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Equipment Dealer Collects Old Cream Separators
Not many people collect old cream separators because they're heavy, difficult to re-store and they have little value as antiques. But Kent Gordon, Palestine, Texas, has 35 separators in his home and 'more than a hundred more in a warehouse he bought to house his collection.
Gordon says his goal is to collect one of every model ever made. "My problem is finding enough room."
Hand-cranked cream separators became common on American farms about the turn of the century, providing a sanitary way to separate cream from raw milk. The typical design was a cast iron frame and many inter-locking gears, topped with a gleaming tin-plated bowl to hold fresh milk.
A farmer either sold the cream produced by the separator to a nearby dairy or saved it for the family table, Gordon says. "For years, the only thing creameries would buy from small farmers was cream. It was easier to transport cream without spoilage than raw milk."
Homogenization ended the usefulness of individually owned separators by the mid-1950's. Companies like DeLaval and Sharpies that once specialized in the de-vices have moved on to other products.
Gordon, 43, is a farm equipment dealer. He grew up on a farm and has always been fascinated by farm machinery. He acquired 30 separators at flea markets and auctions before he discovered that there's an association for cream separator collectors. "Cream Separator News", published by Paul Dettloff of Arcadia, Wis., is the official news-letter of the Cream Separator Association. Arcadia also played host to about 30 collectors during the association's first convention in September, 1987.
"A friend and I drove up to Arcadia in a pickup intending to do a little collecting along the way. "I had 30 separators by the time I got to the convention," says Gordon, noting that by the end of the convention he had another 10 separators and was forced to rent a second truck to get his treasures back to Palestine.
Gordon's den is reserved as a place of honor for his rarest finds. His Swedish-built Tor separator is so rare none is known to exist in any other collection. He also owns a Vestifalya separator, made in Turkey, and a Solo-Lanz, origin unknown.
Gordon purchased a small warehouse when his collection threatened to overrun the house. Filled with fully restored floor and table models, Gordon's warehouse is as neatly arranged as an old-time separator dealership. He says that some people still seek him out for working machines, including a woman recently who wanted to separate goat milk.
Paul Dettloff of the Cream Separator Association, who owns 187 separators himself, says there are 65 serious separator collectors in the U.S. and Canada. He has written a book on separators, called the Cream Separator Guide. It sells for $7.45. A one-year membership in the Cream Separator Association, which includes a subscription to the quarterly newsletter, costs $7.50.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Paul Dettloff, Cream Separator Association, Rt. 3, Arcadia, Wis. 54612 (ph 608 323-3047 or 715 985-2432).
Story and photo reprinted from the Palestine Herald-Press.

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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #5