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Got milk?

Tim Willoughby
Aspen Times Weekly
Willoughby Collection Aspen Dairy ad from Winterskol brochure, 1952.
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Aspen’s summer farmers’ market provides organic produce from local growers, but no fresh milk. Your milk is transported to grocery stores from as far away as Boulder, if you buy Horizon Organic, or Grand Junction for Meadow Gold. Consumers of “green” products envy Aspen pre-1960s because its own dairy offered fresh milk daily from local cows.

Do you remember first grade “know your community” field trips to the fire department, local stores and museums? The highlight of my first grade was our visit to Aspen’s dairy. Pipes running everywhere, bottling machines, and the smell of cold milk captivated me. The wonders of milk starting in a cow, then being pasteurized, homogenized and delivered to my home refrigerator was about the most exciting activity going on in Aspen. As a 6-year-old, the pasteurization was not real clear to me. Everyone except my ranching classmates, who consumed raw milk at home, were convinced we lived in a healthy modern time.

Quizzed by his family after his field trip to the dairy, Gary Bishop announced that milk was, “Hoaglundized.” It was easy to confuse the two “H” words because the dairy hosts were the Hoaglund family, owners and operators of the Aspen Dairy. The dairy, complete with surrounding grazing area, was located at the uphill end of Galena Street a short 10-block walk from the school.

Marvin Hoaglund started in the milk business by selling to locals from his family ranch. That ranch was conveniently located at the north end of city houses, to the east of the amphitheater. At that time Marvin also worked for the Durant Mine. Combining milking, milk processing and a full day underground made for very long hours.

In 1943, inspectors hovered to close Aspen Dairy. Long neglected, the boiler necessary for the purification process was failing. Hoaglund purchased that dairy and began the slow process of resurrecting the business, reopening in 1945.

As in many family businesses, every member participated. Cows that were kept at the dairy site had to be milked early every morning. The milk was processed and, at least for the first few years, each bottle was individually filled and capped by a family member. Then the bottles were delivered to homes and grocery stores.

The daily dairy routine grew beyond Marvin’s and his wife Thelma’s capacity. Their son Melvin talked his father into selling the cows that grazed adjacent to the dairy buildings, to shorten the routine. That didn’t mean they could sleep in. Mel remembers driving with his father to collect milk before daylight. They stopped at ranches in Carbondale and all the way back to the Cerise ranch by Buttermilk. They hired an employee and housed him in one of the two houses at the dairy to deliver the processed milk. Aspen Dairy sold door-to-door and to stores throughout the valley and as far away as Ruedi.

Glass bottles gave way to waxed cardboard cartons. The product line was expanded and the business grew. The Hoaglunds sold out to Meadow Gold, who operated for a couple of more years before consolidating their regional dairies in Grand Junction.

Farm fresh tomatoes are a treat, but fresh milk and cream are even better. Is there any room left in town for a dairy?


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