When Milk Came To Your Door


SEEING the Sabatte brothers at the Montclair Malt Shop the other day reminded me of my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of Mom and Dad bringing in the milk from the little metal delivery box on the front porch. I didn’t grow up here, so the Sabatte family didn’t deliver our milk — but they might have delivered yours. Their grandfather owned Berkeley Farms, one of the most enduring and endearing East Bay institutions.
Commenting on the company’s famous “Farms in Berkeley” cow campaign, Herb Caen once said it was the most successful and longest running advertising slogan in Bay Area history. The “cow” was none other than voice man Mel Blanc, who did a few other animals you might remember, including Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny. Like those famous cartoon characters, the Berkeley Farms “Mooo” has achieved cult status, according to the founder’s grandson, Gary Sabatte.
Like all of the male family members, Gary drove the home delivery trucks for Berkeley Farms as a youth.
“It was an exhausting six to seven day a week routine,” he remembers, “and it seemed one could never get enough sleep.”
That lack of sleep may have led to an incident Sabatte still remembers today.
“Four cases of glass bottled milk fell out of my truck’s side door at the intersection of MacArthur and Broadway near the old Pland’s Restaurant. What a mess!”
As I think of the old days of milk delivery and, yes, even cows in Berkeley — I can’t help it yearn for that simpler time. Like the cream that rose to the top of the bottle, hard work was rewarded with success. Gary, George and Jack Sabotte (all Oakland hills residents) should be proud of their accomplishments. Berkeley Farms has survived because of their family’s strong work ethic and the company has earned its place in history.

FOOD FINE: They call it a “farm-acy” since it’s right next to Kaiser Permanente. The new branch of Food Mill is a mighty little market with some of the best selection and prices I’ve seen on healthy groceries.
Located next to the pharmacy in the MB Center, (MacArthur and Broadway) they have everything from wild salmon to Pomegranate juice, from Buffalo burgers to organic fruits and vegetables.
“Kaiser approached us at our store in East Oakland,” says manager Jutta Kaiser, who, despite her last name, says there’s no relation to the medical center. Still, she was happy to open the “farm-acy” as a way to reach Kaiser customers with the best foods available.

SAVING TIME: If you enjoy queuing up at the post office, then this story is not for you. The little Canyon Post Office is expanding its services to include passport photos and processing. Avoiding the drive to West Oakland is just one reason to discover Canyon. Another is the sweet country charm of this mail center and the redwoods that surround it. No noisy crowds of people and their packages here — just the babbling of the brook as it flows through the cool, damp forest.

EAGLE AWARDS: Four hills boys who started school together and scouts together are receiving the ultimate honor next month.
Cameron Copland, Ian Faison, David Pezzola and Ryan Sullivan are becoming Eagle Scouts on May 1 at a ceremony at Corpus Christi School. Not only did the boys attend this Catholic school, they graduated together before going off to different high schools. But their community service remained constant and their achievement is one that few boys reach.

TALKING TURKEY: In a year when the wild turkey population is exploding, several readers have reported a particularly tame bird along Skyline at Shepherd Canyon Road. I spent much of my morning last Friday tracking that turkey, which led me on a wild goose chase through some prickly canyon scrub. After getting no closer than 10 feet, I concluded this bird is not interested in being domesticated, nor is it eager to be part of a wild game dinner.

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