Pasteurized Of The Past: Golden Gallon Milk Jug

Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - by Harmon Jolley
Former Golden Gallon Milk Jug. Click to enlarge.
Former Golden Gallon Milk Jug. Click to enlarge.

The Golden Gallon Milk Jug drive-throughs conclude the “Pasteurized of the Past” series. Long-time Chattanooga residents will recall the drive-throughs, for they were once along busy highways in nearly every neighborhood. The Milk Jugs essentially played the part of the milkman in reverse; that is, the customer drove from home to the store to pick up dairy products.

In 1959, two young entrepreneurs, Ray Moss, Jr. and Lyle Finley, founded the Golden Gallon Milk Jug Stores, Inc. Mr. Moss grew up on a dairy farm that was located near present-day Bonny Oaks Drive and Highway 153. He was a star football player at Central High School and at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Mr. Finley’s family was active in the grocery business.

During the first twenty months of operation, Golden Gallon opened a new store each month. The locations were carefully selected to promote business. Most were on the right-hand side of streets leading away from downtown, so that customers could easily enter and exit the stores. The Milk Jug buildings had a small footprint, and could be fit onto a small parcel. There were two drive-through lanes which stopped under a roof overhang. There, the customer rolled down the car window, and placed the order. Typically, there was only one employee per store, and that person would alternate between the two lanes.

The 1961 city directory lists these locations of Golden Gallon Milk Jugs:
* 3212 Dayton Boulevard
* 4001 Ringgold Road
* 5738 Ringgold Road
* 2303 Glass Street
* 5948 Brainerd Road
* 4300 Dodds Avenue
* Hixson Pike at Old Hixson Pike
* 3015 Kelly’s Ferry Road
* 6829 Lee Highway
* 3943 St. Elmo Avenue
* 227 Signal Mountain Road

My family subscribed to the Grant-Patten Milk home delivery service, but soon switched to taking a short drive to the St. Elmo Milk Jug. My father would even take our two Chihuahuas with him in the car.

I remember that Golden Gallon sponsored the “Let’s Go to the Races” contest for a year or more. Customers picked up a horse race form at the Milk Jug. On Saturday evening, the customers would tune in to watch host Larry “The Legend” Johnson and footage of horse races. If your race form had the winning number, you won a prize. Most race forms seemed to have a horse that led most of the way, only to finish far behind.

Initially, the Milk Jugs only carried dairy products. To increase business, Golden Gallon added to the product lineup over the years. Icee machines, later replaced by Frozen Coke, served up frosty treats on a hot day. In 1972, Golden Gallon began to move away from the small drive-through stores by building “farm stores,” that offered more variety of products. Self-service gasoline pumps were added in 1973. Prior to the 1973 oil embargo, gas sold for 19 cents a gallon in Chattanooga. The Golden Gallon chain continued to grow by adding stores in the tri-state area, and sometimes by acquisition. In 1981, the 7-Eleven stores in Chattanooga were bought, followed by the 1983 purchase of the Stop-n-Go locations.

At some point, “Milk Jug” was dropped from store names, while larger stores continued to replace the smaller, original ones. By 1994, only two drive-throughs were left. Some were converted to other uses. The Signal Mountain Road store became Sportsman’s Barbecue, and the St. Elmo Avenue location was turned into an Armando’s Hamburgers.

Local nurse Sue Marshall recalls working at the Hickory Valley/Shallowford Road drive-through in the late 1980’s. “We had folks from Hixson and other areas drive to our store, just so that they could go to a drive-through. Handicapped customers especially liked us.” Sue operated the store by herself, and the store served both drive-in and walk-up customers. That meant that she had to keep a close watch on what was happening at the store. Customers could order anything sold in the store from their cars, and some caused delays by asking for their sandwiches to be heated or for cream/sugar to be added to the coffee. She noted that people from all walks of life – from county commissioners in suits to insomniacs in pajamas and hair rollers - stopped in at the Golden Gallon drive-through.

If you were one of the original Golden Gallon Milk Jug store operators, know someone who was, or you have memories of going to one of stores during its early days, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@signaldata.net.


Chester Martin Remembers Jay Craven, Musician

No history of the music scene in Chattanooga could be written without Jay Craven appearing as a central figure. He has assumed so many titles and roles as a   musician here as to be synonymous with the entire musical genre. We can thank an early childhood illness for helping to shape Jay's musical career, and we can also thank Jay's brother, Roy, for inadvertently directing ... (click for more)

Chester Martin Remembers His Uncle, John Wesley Smith

My great uncle was born in the village of Washington, Tn., on the banks of the Tennessee River in Rhea County. He grew up in a typically large family of the day, and one of his sisters was my grandmother, Mattie Smith Young. The Civil War treated his family very un-civilly, witnessing the burning of his home by neighbors after the Battle of Chickamauga. He endured a number ... (click for more)

Kevin Muhammad Says City Programs Failing; More Attention And Funding Needed For Impoverished Inner City Youths

Nation of Islam leader Kevin Muhammad told a packed house at City Council on Tuesday night that a large segment of Chattanooga is impoverished, while parts of the city are enjoying a Renaissance. Given 20 meetings for a "State of the People" address, he said many city programs are failing, including the Violence Reduction Initiative and a Youth and Family Services reading program. ... (click for more)

County Commission Told To Fully Fund County Schools Improvement Request Would Take 28 1/2-Cent Property Tax Increase; 78 School Personnel Would Be Added

County Mayor Jim Coppinger told members of the County Commission at a budget workshop on Tuesday that it would take a 28 1/2-cent property tax increase to fully fund the county school budget request. The county schools are asking for $24,218,919 in new money for a focus on workforce readiness, literacy and low-performing schools. County Mayor Coppinger did not say whether ... (click for more)

Marvelous News From Central High School

To Roy Exum:     With all the recent news of major dysfunctions within our educational system, I thought I might alert you to something better. About a year ago you ventured up Highway 58 to Central High School to represent your late grandfather, Roy McDonald, as he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus during the annual Senior Day festivities. I sort of expected ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Yes, A Social Experiment

JoeySalads, his screen name, is widely known for his funny pranks except for the fact he calls them “social experiments.” So while we are still on the transgender-restroom issue, our boy JoeySalads got a transgender friend to approve his attire before he tried his luck at entering women’s restrooms. I don’t think you’ll be real surprised at what really happened in this video. Click ... (click for more)