For 110 years milk has been flowing through the veins of the Dennington community, but in November what was once the heart of the town will stop.
The news that Fonterra will close the door on more than a century of history came as a shock to its workers and the community.
Out of all the possible locations in the world, in 1909 Nestle's managers in Switzerland chose Dennington to establish a huge dairy factory as one of the company's first manufacturing bases outside Europe.
Factory employs 800 in its heyday
Production on the site started on February 1911 and, at its peak, almost 800 people were employed there.
During World War I it was the largest milk condensory factory in the world.
As well as dairy products, including baby formula, the factory once produced Aussie favourites Milo and for half a century the distinct scent of coffee wafted across Warrnambool until that part of the factory closed in 2000.
Dennington Community Association member David Kelson was one of the 800 workers employed at the factory when he first started in 1959.
His father was a share farmer in the 1940s who used to supply milk to Fonterra, but by 1950 he had also taken a job at the factory as a shift worker.
Mr Kelson said the workforce really was like a family, especially in the early days.
He reckons the heyday of the factory was probably in 1960s and 70s.
"They were totally self-sufficient back in those days," he said.
"You had your own can shop where you made your own cans. You had all your engineering on site. We used to have painters, carpenters, everything.
"Everything was done onsite, but during the 1980s things started to get outsourced."
For about 40 years Mr Kelson worked at the factory as a taste tester in the lab, sipping up to 150 sample cups a day to determine if batches had the correct flavour.
These days he prefers a cappuccino rather than instant coffee.
"If you go back 30 years ago, instant coffee was the coffee before cappuccino became the flavour of the day," he said.
122 jobs go in coffee plant closure
When that coffee plant closed in November 2000, it put 122 employees out of work reducing the workforce by 38 per cent.
The closure of the coffee plant came at a time when the dairy industry was booming and Nestle's soon pumped $8 million into its milk production plant.
Mr Kelson said that it was during the boom times that in 1996 Nestle built a spray dryer on the site.
At the time it was the most advanced in the world, he said.
"The factory was Dennington," according to Mr Kelson.
That was back in the early days when the town was separated from Warrnambool by four or five kilometres of vacant land.
It had its own postcode then and most people in Dennington worked at the factory.
Those that didn't live there would take the train from Warrnambool to the factory.
"It used to come in the morning and it used to have a passenger car on it as well and people used to come to work on it," Mr Kelson said.
He remembers when the steam train carrying the workers would also bring 10 to 12 goods carriages full of packaging materials.
At the end of the day it would take the workers back to Warrnambool along with truckloads of finished product.
Mr Kelson has seen many changes at the factory over the years, and after his retirement he has devoted hours to keeping the history alive.
It's the end of an era. It's very sad....You build up lifetime of friendship. You spend all your days at work so they're the people you have as much contact with as your family.Former worker David Kelson
The factory's memorabilia room is filled with 7000 photos which he looks after.
"It's the end of an era. It's very sad. I feel very sorry for the 100 workers," Mr Kelson said.
"You build up lifetime of friendship. You spend all your days at work so they're the people you have as much contact with as your family."
They just don't build them like they used to
Mr Kelson said Nestle's purchased the land at Dennington in 1909 and took over the Farnham Cream and Butter Company, which had started in 1889 on the opposite side of the Merri River, as well as the Russell's Creek Creamery and the Mailers Flat Creamery.
That meant the had a milk supply before they started to build the factory.
Employee cottages were built followed by factory buildings made from large sandstone blocks capable of withstanding earthquakes.
The extra building strength was prompted by a major tremor in 1903 which hit the district.
The row of terraced cottages was demolished in 1987 allow for expansion on the site despite a petition with 2000 signatures and an appeal against a demolition order.
Records show the first milk intake was two days old and sour, but the company's stringent quality rules soon triggered a revolution in farming shed hygiene and top quality milk.
In the first year of production, the factory was pumping out 150,000 cases of sweetened condensed milk, but during the war it jumped to 520,000.
It soon became the largest and later the only exporter through the port of Warrnambool with 17,513 tons shipped out in 1932-33 until siltation of the bay and soaring costs prompted the company to choose Portland, Geelong and Melbourne ports.
Surge in demand during WWII
World War II brought another surge in demand for dairy food and by 1946 the factory was processing more than 113 million litres of milk a year and had 700 suppliers.
This week a source told The Standard that Fonterra had about 200 suppliers between its Warrnambool and Cobden plants.
It set a world record one-day milk intake although according to history book By These We Flourish says it was widely rumoured much of the extra milk went straight into the Merri because the factory could not handle it all.
For many years, groups of itinerant workers would be brought in to help with the peak spring milk intake and they were accommodated in huts near the football ground.
In the 1920s, Nestle's set up a social committee that led to the formation of the Nestle cricket club and rowing club, both of which still exist today.
"They used to play tennis on site, badminton, pool tables, basketball teams," Mr Kelson said.
"We used to have the clubrooms onsite when people would come in anytime day or night and play sport from the Dennington township or the workers' children, but then the site was shut up so they took the club rooms away so all of that slowly went away," he said.
It was a time, Mr Kelson said that it wasn't just a factory, it was the centre of town.
But in the mid-1980s the company erected fences and gates in a bid to improve security worldwide.
The changing face of Dennington
Mr Kelson, who grew up and went to school in Dennington, said that in the past two decades it had tripled in size with 400 extra homes built there.
Many of the traditions of the Nestle's factory are still carried on today such as the annual Santa hospital visits delivering toys and gifts to patients.
"That's been going for over 80 years," he said.
In 1937, Nestle's also started the quarter century club which rewarded employees for their 25 years of service with a function held on the last Friday of November each year and a gift of a silver pewter mug or teapot, now they get a watch. That club has almost 500 people.
The Nestle's name disappeared from Dennington in 2005 when Fonterra took over the site.
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