Alba Fitt, 85 years, recalls that they milked their 28 cows, bottled the milk, loaded the wagon, then had breakfast. Husband Jim then left on the Fitt’s Dairy route arriving back at the farm at 74th St. and 92 Ave. by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. Fitt’s Dairy which operated from 1909 to 1949, was one of six milk delivery operations serving the south east sector of Edmonton. There were several other diary farmers, further east in Strathcona County that were dairy producers sending milk to the larger dairy processors in Edmonton (E.C.D., Woodland (later Palm) and the N.A.D.P.)
Fitt’s Dairy was run successively by James Fitt, his son Jim, and then James senior’s brother Charlie, until 1949 when it closed and the land was sold.
The six retail operations in the S.E. area were Fitt’s Dairy, Kirkwood Dairy, Henry’s Dairy, Owens Dairy, Calside Farm (George Gibb) and Queen Alexandra Dairy.
Kirkwood Dairy at 7741 – 92nd Ave., only three blocks from the Fitt operation, was started by William Kirkwood in 1917 and continued with door to door delivery until 1948, but started shipping to Woodland in 1949. Sons Hugh (Harry) and James took over. Grandson Win Kirkwood relates that the 2 sons took over when William was injured by a bull.
Owens Dairy, operated by Bert and Mildred Owens was smaller and shorter lived. It operated at 7735 – 76 Ave. from 1937 to 1942. In her family profile in the King Edward Park history book Mildred says “We had a very good business going with two wagons and five hired help. Then we bought a truck and prospered. The war took our hired help faster than we could get more, we sold out to the Northern Alberta Dairy Pool.
Henry’s Dairy was further east at 17 St. and Highway 14 (76 Ave). Information on this dairy is scant. There are no Henderson’s Directory references since it was outside the City Limits. There are 1946 photos of the Henry family home and a Henry’s Dairy truck in the King Edward Park book but no family history. There is a history of the Klatt’s who worked at the dairy and they write as follows: “We started work in November 1945 on Henry’s Dairy farm where the Sherwood Park Drive-in Theatre is now located. We were milking 65 cows at that time. Pasteurized and natural milk and cream were sold. They had milk wagons drawn by horses but during the two years we worked there they bought a milk truck.” I would appreciate receiving other information from those who may have known the Henry’s or knew of the dairy.
Matt Gibb (born in 1925) advises that the Calside Farms dairy was started by his father George prior to his birth. It was located where the CIL plant is now on 101 Avenue, well east of the Capilano Mall. They delivered in the Rossdale Flats area but stopped when they got a milk quota and started shipping to E.C.D.
The biggie of the group, Queen Alexandra Dairy was operated from 1911 to 1933 by the John Donnan family. It was located at 80th Ave. and 91 St. where the Donnan School is now. The barn was where the Shamrock Curling Club is located. At its peak the dairy covered 525 acres of land, in King Edward Park and Idylwylde, which was mostly used to pasture the large dairy herd. The dairy barn was large enough for 60 cows. (There is a family write-up in the King Edward Park history book.)
John and Susan Donnan bought 25 acres of land from A.C. Rutherford and established their dairy business. The land was across the Mill Creek ravine from the Gainer’s packing plant and John brought water and electricity across the ravine from the plant to his farm at his own expense. According to History Made in Edmonton by Edith Rogers, the Donnans, in 1909 had milking machines, the first west of Winnipeg. John senior passed away in 1933 and his son sold the dairy to the Edmonton City Dairy.
I am not aware of any milk bottles, bottle tops, milk tickets or any other memorabilia from the Fitt’s, Owens or Calside Farm Dairy. There are milk tops around from Kirkwood Dairy. The City of Edmonton Archives has a few milk tickets from the Queen Alexandra Dairy. A Club Member has told me that the family has embossed bottles from Henry’s Dairy as well as milk bottle tops.