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.



Montagues Led In Chattanooga Banking, Industry; Fine Homes Were Knocked Down On Cameron Hill

One of Chattanooga's first banks opened after the Civil War's end was a project of two Northerners, who had first eyed Cincinnati for their First National Bank. The First National opened Nov. 15, 1865, in an unpretentious brick building between Third and Fourth streets. The founders were Theodore Giles Montague and William Perry Rathburn. They had moved on to Chattanooga because ... (click for more)

Remembering The Park Hotel

(The Park Hotel is again in the news as the county is vacating it and it will be offered for private redevelopment) I wasn’t familiar with the Park Hotel when I ran across an old postcard of it recently. Judging by the relatively level surroundings in the picture, one might think that it was located on one of the flat streets in downtown, such as Market or Broad. However, a ... (click for more)

Ooltewah High's Robin Copp Is State Principal Of The Year

Ooltewah High School principal Robin Copp has been named Tennessee’s 2017-18 Principal of the Year.   Officials said of the second-year principal, "No matter the grade level, she believes in creating student-centered schools, which are first and foremost focused on teaching and learning. To support this model, Copp has instituted a professional learning framework ... (click for more)

City Has Apparently Found Buyer For Chattanoogan Hotel

The city of Chattanooga has apparently found a buyer for the Chattanoogan hotel on Broad Street. A city board will meet next Monday to consider several resolutions. One item before the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corporation is approving the hiring of the Husch Blackwell law firm "as special counsel in connection with the preparation of a sale and purchase agreement ... (click for more)

Vote No On The Rezoning For A New Landfill In Harrison - And Response (2)

County Commissioners, please consider the following facts when voting on the rezoning request for a new privately-owned C&D landfill in Harrison.  Use of this property for a landfill has been rejected by the county three times in the past (1971, 1984 and 2007).  In 1971 and 2007 the County Commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal.  In 1984 the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UT A 34-Point ‘Dog

I can’t remember a time in my life when a University of Tennessee football team has been a five touchdown underdog and this comes at a time when my primary-care physician tells me, “Let’s face it … you are old.” That said, even when I look at myself naked in the bathroom mirror I ain’t as ugly as what I fear will happen in Tuscaloosa this coming Saturday. I can remember the Tide ... (click for more)