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Do you remember having ice cream from Fenelon Dairy?

March 3, 2022

Fenelon Diary, 1957

Hugh and Jennie Graham opened the original Fenelon Dairy on their farm, near Ormell Sand and Gravel. Hugh delivered milk daily, transporting cans on his buggy. He took a measure with him, and each customer supplied their own containers. Back then a quart of milk cost 12 cents, while customers could buy 17 pint tickets for $1. Before long, the Grahams were bottling milk, then in 1926 began selling cooled milk. Beginning in 1939 all milk from the dairy was pasteurized. Milk deliveries were daily until 1947, when the family discontinued Sunday delivery.

Hugh decided to transplant the business to the village, commissioning a cement block structure on Water Street which opened on April 7, 1949. For the first summer their employees were Shirley Brokenshire, June Armstrong (Hugh’s sister), Shirley Dudman and their son Alan.  They sold milk, including a cream-top product that is no longer common and 5 cent ice cream cones. They also sold a cone with two scoops side by side, called a double header for 10 cents, or eskimo pies for the same price. Ginger was one of the most popular ice cream flavours.

The Fenelon Dairy only processed into glass bottles (jug or pouch milk did not yet exist) and the glass bottles required a deposit. Each year, a stream of customers came in on Labour Day weekend to return their bottles from the summer, and on that weekend they gave out more refunding deposits than they made in sales. The milk bottles were sterilized in a steam machine, and “the steam was just wild out there.” The milk was brought in from nearby farmers, and in summer they ran six delivery trucks. Carrying flats of milk in glass bottles was much heavier than transporting it in modern plastic


Located beside the lock, much of their business was concentrated in the summer and the Grahams found it difficult to retain staff through the winter. Al carried on the dairy into the 1960s, but decided to sell the processing business to Kawartha Dairy because “they had more sons, they could handle it.” Al and his wife Hazel branched out into Dixie Lee Fried Chicken in 1969, opening another outlet in Lindsay, and carried on this business until 1985, selling Silverwood, Borden’s then Neilson dairy products.

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