WHEN Albert Symons began his milk round in Bendigo a century ago, money grew on trees.
That’s where Albert would often have to go looking to get payment for the milk he delivered to households in the middle of the night.
Otherwise, his customers left cash under flower pots or door mats, in letterboxes, in secret locations on verandas or through the back door on kitchen tables.
Albert and his wife, Eleanor, began their milk delivery business in 1919, buying milk off any one of the 67 dairies operating in Bendigo at the time and delivering it seven days a week to a network of customers.
Albert began delivering milk with a torch strapped around his waist and riding a bicycle, ladling out milk from a large can. Two ladles equalled a pint and each pint cost two pence.
Eventually, Albert upgraded to a horse and cart, which allowed him to carry bigger milk cans.
Symons Dairy is still operating as a family business run by Albert’s grandson, Ian Symons, and his wife, Deb.
The business has changed dramatically from 1919, with two thirds of Ian and Deb’s operation acting as a distributor for dairy company Lactalis, delivering milk to supermarkets and service stations on a contract basis.
The other third of their business involved buying fresh milk products from Lactalis, along with about 300 other products — such as eggs, almond milk, soy milk, water and soft drinks — from other suppliers and delivering it to 300 customers, including motels, hotels, schools, offices and convenience stores.
They employ about 10 people and run four trucks and a smaller vehicle.
Ian said Symons Dairy stopped making home deliveries in the 1990s, when it became unviable.
“Supermarkets open seven days a week was the end of home deliveries,” he said.
“One of the secrets of our success is loyalty.
“We have been buying from the Pauls factory, now owned by Lactalis, since 1966.
“And our customers have been very loyal to us.”
Ian said he took over the business from his father, George, who joined Albert about 1937 as a 15-year-old eager to leave school.
“If customers wanted four ladles worth, Dad would give them four slightly under full,” Ian said.
“Then he would give a fifth one free, saying it was ‘for the cat’.
“They would say: ‘Gee, you’re a generous bloke, George’.”
George and his wife, Gwen, eventually bought Symons Dairy from his father in 1953 and continued to expand.
They retired in 1993, handing the reins to Ian and Deb.
On Friday, the family, with its customers, will celebrate 100 years of Symons Dairy.