Nothing really says "you’ve made it" like reaching triple-digits and joking about letters from the Queen — and it’s no different for the Stanhope dairy factory.
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The brains trust gathered to verify historical details and help name people in pictures from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The group was organised by Ian Coote, who agreed to do it after mishearing Mr Taylor over the phone. "I was driving, I couldn't hear much so I just agreed ... two weeks later he called up asking me how many people I had. I joked and said 50."

In July the site will herald in 100 years of operation, and current owner Fonterra is keen to capture the moment in history.

On May 26, a roundtable of retired workers and long-time Stanhope stalwarts gathered to review mystery photos unearthed by Fonterra.

Most of the faces lost in time were named immediately by the group — cheese supplier John Murphy was one, while young Harry Jensen who always visited with a question right when breakfast was being served was another.

The aim was to harness their collective memories (which add up to nearly 430 years) and pin down what happened and when in the lead-up to a big historical display at the 100-year celebration.

The group recalled a worker who drove a red Mercedes with three dogs in the back, when residents could buy petrol and supplies from the factory store, and when their employer used to send them home with a bottle of milk, a pound of cream and cheese.

Fonterra operations manager Steve Taylor said the company wanted to celebrate the centenary by highlighting how well the factory had thrived throughout decades of dairy downturns and multiple recessions.

“The Stanhope factory will never move,” Mr Taylor said.

“The cheesemaking knowledge in town is too valuable, it’s why Fonterra has committed to this site … the only thing which could shut this factory down is if we lose the dairy farmers.”

Fonterra will continue on its fact-finding mission until July 25, when the Stanhope Community Hall hosts a historic display, lunch for former and current workers and a plaque unveiling ceremony.

97 Milk’s slogans supporting whole milk are appearing ever farther afield from the group’s home base in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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