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Friday, Jan 04 2008 12:56 AM

Dairyman kept up tradition of home delivery

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    Norman Larson

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BY ANDY KEHE, Californian staff writer e-mail:akehe@bakersfield.com

“Havva glassa milk” today — if not for your health then for a thirst-quenching send-off to Bakersfield dairyman Norman Larson, a producer of great-tasting milk and a keeper of a cherished slice of Americana for far longer than his dairy industry peers.

Larson, owner-operator of Larson’s Dairyland in Bakersfield from 1956 to 2007, died Dec. 30 at the age of 90.

Long after just about every milk producer in California had halted home deliveries, there were Larson Dairyland’s turquoise and white trucks, still in 1990, cruising up and down the streets of Bakersfield delivering cold, fresh bottled milk — bottled because the milk tasted better that way and he knew it.

“There’s nothing better than milk out of a glass bottle and Norman’s was always nice and fresh, bottled the next day and delivered to the homemaker’s steps,” said retired Kern County dairy inspector Gilbert Lewis. “If you had to put him in a category, I’d say he was an excellent dairyman in all aspects.”

When he was forced to finally halt deliveries and retail sales in April 1990 because of unmatchable low milk prices charged by supermarket giants, Larson’s Dairyland had 6,000 home-delivery customers. In his retail store at his dairy on Wible Road, customers could pick up Larson’s bottled milk, low-fat chocolate milk, eggnog and party slush punch.

For a while, his products were stamped with the image of Larson Dairyland mascot Sam the Hippo, an actual hippopotamus Larson inherited from the zoo at Hart Park after it closed.

Thousands of Kern County school kids will remember picking up a carton of Larson’s Dairyland milk with Sam the Hippo on it.

Larson, a consistent buyer and contributor at the Kern County Fair, served the dairy industry in several official capacities. It was during his time as California’s representative to the American Dairy Association that California dairymen adopted the promotional slogan “Havva glassa milk.”

A four-sport athlete at Whittier High, Larson lettered in track at the University of Southern California. After settling in Bakersfield with his wife, Margaret, and establishing his dairy in the mid-1950s, Larson remained dedicated to his Lutheran faith and faithfully attended St. John’s Lutheran Church.

“He loved his family and was a man of faith,” said St. John’s church member Dwayne Clemans. “What was cool was even in his 80s, he liked the contemporary service with the bands and drums, electric guitars and all that. That’s what he came to listen to was the contemporary service.”

Services for Larson were held Thursday.

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