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I have been blessed to have this beautiful “thing” in the corner of my dining room for a number of years which boasts of a nostalgic time period on rural farms. (Refer to the photograph.) But, what in the world is that you ask? I really would not be able to answer this at all if not for my mother and other family members explaining this vintage domestic good to me.
First, my mother. She loved antiques, and especially if she had a memory of one’s use in her family. So as her parents gradually got rid of things they were no longer using, she let it be known that she’d love to have certain items in our home rather than see them discarded. Yes, even a cream separator– that’s what this thing is! After she freed the separator of rust and had it painted and fixed up a bit, she donned her newly acquired farm item with artificial greenery much like I have today and placed it in the corner of our kitchen. And when company asked, what in the world is that, she explained exactly what it was and how it functioned to separate the cream from the milk after the cows were milked.
A few years ago, I learned a little more about the Thomas family cream separator from my twin aunts, Sue and Mary.
My aunts shared that their father, my grandfather, bought some cows when they moved to a new house in 1942 in rural Indiana. Then he purchased the cream separator to sell cream. The separator had three containers that were used during the separation process. The top container was used to hold all the whole milk, and once it was full, Mary and Sue would take turns turning the handle around and around, causing the rich, thick cream to separate from the whole milk and flow out of one of the spouts. The skim milk would flow out of the other spout.
It was the girls’ responsibility to keep the separator clean with boiling water so the cream would be free of germs. Young Mary and Sue smiled with pride every time they got a good grade and price for the cream they sold, after it was checked by the inspector, Mr. Robertson.
If you live in the Midwest, you may be lucky enough to find a cream separator in the attic or a neighbor’s barn. Since this area of the country had a lot of dairy farms, there are often a few separators at any garage sale you might go to. As for me, I have a priceless remnant of pastoral America sitting right in my dining room. Sometimes my grandchildren ask Nana, “What in the world is that?” And I’m happy to talk about the good old days any time I can!
What about you? Have any of you operated a cream separator or owned one? Have a story about one? I’d love to know! I reply to all comments. (Scroll down to the bottom.)
My mother, Alberta
Grandchildren Selah and Sam play Hide ‘N Seek!
Twins Aunt Mary and Aunt Sue, Linton, Indiana, early 1940s
Fascinating, Becky. My mother had a spinning wheel and some kind of hand pump (don’t know it’s function) in our living room in the 1940s. Our milk was delivered in glass bottles so we either skimmed the cream off the top or mixed it in. Notice I said “delivered.” We did sometimes order cream, too, which came separately in a smaller bottle. I think we also got butter delivered.
I collected a lot of antiques over the years but mostly large pieces – a chiffarobe, desks, dining chairs and table. Some I refinished, too.
You should take your cream separator to Antiques Roadshow. It might be very valuable. I’m sure you want to keep it, but it could possibly be worth insuring. BTW, your aunts haven’t aged a bit! Still beautiful.
Becky Van Vleet
That’s interesting, Bonnie. Thanks for stopping by. I had no idea you had antiques as well. I have other antiques and they’re all special, but I don’t think I bought any. They all came from my mother. Don’t be surprised if other blogs come your way about my other antiques!
Becky, I have my mother’s Vintage Singer Featherlight sewing machine she bought in the early 1950s. It was an early electric machine; many seamstresses were still using treadle machines. Mom sewed dozens of dresses for her three daughters on that machine. I look at my elementary school pictures and see dresses Mom made, expertly and with love.
Becky Van Vleet
Hi Debbie, I’m so glad you have that sewing machine and all the memories that come with it. I have my grandmother’s treadle machine–it’s priceless!
Mary L Hamilton
Fascinating, Becky! Such antiques truly are treasures. I don’t have anything as interesting as that, but I have my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine stand, minus the machine but I do have the attachments. I also have a beautiful cedar chest my mother bought for me secondhand when I was a teenager. I believe it came from Sears. I also have the head and footboards for a Jenny Lind twin bed. It has wooden coasters on the legs.
Becky Van Vleet
Mary, I would say all of those items are true treasures. Enjoy them and I hope you can share stories about those items to your family members. I have my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine and I think it’s priceless–maybe I need to write something about that next!
The gold threw me at first, but I guessed what it was, Becky, because we bought one at a farmers’ auction when we had a small farm in Maine. We had several goats we milked, but goat milk is naturally homogenized, and we wanted to separate the cream to make cheese. We never mastered the thing and later resold it at the auction. I probably gave up too soon, but there were no You tube videos then. And there’s only so much time in the day when you have little children, a large garden, and several goats and pigs, not to mention dogs, cats and a pony! Thanks for the memory!
Becky Van Vleet
Oh, wow, Kathy, you had one of these and even tried to use it. That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing! (The gold is added paint when it was restored.)