Milk Bar at the Beach

My big sister and her husband are antique postcard dealers. Yesterday they sent me this French card from 1901. Laitière sur la Plage. Dairy on the Beach, or Milkmaid on the Beach — laitière can mean either one. [Click to enlarge.]

I love it. I can stare into the photograph for an hour, imagining that long-ago day on the beach in Berck-Plage in northern France.

Notice the bare feet of the women and the little girl. The white caps and the aprons tied over the long dresses. The gentleman’s striped pants and pointy-toed shoes. The fishing boat pulled up on the sand behind them.

The lady who is kneeling (is she the farmer’s wife?) appears to be milking into a cup for the eagerly waiting child. The milk pail is on the sand behind her.

Just what is needed on a chilly day at the beach: a cup of warm fresh milk, tapped straight from the cow!

And then the cow herself. Her only restraint is a cord looped around her horns — and that is lying loose on the sand. She must be perfectly content in the ocean breeze: she appears to be chewing her cud. But to me, the most amazing part:

Regardez those teats!

It’s one thing to know intellectually that cows today have been bred for smaller teats to accommodate milking machines, but the contrast is breathtaking.

Here’s a modern cow’s udder.

Now, look again at that udder from 110 years ago.

Those teats look like kielbasas!

I love history. Thank you, N and D, for this glimpse of Katika’s possible great, great grand-mere, living the good life on the beach in France.


3 Responses to Milk Bar at the Beach

  1. Jenny says:

    Wonderful post! I love seeing old photos and memorabilia… and silent movies. I recently saw “Diary of a Lost Girl” and was riveted by a scene in which an effete rich playboy was ordered by his uncle to milk a dairy cow or risk being cast out to fend for himself (he ends up being cast off forever, lol).

    The cow had the LONGEST hooves I’d ever seen.

    If you’re on Netflix and interested, here’s the movie:

    • Missy says:

      great postcard. She looks to be a sizable cow, her teats are actually similar to the Charolais cows near us, really big “beefy” cow teats but not a big beefy body.

      I saw a photograph earlier this year that has stuck in my mind, of 2 young children, probably about 7 & 9, who were doing a man’s full work load delivering milk using a horse and cart because their father had gone to war. The horse was standing quietly and the children next to it were just pint sized. It’s amazing to imagine how different things were. I guess the kids also had to milk the cow(s) before they did the milk run too, they were required to be so responsible … not a bad thing I would think.

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