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'The customers are very, very special. You get very, very attached.'

January 25, 1987|NANCY REED | Times Staff Writer

Mark MacGowan and his Oceanside high school sweetheart found religion, got married and worked as house parents for orphaned Navajo children in New Mexico before their daughter's birth brought them back to California. He "couldn't come to grips" with a liquor delivery job offer, and now sees the irony of the job he took instead . MacGowan delivers milk to homes in San Marcos, Carlsbad and Vista. He found the job in the Yellow Pages, where a picture of a Hollandia Dairy truck roused memories of his childhood. "It just kinda clicked," he remembers. Now , he has been filling orders for chocolate milk and cottage cheese for more than 10 years on a route he built through word of mouth. MacGowan, 34, and his wife, Catherine--she does the books, he does the deliveries--live in Escondido with their daughter, a collection of milk bottles and a safe parking place for their classic truck. Times staff writer Nancy Reed interviewed him, and Dave Gatley photographed him there.

I go down the road and the little kids will wave at you and old-timers will look at you like they are glad, and the teen-agers will look at you like you really are a dinosaur.

Most people don't think home delivery exists anymore. Some people see the truck and say they had Hollandia 30 years ago. They always ask, "Do you still deliver in glass bottles?" And sigh in disappointment when you say you don't. There is a tremendous romance of the bottles (and) the milk truck as it rolled down the road--you would hear them rattle. My mother remembers our delivery man was Dutch and wore wooden shoes.

Sometimes, you do feel like you have gone back in time. People like that old-fashioned service.

I have had a lot of my customers twice a week for 10 years. You see the kids grow up, and see the husband go through jobs, separations and divorce. Customers become your friends.

There have been times that I have blown 30 minutes or longer because I have been standing chatting. A lot of times you feel like family.

I had an elderly gal that I was serving who had fallen out of her bed. I knocked on the door and was able to get in and help her.

Another time, I pulled up to a house, and the customer was locked out and she was frantic. She was going to go up to an open window on a ladder, but I got to thinking. I backed the truck up and climbed on top of the truck and through the window and opened the door for her.

If you lose a customer, if someone passes away, it leaves a real lump in your throat. At times, I have cried. The customers are very, very special. You get very, very attached. They have been very good to us. We have been invited to customers' homes for Easter egg hunts and for Christmas.

You go in and put milk in the refrigerator, and maybe the customer will have a neighbor over, sitting at the table having a cup of coffee, and the neighbor says "Oh, Dolores! You have a milkman?" So sometimes, I play on it, teasing.

I have had some pretty interesting situations (involving female customers) dressed rather seductively, or it might just be more of a look. There is a point when you are playing on it, and then playing it for real--that is a step I can't take.

The hardest thing is the hours. My average work week is around 72 hours, and my day usually begins about 3:30 in the morning.

When I saw Hollandia Dairy, for me it was home. It just made sense. It is just good memories; it is real wholesome. That is where I have really found out who I am and what I am about.

At times, I feel like I should be going back to school and becoming part of the computer age or the now generation. But I realize that I have had the fortune to catch on and be a part of something that is a very strong and very definite part of American history. I am very proud to be in that.

I have thought seriously of going into a full, white uniform, the tie, and the hat with the brim and the whole thing. Some will think that the clock did go back, and I am sort of anxious to see that reaction. I think a lot of people are going to be tickled pink.

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