Got milk — bottles? Oklahoma State University has Stanley Gilliland's collection
STILLWATER — Stanley Gilliland captured history in a bottle.
It was a milk bottle — actually hundreds of them.
“Dad loved Oklahoma history and he loved the dairy industry and it came together in this collection,” son Steve Gilliland said. “I imagine he was probably in an antique store or something one day and he saw a milk bottle and he thought, ‘Hey, I'd like to have that.' And then it probably just grew from there.”
It grew to milk bottle caps, small cream bottles and other memorabilia connected with the dairy industry.
Stanley, a food microbiologist at Oklahoma State University's Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, lost his battle with cancer in January 2010 at age 69.
But when you capture history, as Gilliland did, it can be preserved — and shared. His collection is prominently displayed in the center's lobby.
“Milk bottles from Oklahoma dairies were the focus of his collection,” Steve said. “We are thankful to OSU and Braum's for recognizing Dad with this display, and proud that so many thought highly enough of Dad to remember him in this way.”
The Braum's family sponsored the construction of the wood and glass display cabinet to showcase the collection.
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- Video: Milk Bottle collection (2014-01-24)
Assembling the collection
Notebook in hand, Stanley, who more often than not walked around with a sweeping grin on his face, would enter a flea market or an antique store.
In the book were listed bottles he had and those he didn't own. After spotting and purchasing a bottle, the Minco native would tote it back to his Stillwater home.
Stanley would place it in a cabinet that stretched from about floor to ceiling in his office at the house. Steve has determined that roughly half of the milk bottles are from Oklahoma dairies. While not a lot of people knew about Stanley's collection, the family did. So, milk bottles soon became gifts.
For example, Steve was with friends at an antique store. He noticed a bottle that read “Department of Dairying Oklahoma A&M College.” Steve bought it for his father.
Stanley attended Oklahoma State University, where he earned bachelor and master's degrees in dairy manufacturing. He attended North Carolina State University, where he received his doctorate in food science in 1966. He stayed at North Carolina State and worked as an assistant professor until 1976 and then joined the faculty at OSU.
His work included serving as coordinator of the OSU food science graduate program while teaching upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in food science.
During his tenure at the university, Stanley published more than 115 peer-reviewed journal articles, authored 24 book chapters, presented 114 papers at scientific meetings and received 24 extramural grants worth several million dollars. In addition, he assisted in the development of the Food & Ag Products Center.
In addition to the milk bottle collection, Stanley is remembered through the Stanley E. Gilliland Memorial Fellowship in Food Science, a fund that provides scholarship opportunities for students interested in food science.
Chuck Willoughby, the center's business and marketing relations manager, worked with Stanley for several years. Willoughby was not aware of his co-worker's collection.
“He had some neat things in his office like an old A&M milk carton,” Willoughby said, “but I had no idea about this extensive collection until after he passed. The collection was so extensive his children thought this would be a great way to remember their dad.
“It not only serves as a reminder of his contributions as a dairy scientist but gives us an appreciation for the history of the dairy industry.”
The numerous bottles include one that says “Horn & Farris Dairy, Muskogee, Okla.” Another reads “Oblander Guernsey Farm, visit our milking parlor, Enid, Okla.” There are many more.
Willoughby said that when he walks by the display case, he thinks of Stanley, but also of his own childhood.
“It reminds us of our history with different dairies in different towns or milk on the porch,” Willoughby said. “On that shelf is a small Townley's bottle. I grew up in Oklahoma City and so there wasn't hardly a day I didn't go by the Townley's Milk Bottle there near 23rd and Classen.”
That's just one of the benefits of sharing the collection with others.