In the 1930s and 1940s, DeKalb County was dairy country. At one point, there were 150 dairies in DeKalb County. A 1939 map in the book “A Century in North DeKalb: The Story of the First Baptist Church of Chamblee 1875-1975” shows 33 dairies in the North DeKalb area.
Wright Dairy was located along Briarwood Road, between today’s North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway. This history is available in the writings of Mrs. Willig of Brookhaven in the archives at DeKalb History Center. The history includes profiles of a few early residents and history of the Brookhaven/North Atlanta Planning Council which was active in the 1950s and 1960s.
Willig describes the location of Wright Dairy as where Arvilla Apartments were located in the 1970s. She spoke with Paul and Winnie Wright to find out more about Wright Dairy.
Paul Wright was born in a house on Clairmont Road in 1908. His parents, Daniel M. and Myrtis Wright, later moved to property on what is now Briarwood Road where they farmed and started the dairy.
The Wright family started out with about 12 cows, growing that number over the years to 26. Everyone in the family helped run the dairy, which meant working seven days a week. All the milking was done by hand.
Paul Wright recalled getting up at 4 a.m. to wash and milk the cows. A sterilizer was used, which was able to hold 20 cases of bottles at one time. Each case had 12 bottles. The sterilizer was heated from a wood boiler because there was no electricity. Then, the milk was placed in ice boxes. One hundred pounds of ice was delivered every day for cooling the milk.
In the early days, they used a wagon and mule to deliver the milk. Tuesdays and Saturdays were delivery days, which included a handful of Brookhaven homes, but mostly Atlanta homes.
In Brookhaven, the early customers of Wright Dairy were the Stokes and Wehunt families. As Paul Wright put it, “90 percent of the families had their own cow,” so not many people nearby needed the service.
All payments were made in cash, with the Wright family members going door to door to collect for their milk delivery.
The Wright Dairy business operated during World War I and the beginning of World War II. During World War II, there was a shortage of gasoline, as well as cars and trucks. Due to the problems these shortages caused and Paul’s brother joining the military, the dairy business was shut down. He recalled that milk was 15 cents a quart in those days.
Paul Wright’s brother Daniel went overseas as part of the 4th Marine Division. He died at Tinian Island in the Pacific in July of 1944.
After the family closed the dairy business, Paul Wright worked at Lawson General Hospital from 1942 until 1947. He delivered Atlanta Journal newspapers in the Brookhaven area for many years after that.
Wright Dairy was a family business, relying on each family member to help get the job done. It is the story of many small dairies throughout DeKalb County in the 1930s and 1940s.
You can reach Valerie at email@example.com.