Brooklyn History In The Book, ‘The Brooklyn Iceman’

Old Brooklyn milk bottleLooking back on Brooklyn history in the 1940’s, when I was growing up, every neighborhood had a caravan of wagons driven the through the streets, peddling fresh fruits and vegetables, laundry bleach, ice, and, of course, the early morning milk man.

The iceman was vitally important to everybody; homes, businesses, even the other peddlers. The Iceman is the focus of my book, The Brooklyn Iceman.

First they were horse-drawn wagons and then trucks, but still, some of the peddlers kept on with their horse-drawn wagons. That was because the horse was their partner. The horse knew the routes, the streets, the stops. The horse could navigate the streets themselves while the peddlers stood up in the wagon and called out whatever they were selling, “Fruits and vegetables,” “Javell” (more about that later), and other goods and services.

Except, of course for the milkman. The milkman came very early in the morning. Brooklyn history records many local dairies operating in Brooklyn, including Eastern Farms, a dairy owned by the Sacks Family, good friends of mine.

Milk was in glass bottles, often molded with the dairy’s name on them, and with a small paper board disc as a lid that fit into the inset in the neck of the bottle (see photo top right).

old Brooklyn milk bottle capIf you look carefully at the lid (at left) you’ll see the little tab that was used to lift the lid off the bottle.

At that time milk was not homogenized. The cream separated and came to the top of the milk, in the neck of the bottle. This delicious rich cream, perfect for coffee or whipping, just poured out of the bottle first. Otherwise, for milk, you had to carefully shake the bottle, very careflly, holding the lid tightly, so you mixed the cream with the milk together.

These was the times that Vincenzo Castella, The Brooklyn Iceman, lived and worked through in Brooklyn history.