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Southland's Own Milky Way

October 06, 1985|EVELYN De WOLFE

George E. Platt may not have been the first to deliver milk to Los Angeles residents, but his small dairy with only one cow, founded in 1884 at Beaudry and 3rd streets, became an important early link to the Southland's position of leadership in the California's dairy industry.

It also became a distant relative of the Knudsen Corp. by virtue of the latter's recent $50-million acquisition of the Foremost dairies, expanding Knudsen's territory by an added 10 states.

The stories of George Platt and Tom Knudsen bear considerable similarity. Both had humble beginnings, both made wise real estate acquisitions, both settled in Los Angeles. Knudsen, a Danish immigrant, started out in Long Island and in 1914 came to Los Angeles with his brother Carl and brought with him special cultures to produce unheard-of skim milk by-products.

By then, due to rapid development and rising land values in downtown Los Angeles, Platt had moved his operation farther out to two other locations--first to Florence in south central Los Angeles, then to Boyle Heights in the city's eastern hills.

In each case, with each land sale, Platt was able to reinvest and expand his business to a point where he was able to justify the construction of a three-story bottling and processing plant, completed in 1910, and considered to be the largest and best-equipped dairy facility on the West Coast.

By the 1920s, Platt's Los Angeles Creamery was a major California dairy producing milk, butter, cheese and ice cream. It operated out of four plants, in downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pasadena and Glendale and its advertisements boasted: "We deliver to 50,000 homes in time for breakfast every morning."

The creamery sold its farm in Boyle Heights in 1925 and purchased a 3,000-acre ranch in the San Fernando Valley. In 1928 it merged with Golden State Milk Products of San Francisco. Eventually, it became part of Foremost, named after the prize pet bull belonging to one of its founders, James Cash Penney.

Borrowing from the vernacular of surveyors, a little "Platt" is better than no plat at all.

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