Remembering Alves Dairy: Part III

In 1978, a few days before the famous Alves Dairy, south of Half Moon Bay, famous for its delicious chocolate milk, closed its doors forever, I had the opportunity to interview owner Ernie Alves.

Ernie Alves.

Ernie Alves was telling me how he recalled, with accuracy, the construction of a milk plant. The way he remembered, he said, was because WW II began, and he couldn’t forget that time. There were two German bricklayers working for his family and the war directly affected these men.

Ernie: They passed a regulation that any aliens–Germans, Italians and Japanese could not cross west of the white line. (The white land separated the west side of the “highway” from the east side). The two bricklayers were German and they couldn’t come to work anymore. The man who ran the bakery was Italian and he couldn’t go to work, but his sons who were born here, could.

It was a terrible when Coastside residents without American citizenship could not cross Main Street to buy groceries or eat dinner or hug their friends. Although the bitterness of those times has carried over until this very day, everyone was relieved when the war ended.

Ernie Alves said his family processed raw milk until 1946. Then, he noted, the county and state passed a law requiring milk to be pasteurized.

Drive-ins had caught the imagination of the post WWII consumer; they were novel and helped usher in the fast food conept. About 1962 the Alves family built their own drive-in dairy south of Half Moon Bay.

Ernie: That is to say, Alves explained, if you had a herd and you had your own store you could sell milk for two to three cents lower than the prices a store could at that time. The state had complete control of prices. We were open six months and they changed the law. We had to sell at the same price as the stores.

So soon they had lost their competitive edge–and that was the beginning of the end of drive-ins.

In 1941 the Alves Dairy sold milk for ten cents a quart. They could turn a profit on that–but by 1978 it had become impossible and that was a big reason why the dairy was closing down.

Ernie: We built this place and we had to borrow. We’ve been forced to lower our price per gallon,which to me is utterly ridiculous. I would like to take those people and give them our operation for six months and see what they can do. They’ll probably be slaughtering cows to eat.

Now the closing of the Alves Dairy was a few days away.

June: How do you feel?

Ernie: It seems strange but I’m also kind of glad to get away from it. I’ve got a lot of irons on the fire.

Although the dairy closed, the “Our Cows Are Outstanding In Their Field” sign stayed up for awhile longer, then it, too, vanished forever.