Williams, there emerges a certain nostalgia for calmer days and gentler ways."

It was definitely a different time. Milkmen knew when you were having company, when you were on vacation, and when you could afford some extras. Some milkmen were even given keys, and delivered milk directly to the refrigerator if the customers weren't home. These days that level of trust isn't there, though it is interesting that people like the convenience of home delivery enough that you can have groceries (including, once again, milk) delivered to your home.

Links and References

  • "Milkman Fades into History...", Oakland Tribune, November 3, 1974