In 1981, my parents bought an empty, wooded plot of land in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania from my mom’s uncle, John.
My dad would spend many late-night hours devoting his time towards designing a house for our family. He had a vision for their homestead, the roof that would provide shelter to his wife and children. While he wasn’t a professional architect (a mason by trade), he had enough building knowledge and the artistic chops to rough out blueprints and get them in front of the actual builder.
The property was nestled in a hollow, completely surrounded by farmland, predominantly peach orchards and dairy farms.
At age 11, I started working on the neighboring farm, owned by the grandparents of my best friend and continued to help them up until the day I left for college. Farming and it’s community are what I know.
I know the ‘pork and sauerkraut’ nights with 25-cent beers and yearly parking lot carnival at the volunteer firehouse, I know trading eggs or beef for a few burlap bags of sweet corn, shucked and frozen to get you through the winter. I know helping out a neighbor when their tractor is down, using your own to pull the flatbed wagon and collect the straw and hay bales before a big storm hits. That’s how I grew up.
In the summer when I wasn’t working at the Yost farm, I used to spend most of my time exploring – riding bikes with my friends or down at our creek, catching crayfish to go fishing at Uncle John’s pond. I sifted through every inch of our land, paying close attention to the brick-red horse stable and aged stone foundation once used to manufacture horseshoes and peach baskets for the local farmers.
On one particular summer afternoon, after losing my footing and sliding down a slope adjacent to the horse stable, my hip smacked into something hard. After a few minutes of digging, I realized that it was an old, blue glass medicine bottle.
You see, back in the 1930’s and 40’s, the previous owners of the property must’ve dumped all of their glass out of the window of the stable and buried it on that hillside. I’m guessing this area was too rural for any type of formal trash collection. For many years, even through the 1980’s, we were known as ‘The Kulps’ on Rural Route #2 and didn’t even have a house number.
I uncovered many things that day and for weeks after – old coffee tins, medicine, perfume and even milk bottles. When I brought them up to the house in my metal Radio Flyer wagon, my mom began to tell me the story of my great-grandfather, the dairy farmer.
His name was Paul H. Wentz.
He and his wife, Carrie, had four children; Willard, John, Jim and Jean – Jean was my nana.
Paul worked his farm over the course of three decades, helped mainly by his older sons, Willard and John. They helped feed and care for the cows, milked them, did the processing and even drove the truck and delivered from door to door. That is, until they were drafted to serve in World War 2.
With two of his sons fighting on the front lines, Jim was next to go. However, he was denied when his draft came up. He was called a ‘4W’, which I believe meant ‘for work’. Jim was the only son left and it was necessary that he stay at home and help his father run the family business.
From that point on, Jim was responsible for getting behind the wheel of the milk truck every morning before school. He and Jean went together, with my nana running the bottles onto the front or side porches at each stop, in their wire baskets.
Paul’s farm was several acres of land in Milford Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. From most accounts, we’ve been told that it consisted of around 25 milking cows, a dozen heifers (cows close to milking) and several dry cows and calves.
At the time, if you didn’t work in a hosiery mill, the local cigar or shoe factory, you were a farmer. Many, many families depended on my great grandfather and his local dairy farm. Most families drank milk several times a day, it was an integral part of baking and there was always a cold pitcher at the supper table.
Paul and his kids were friendly faces that everyone in the area knew so well.
I never had the opportunity to meet my great grandfather (he passed in 1972, I was born in 76), but from the stories I’ve been told, he was a kind, gentle man that everyone adored. My mom’s aunt Elaine, who recently turned 91, tells us a story about Christmas Time. Every year, when the winter holiday came around, any family that had a balance with my great grandfather, had it eliminated. Not long after The Great Depression, times were extremely tough and it was his way of showing his love and appreciation towards his loyal customers.
When my friends at Life of Dad and Feeding America came to me and asked me to partner with them, to help raise money on the #MilkDrive – an initiative created to help get milk to kids that need it, I jumped at the chance. I thought about my great grandfather, my nana and how milk and dairy farming played such an important part in our families’ life.
When I heard that up to 22 million children may miss out on milk’s nutrition (9 essential nutrients, 8 grams of protein per 8 oz. serving) in the summer months when schools are closed – it really had me thinking.
This summer, America’s dairy farmers and milk companies are on a mission to bring more fresh, nutritious milk to children in need.
I’ve teamed up with some of my closest friends, 19 other dad bloggers from every region of the United States, to ask you to help. For as little as $5, you can deliver a gallon of milk to a family in need in your own community through the Feeding America network of food banks.
No matter where you’re reading this post, we’ve got your region covered. However, I expect you to donate to milklife.com/giveDadsEast 🙂 Click below to find out more. My great grandfather, his family, my family owe you a big THANK YOU.