AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Six times a week over five years, a teenaged John LaRizzio delivered milk, eggs, sour cream, butter and occasionally eggnog in 1960s Nesquehoning. He holds a bottle from the Bear Creek Dairy and a copy of his book, Hey, Milkman!
Six times a week over five years, a teenage John LaRizzio delivered milk, eggs, sour cream, butter and occasionally eggnog in 1960s Nesquehoning.
"I still imagine myself walking those streets," LaRizzio reflected, "feeling my footprints embedded in the concrete of the steps that I walked up and down hundreds upon hundreds of times."
In 1964, wanting to earn extra money, John LaRizzio approached the owner of the local milk delivery truck, who he refers to as Mr. Ed in his book, "Hey, Milkman!" He asks him for a job delivering milk on his truck, hoping to be hired when the two high school juniors graduate in two years.
As luck would have it, one of the boys quit, and at age 14, LaRizzio, a freshman at Nesquehoning High School - which closed that year after which the students were sent to Panther Valley High School - started as a Bear Creek Dairy milk delivery man, working Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. for $10 a week plus, from time-to-time, a complementary chocolate milk.
After reading Henry David Thoreau, LaRizzio, a retired project manager, began to recognize his connection to nature was the streets, along his milk delivery route.
"I was in the weather every day-rain or snow," he said. "There was a sort of freedom that appealed to me."
He'd wake each working morning at 4 a.m., leave by 4:30, and walk a mile and a half from his home in New Columbus across Nesquehoning to Mr. Ed's garage. They would deliver six days a week, every week. The only exceptions were Christmas and New Years but even then, they made up for it by delivering twice, mornings and afternoons on the day before.
In his five years delivering milk, four years through high school and a year later in college, the milk deliveries were made regardless of rain or snow.
"You could count on one hand the times we didn't deliver," LaRizzio said.
On a snowy day, he'd walk down the middle of the streets before the snow plows were out.
"When I turned the corner, I'd see my footsteps, like islands in a path of light shimmering down the streets-the solitary sign of life on the street," he observed.
Although Mr. K told him to use the wire carriers that held eight glass quart bottles, LaRizzio preferred to carry two bottles in each hand between outstretched fingers. In the cold weather, sometimes the brittle glass bottles would clink together and break, scattering glass on the floor and splattering his pants with milk that would freeze and remain frozen until he returned home at the end of his shift to thaw his fingers in front of the fire.
In the halcyon days of 1960, no one thought of crime. LaRizzio walked the dark streets of Nesquehoning without fear. Customers left money on the porch and it was always there.
On many front porches, the customers had galvanized metal boxes where they left the empties, that LaRizzio replaced with fresh milk.
"Some people left their door open and wanted me to leave the milk in the basement or inside the front door. Some people asked me to put it right into their refrigerator," he recalled.
His book, Hey, Milkman!, owes its title to his experience with an codger who seemed to always be rubbing LaRizzio the wrong way. That fellow was Duffy, a single man living in a second floor apartment.
"While I got off the truck to make the delivery, the truck continued down the street, and I had to catch up with the truck after the delivery," LaRizzio began.
"I'd take the milk to Duffy and he's say, 'Hey Milkman! How about a dozen eggs?'"
LaRizzio had to go down the stairs, run up the street to the truck, get the eggs, bring them back, climb a flight of stairs, and give them to Duffy.
"The next time, I would bring eggs with me. I'd run up the steps and leave the milk and eggs. I'd hear, all of a sudden, 'Hey Milkman! How about a quart of chocolate milk?' So I'd run up the street and run back. Next delivery, it would be something else. I got tired of this. I tried to predict what he'd want. Invariably, whatever I brought was not what he wanted. Again I would hear, 'Hey Milkman! Get me this.'"
If that wasn't enough, one summer's day while walking with a girlfriend, LaRizzio heard a voice calling, "Hey Milkman! How about bringing me a quart of eggnog tomorrow?"
"Oh, my God. Is this never going to end?" LaRizzio thought. Today, he looks back upon what was once a youthful embarrassment, now as a fond remembrance of a time and place.
"I came to appreciate nature, hardships and challenges and overcome them," LaRizzio said.
The book, Hey, Milkman!, is published in soft cover by Dog Eared Publishing and is 164 pages. It is available locally at Sellers Used Book and Fine Art in Jim Thorpe, the #9 Mine Museum in Lansford and online booksellers.