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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