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Farmer's Collection Tells The History Of Milk
It's a pretty sure bet you've never seen as
many butter churns, cream separators or milk
bottles in one place as you'll find in Gerald
and Barb Surbrook's basement.
The Surbrooks are senior partners in a
Rives Junction, Michigan, dairy farm, along
with their son, Rick and grandson, Jim. Over
the years, they've accumulated thousands of
dairy antiques, collectibles and memorabilia.
Most of the collection consists of items used
in the home or by dairy processors to
package, process, or serve milk and milk
products. They even have a 1940's vintage
home delivery milk truck.
Gerald says he began collecting dairy
memorabilia when he inherited 10 bushel
baskets full of milk bottles from an aunt. "At
one time, there were 122 different producers
bottling and selling milk here in Jackson
county, and I have bottles from 50 of those,"
he says.
They also have one of the most complete
sets of Dazey butter churns around, from the
earliest wooden model to the last of the glass
ones. "Dazey made a number of quart-sized
glass churns that were decorative and
intended to be set out in the kitchen,"
Surbrook says. "We have one of almost all
of those. And we have both the smallest and
largest of the wooden box-type churns they
They also have several crockery churns and
two treadmill churns from the late 1800's,
which used dog or sheep power to make
butter. In all, they have 450 churns with 300
of them on display.
The collection also includes butter molds
and presses, cheese dishes, and both tabletop
and floor model cream separators from
several different companies. Of particular
interest to many is the John Deere cream
They also have several of the small milk
cans used for home delivery prior to the
introduction of the returnable glass bottle.
"People would set these out on their doorsteps
and the milkman would come along with a
bucket and pour milk into them," he explains.
Included in the memorabilia in the
collection are an unused Delaval equipment
dealer sign from the 1920's and a couple of
cabinets used by dealers to store separator
Surbrook says most of the collection was
put together in the 1970s, by attending farm
auctions and flea markets. They continue to
add pieces from swap meets and shows and
through connections with collector clubs
across the country.
Surbrook says their basement is not a
museum, but the couple willingly opens up
to school groups and others who want to look.
If you're looking for something specific, he
can probably tell you where you can see it or
direct you to someone else who can.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Gerald
Surbrook, 4858 Maple Lane Road, Rives
Junction, Mich. 49277 (ph 517 569-3143).

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2002 - Volume #26, Issue #3