Newspaper Archive of
The Issaquah Press
Issaquah, Washington
June 22, 1983     The Issaquah Press
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June 22, 1983

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:suo.elelnieJBuo3 mM00wBmruv SUO!#e-ln00[MDUOO i!ii:i Workers for the Issaquah Creamery Company pose before their trucks in 1947. From left: Keith Pickering. In the foreground is Front Street Huge silos now sit where the trucks are Everett Harrington, Gordon Crosby, Garret DeBoer, Harold Lyne, Rodney Anderson and parked. Photo courtesy of Vern Anderson Remembering Darigold, syml:,9l of past and ful:lare "'Dairying was a "natural" for the Issaquah area. The mild climate provided for almost year-round grazing, the abun- dant rainfall made lush pasture -- though plenty of conster- nation at haying time -- and the back country soon was characterized by green meadows dotted with grazing bossies, and -- likely as not -- a great rambling barn of split cedar board and hand-riven shakes in the back- ground. " --from the Issaquah Press centennial issue, 1962 Issaquah's dairy farms may have gone the way of hand- churned butter and glass milk bottles, but its milk process- ing factory lives on. Today, the huge, rambling Darigold plant in the middle of town serves as a reminder of what Issaquah used to be. As Darigold celebrates its 75th year in Issaquah, the Press takes this chance to step back and take a look at the place. Behind the huge silos and gleaming tank trucks is a wet, roaring, steamy, pipe-filled factory that never stops. Mind-boggling volumes of dairy products rush through miles of pipes every day, all day and all night. More butter is made in Issaquah than anywhere else in Washington - five million pounds a month. Butter production has tripled in the last two years and will go even higher as bigger and faster machines are added to handle the load. The full story of Darigold -- its past, present and future -- is told in this special section, written and photographed by Rodi Shemeta Ludlum and Paul Roberts. Alice Ek was a Darigold bookkeeper in 1927. She earned $50 a month and worked weekdays and Saturdays and Sundays. If a milk delivery was delayed and didn't make it to the plant unti 11 p.m., she was called out of bed to go down and make out receipts. Louis Chevalier worked summers at Darigold and winters in the coal mines. When he started work at the creamery in 1914, he made 20 cents an hour as a relief worker. Years later, when he was shop steward for the union, workers got a raise to 75 cents an hour -- $6 a day. The union told him that's about as much as employees could ever hope to be paid. When he retired in 1964, he was making $3.25 an hour. Hooker Hailstone has worked for Darigold for 30 years. In that time, he's been home for Christmas four times. When he started working there, he made $14 a day. Now he makes that much in an hour. In the old days, you bet it was hard work, long days, low pay, and no vacations at Darigold. But no one's complaining. "That's all there was to do in town back then for steady work," said Chevalier. Said Ek, "Jobs were so scarce, if you didn't work there, you didn't work at all. But it was fun -- it kept us busy, kept us out of mischief." Darigold's success has been Issaquah's success - a source of reliable income for many town families when the coal mines were emptied and the mountains logged over. Students could work there part-time and miners could come in dur- ing the summer, when milk production was at its peak. There were steady jobs available when it came time to settle down and raise a family. Working at Darigold has been a way of life for many Issaquah families. Even now, many workers can't take two steps without bumping into a relative. Some families can trace their company roots all the way backto the very begin- ning of the operation in 1908. The articles of incor- poration for Northwest Milk Condensing Company were taken out by five Issaquah men: P.J. Smith, a former county commissioner; Dr. WE. Gibson, a physician; George Clark, A.F. Giese, owner of what is now Hans Jensen park; and John Anderson, owner of the land now Lake Sammamish State Park. The men started out not only condensing milk and making butter, but making ice, canning fruits and vegetables and running a general store. In 1926, the plant was purchased by the Nettleton brothers, who renamed it Issaquah Creamery Company. Only three years later, one of the plant's butter makers, Hans Forster, bought the enter- prise along with AI Peters, another long-time Issaquah resident. By 1933, Forster had bought out Peter's share of Issaquah Creamery and was also the owner of Alpine Dairy of Seattle Forster ran the operation for the next 20 years, until he sold his holdings to Con- solidated Dairy Products in 1952. That's when the oper- ation finally became Darigold. In the old days, milk ar- rived at the plant in 10 gallon cans, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in wheebarrows and wagon loads. In the beginning, you could even bring in half a can, if that's all Bossie would give that day. But you couldn't just let it sit there until tomorrow. To- day's work had to be done today or the milk would spoil. Testing, weighing, mixing, packing -- it was all done by hand. "There were no push buttons back then," says Ek. That meant a lot of long days. Long-time workers have fond memories of the place they spent so much of their lives. Louis Chevalier liked to surprise the girls who wrapped butter by filling Continued on Page 8 \\; Too young to retire: Darigold's Vern "'Babe" Anderson, (left) head maintenance man, has been keeping miles of pipe running for 40 years. Hooker Hailstone has worked at the plant for nearly 30 years. The creamery's ice cream truck is decorated with costumed kids, crepe paper and a giant cone for the big Labor Day parade in 1940. On top of the truck is Ceorse Ek, standing by the door is Joe Neukirchen. Photo courtesy of Vern Andef- .ll. -ing the rooms wth noise and keeping the temperature a chilly 43 degrees. A garage-sized door in each of the fridges leads outside to twin railroad spurs. Darigold fills an average of nine refrigerated box cars a week with a variety of products, but but- ter is the chief export. In a twenty four hour period, the plant turns out 110 tons of butter, enough spread to cover more than three million slices of toast. The railroad is the end of the processing story, but it's not for Darigold. About a .fifth of each day is given over to a rigorous cleaning schedule. Every pipe, tank, vat and machine is flushed by the plant's automatic cleaning process. For every dairy products pipe, a se- cond runs alongside, pump- ing a cleaning solution to rinse the system out. Germs are serious business at Darigold, and aside from the special bac- teria present in the yogurt and sour cream cultures, they are most unwelcome. The plant has its own quali- ty control laboratory, com- plete with a microprocessor and technicians in lab coats. The microprocessor analyzes dairy samples for fat and protein content and looks for things that shouldn't be there. If some- thing's amiss, the lab will find it and production halts until the problem is fixed. Hooker Hailstone hoses down the red tile floor of the separator room. About 20 percent of the day is devoted to cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. more machines, promotion and production Sam Culmback, Darigold plant manager, describes the company as a farmer oriented co-op. "'We are the farmers' production sales arm. We buy their milk and sell it at the best market price." At the end of each year,-Darigold tallies its earnings and returns a por- tion of it to the farmers. Some of the profit is kept for the farmers in equity, or shares, allowing Darigold to expand. The two silos built last year for instance were part of that expansion. But not all future expan- sion will be visible from outside the plant. A com- puter is planned to monitor the hours the process use to take. A cooler is being con- structed to hold the fer- mented cottage cheese prior to packaging. The cheese must now stay in the vats until it can be packaged. The addition of the cooler will allow the vats to be fill- ed twice as often, thus doubling production. The two huge coolers are a recent development, built to handle the stepped-up production foreseen in the near future. All manufactur- ing areas in the plant must be upgraded. As new machines and processes ap- pear on the market, Dari- the tremendous job cleaning every day. The computer will open and close air-powered valves, giving supervisors time to fulfill other plant duties. The microprocessor that checks on the quality of the company's products does its job in seconds instead of of _ gold will seek to increase its efficiency by employing them. "The plant isn't going to get any bigger, really," says Culmback. "We're just go- ing to gradually fill in all the nooks and crannies in the existing strucfure." Low Continued on Page 8 The R.M. Holt Law Firm Associates: R. T. Beaty Nancy Whitten 392-5335 888-3411 RON POWELL Manager DISTRIBUTION YARD 5210 E. Sarnmamish Rd. So. Issaquah. Washington 98027 MA 4-7384 - EX 2-5367 HAROLD W. TATE & CO., P.S. CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS 425 RAINIER BLVD. N. ISSAQUAH, WA 98027 HAROLD W. TATE CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT (206) 392-5650 Your Mutual Friends 855 RAINIER IlLVO. N., ISSAOUAH, WA 9801"/ (206) 455-7335 PHOTOGRAPHY BARRY STEEL 470 Front St. No. P.O. Box 1117 Izmqum. wA. W027 206/392-7794 n H 454-3155 for Alhmce & Water Heater Repairs Iseaquah i salutes its good neighbor Darigold Happy 75th Anniversary [ro ln : The Country Mouse Thinker Toys CMieo Cat PappagMlo The Lo00t The Feed Store Front Street Books Village Men's Shop Holiday Shoppe Cottage Weaving The Lenthermaids Fast Lady Sports ii i