Zac McDorrI recently bought a worn glass Oakhurst bottle at the consignment store in Bath. That’s as close as I’ll get to one of the greatest winter activities of yesteryear: Eating the frozen cream from a home-delivered bottle.

As the milk sat on the front porch, the cream would rise to the top, then freeze, expand, and poke out through the cap. It could then be eaten like a Popsicle … or so my mother tells me.

Other people tell tales of the delicious ice cream that could be procured after school at the Oakhurst plant in Bath, which naturally closed down the year I was born (1974). Home milk delivery ceased two years later.

Arthur Ledbetter started a dairy in Portland in 1902, and changed its name to Oakhurst in 1918. Stanley T. Bennett became the manager two years later, and then acquired the dairy with financing from a former boss. The Bennett family kept buying Oakhurst shares until they owned the company outright in the 1940s. They still run it today.

A new plant was opened on Forest Avenue in 1922, followed by the branch plant in Bath in 1929. The first milk routes were serviced by horse-drawn milk wagons.
From the beginning, Oakhurst tried to outshine the competition by focusing on quality. The company performed rigorous inspections of the farms and equipment that provided milk to Oakhurst, and maintained higher cleanliness standards than other bottling plants.

As a result, Oakhurst grew from one of 80 small dairies in Portland to the largest dairy in the Northeast. They tripled the size of their main plant in 1954, and produced 40,000 quarts a day.

Oakhurst was the first dairy to test its milk for tuberculin in 1933. It converted its trucks to non-CFC coolants in 1992, and pledged against artificial growth hormones in 1994.

The natural goodness of Maine, indeed.