"Human Kindness" Airs

Although descriptive not only of August 29, this 1939 interview "Human Kindness," by author Anne Stevens, recorded a typical day at the Graham dairy farm in Georgetown, North Carolina.

After bottling the milk of their 23 cows, Dale Graham will load his truck and head into town by 7:00 a.m. to deliver fresh milk door-to-door. Meanwhile, his mother and sister will "put the house in order" and Ben will put the cows to pasture and repair fences, paint the barns, or do whatever chores call for attention.

Dale will return in time for the 4:30 p.m. milking, sterilization of bottles, bottling, and refrigeration. It's a long day. "Some mornings I oversleep," Mrs. Graham admits. "Why, yesterday I didn't wake up until four-thirty in the morning." She had gone to bed at seven o'clock the evening before.

While cows still demand twice-daily milkings, many farmers use mechanized milking machines that attach to the cows' udders and, through a system of pipes, deposit the milk into an on-site storage vat. Rather than delivering cans or bottles door-to-door, farmers also sold their milk to wholesalers who pasteurized and packaged the milk before selling it to grocery stores and other venues. Farmers milking both a few head of cows or large herds of more than 100 cows continued to mechanize to ease the physical labor of farming.

By four o'clock in the morning, lights flicker through the windows of the Graham farmhouse. Sarah Graham calls to Dale, "Wake up, son, it's time to begin milking." Young Dale groans and turns over, but less than a half hour later his boots can be heard, tramp, tramp, on the stair. Frances, his slender, bright-haired, younger sister follows with a lighter tread. She has slipped on slacks and sweater, and puts on a fresh, white apron as she goes. Their flashlights illuminate the side grass plot and the red clay of the upward-sloping [road?].”

— "Human Kindness," in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940