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June 14, 2021

SPENCER — Charles Lindley drove an “ice buggy” for Melville Dairy for three years.

That’s what you called his 1959 model DIVCO milk truck because its refrigeration was the ice shoveled over all the products in back — the milk, cottage cheese and butter. Don’t forget the eggnog over the holidays.

So it could be a cold, always-hustling job. Lindley would wake and have breakfast at 3:30 in the morning, load up the truck at 4 a.m. at the dairy and take off on his routes, which hit both inside and outside of Burlington.

When the deliveries were close to each other in the city, Lindley drove standing up, so he could move quickly in and out of what he considered a tough little truck.

For music, Lindley hung a transistor radio inside the cab.

At some stops, dogs could be a problem, but Lindley loved the people on his routes and was a trusted person his customers were used to seeing about every other day.

He left the Melville Dairy milk in metal boxes on porches, or some people allowed him to walk in and put the milk right into their refrigerators. Other customers left him keys to their houses.

All these memories flooded back to Lindley Saturday at the N.C. Transportation Museum. On the floor of the “Bumper to Bumper” automotive display stands the same milk truck, No. 30, that Lindley drove for Melville Dairy.

The museum held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, marking the Scott family’s donation of the DIVCO milk truck and a Melville Dairy wagon to the permanent exhibit.

The dairy wagon, pulled by horses, was the kind used in Burlington during World War II as a means of conserving gasoline.

On hand for the ceremony were N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz, Deputy Secretary and State Historian Kevin Cherry and Peggy Boswell, curator for the Scott family collection at Alamance Community College.

“We are so grateful to the Scott family for this beautiful gift,” said Kluttz, former mayor of Salisbury.

Members of the Scott family in the audience included brothers Henderson and Bill Scott. Their father, Ralph Scott, and uncle Henry A. Scott founded Melville Dairy in 1927, and the company had a 40-year run before selling out to Guilford Dairy.

Bill Scott would go on to run Alamance Foods, while Henderson Scott made a career with Melville Plastics.

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The Scott family easily ranks among the most influential in North Carolina history, going back to Robert W. Scott (1861-1929) and Lizzie Hughes Scott, who were parents of 14 children.

There was a governor, U.S. senator, state senator, doctor and giant in the nursing profession within that group, not counting the brothers who formed the dairy.

W. Kerr Scott (1896-1958) served as both U.S. senator and N.C. governor. His son, the late Bob Scott, also would become governor and president of the N.C. Community College System.

Bob’s daughter Meg Scott Phipps would be elected N.C. agriculture commissioner in 2000.

Elizabeth Scott Carrington, another of the 14 children, became a nurse who later endowed the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina.

Dr. Floyd Scott delivered more than 5,000 babies in northern Alamance and southern Caswell counties and founded the Scott Clinic which still operates today.

Floyd’s three sons were doctors.

In short, the Scott family members became community and state leaders in agribusiness, religion, education, public service and medicine — the same five areas in which archival materials are arranged in the Scott Family Collection at Alamance Community College.

But back to the milk truck.

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After Melville Dairy sold, a pair of DIVCO model milk trucks stayed in Bill Scott’s barn along the Haw River for almost 40 years.

DIVCO stands for the Detroit Industrial Vehicle Co., which made milk trucks from 1926 to 1986. The snub-nose design came on the scene in 1937 and lasted until the end of the company’s production days.

A state highway patrolman and DIVCO enthusiast gave Henderson Scott the motivation to restore the two milk trucks in Bill Scott’s barn.

Key players in the restorations were Hal Cagle, who did the mechanical work, and Ken Shotwell, who brought back the bodies.

Joey Woods, a family friend, helped with the continuing maintenance and keeping the restored trucks running. He delivered Truck No. 30 to the museum several months ago.

The restorations were completed in 2005.

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Boswell, the family’s curator, said Melville Dairy first sold dairy products directly from the family farm in the Hawfields community, outside of Burlington.

Henry Scott was in charge of the cows, while brother Ralph looked after the business and delivery ends.

By 1935, the brothers built a milk processing and bottling plant in downtown Burlington.

At first the bottles included the names of the Scott brothers, but eventually were replaced by the “Melville” name, which comes from Melville Township in Alamance County.

During Melville Dairy’s heyday, cowboy star Hopalong Cassidy was hired as a spokesman for the company.

He even served as grand marshal for the Burlington Christmas Parade one year.

Much like the Rowan Dairy in Salisbury, the Melville Dairy included the Melville Dairy Bar, known for its milkshakes.

The dairy also rented out Shetland ponies for birthday parties and other events.

For a time, the “Melville” name was familiar in the Raleigh area where the Smith-Melville Dairy operated in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In 1952, during the silver anniversary of Melville Dairy, the Scotts paid all of their employees in silver dollars. As those silver dollars were spent in Burlington, it was a great way to show the economic impact the dairy had in the community.

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It was appropriate Saturday that the refreshments included milk and cookies.

To tie in with the milk truck, Spencer’s John Patterson has used a portion of his collection to create a large display of early milk bottles and dairy company signs at the entrance to the Bumper to Bumper exhibit area.

Melville Dairy delivered to both residences and many mom-and-pop stores. But larger grocery stores were changing American buying habits by the mid 1960s, spelling the end to milk delivery in most places.

Lindley, the onetime milk deliveryman, went to barber school and recently retired after decades of cutting hair. But he still has a few men who insist Lindley still be their barber.

One of them is Henderson Scott. It’s never long until the conversation meanders back to the Melville Dairy.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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