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Hardison Sanitary Dairy
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Hardison's Sanitary Dairy, c 1920

The local dairy was founded in 1916 by Elvira and Clifford Hardison. Clifford Hardison was the resident manager on the Hardison Ranch Company’s La Campana property in Sespe when the young couple decided to start their own farm properties.  When the nearby highway was realigned south from Muir, they then bought 10 acres on “Telegraph Road”.  They bought cows (some from other local farmers) and started a herd of about 30.  A modern milking barn and milk handling room were built to plans from the University of California.  A prefabricated grain silo was purchased from Sears and set up on site.  It was topped with an arrow and large wooden milk bottle and painted “SD”, signage that could be seen from the highway. A hay barn and corrals housed the cattle.

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Clifford and Elvira Hardison

The name “Sanitary” meant the cows were certified as healthy and the raw milk handled according to all regulations.  It was carefully chilled, put into glass bottles and promptly deliver by twice-daily routes throughout the area – as fresh as it could be!

Elvira Hardison opened a stand alongside the dairy and offered fresh-squeezed orange juice from their trees and dairy products, from the cows that were milked where the public could watch.  Homemade sandwiches and candies, sodas and other items were for sale.  A small gas station, restrooms and shaded picnic area made the place a popular stop for locals and travelers approaching Fillmore.

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Elvira Hardison at the stand, c 1955

The Hardisons were proud of the awards for quality their milk earned at statewide judgings, and also the certificates for the attractive appearance of their roadside business.

The dairy prospered and expanded over the years.  Their children all worked at dairy chores.  Dorothy Hardison Nickerson recalled that she and her brother, Russ, ran to deliver bottles to doorsteps as Cliff or Elvira drove the delivery truck.  Daughters Evelyn Hardison Richardson and Betty Jean Hardison Burritt helped to prepare food and staff the stand.  Days were long and very busy.  They recalled a record day during the depression when sales reached $100!

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Sanitary Dairy truck, 1925

Cliff, Dorothy, Russell and Evelyn Hardison


Russell Hardison got his college degree in Dairy Science from UC Davis.  After his wartime service he returned and took of the retail part of the dairy in 1946 and eventually became owner of the whole business.  The herd was expanded further to 60 cows and a new Creamery building went up in 1948 to accommodate equipment for pasteurization and more bottling capacity.  Schools wanted pasteurized milk, and the baby-boomer generation filled the schools.  Routes now went out to Piru and Santa Paula and beyond.

Waxed paper cartons were introduced in the 1950’s – the squarish solid ones with a round paper “cap” on top.  Later the cartons became the formed type with sloped tops that we sill see today.  With time fewer customers wanted glass bottles.

The highway was realigned again south in 1956, leaving now on “Old Telegraph Road.”  Elvira saw that it was time to closed the roadside stand after 40 years of good business.  A new office building and “cash-and-carry” sales window replaced it in 1957.

Through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond, owners Russell and Betty Hardison were active in the community – supporting local causes, entering floats in the annual Fillmore parade, and hosting many, many local school children on field trips to the dairy.   Children could watch as the cows were milked, could pet baby calves, and drink some chocolate milk while wearing SD beanies!

However – the dairy business everywhere changed as home delivery demand decreased.  In 1977 the home delivery routes were discontinued.  Sales then concentrated on serving schools.  The dairy cows left about that time, but the buildings remained.

Russ Hardison had milk bottled in up in his brands at other local dairies and actually owned school delivery routes until the early 1980’s.  The Hardison home and the dairy buildings on Old Telegraph Road are now used for other purposes.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors declared the Sanitary Dairy to be a County Landmark in 1989.

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