Churning up interest

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Three generations of milk delivery vehicles
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Displays rare chums, ice cream freezers
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Rare granite milk pails are featured in this exhibit of small dairy items.

Guernsey collectibles, including the famed Guernsey milk jugs, took center stage at the fourth annual All-Dairy Antiques and Collectibles Show held Sept. 22-26, 2001, at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pa.

Sixty-one exhibitors, a record number, converged on the complex from 11 states to show their collections at the five-day event, which was held in connection with and sponsored by the Ail-American Dairy Show. Attendance was estimated at several thousand over the five days.

The Guernsey display was created by 12  exhibitors from Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Among them was Dave Cochard, who exhibited the Reserve Grand Champion Guernsey at the cattle show. ‘I was more excited about exhibiting in the collectibles show than I was with our cows in the show ring,’ he said.

An exhibit by Rutter’s Dairy, a family corporation in York, Pa., covered the early days of home delivery and featured their original horse-drawn wagon, used in the 1920s; a 1927 Chevy two-door sedan, which was Rutter’s first motorized delivery vehicle, and a 1936 Thorne Model C-1 gas/electric delivery truck. According to Jay Crist, Rutter’s historian, the Thorne was the only one ever made.

Sherry and Carl Abell of Medina, Ohio, brought their restored Elm Farm Dairy 1933 Twin Coach delivery truck. Sherry says they know of only six still in existence – and only two of those are drivable. Next year, they may have their 1931 Divco milk delivery truck ready to display as well, and Sherry says it is thought to be the only one of its kind.

Back home in Medina, the Abells operate Elm Farm Ice Cream and Dairy Museum, and a Victorian ice cream parlor called ‘Once Upon a Sundae.’ The museum and ice cream parlor are housed in an old dairy plant, where Carl worked for many years. The couple turned the former cooler into the parlor, complete with tin ceiling, a green-and-white Italian marble bar -and 100 different flavors of ‘super premium’ ice cream. ‘Most of what we sell is 15 percent butterfat,’ Sherry says.

At last September’s Pennsylvania show, the Abells enjoyed being shoppers as well as exhibitors, and Sherry says their favorite finds were an antique wood cheese press and an antique barrel butter churn with a foot treadle. Both are now on display in their Medina museum.

Other exhibitors with items for sale reported excellent results; high-quality butter churns, advertising signs, milk bottles and various smaller ‘go withs’ all brought good prices.

Like the Abells, exhibitors Jim and Martha Roberts of Scio, N.Y., aim to educate with their display – the rolling ‘Martha’s Milk House,’ a regular since the show’s inception in 1998.

Martha says each year she and Jim attend six or more tractor and gas engine shows, along with the dairy show. They decided it would be interesting to create the milk house exhibit to add a new dimension to the tractor and engine events and to provide an exhibit of particular interest to the growing number of women who attend those shows. Their early-day display has proved so popular, she adds, that now they are especially invited to bring it to some events.

 Jim built the trailer, which has one side that opens very much like a food stand for display purposes at the shows. Most of what’s inside are keep-sakes saved from Martha’s parents’ dairying days. Crowd favorites at the dairy show include a milk aerator, which cooled fresh milk with spring or well water before the invention of modern milk cooling systems; a cream separator, with a handle that visitors love to turn, and a 5-foot-tall milk bottle, restored by Jim, and patented in 1935 by a bottle saver firm in Buffalo, N.Y. Martha says in its former life, the giant bottle was used as a ‘return’ site – put your empty in and get your nickel back.

Leslie Firth of Mercer, Pa., another charter exhibitor at the show and a retired county extension agent, displayed some of his scale collection, including advertising scales used on farms to weigh milk or grain, and butter and cheese scales used in country stores. Leslie says the advertising scales were given as premiums to farmers by their grain dealers, including Purina, Master Mix, Kasco and Larro; the brass-fronted scales were made from the 1870s through the 1930s. The butter and cheese scales date to the 1860s.

Leslie, who also is co-chairman of the 24th convention of the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors, to be held May 30-June 3 in Pittsburgh, Pa., says the dairy show is a good time every year. ‘We just have a ball visiting with old friends and making new ones.’

The fifth annual installment is scheduled to be held from Sept. 21 to 25, also at the Farm Show Complex, 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg. Jersey breed items will be featured. FC

For more information on the show, contact Darwin Braund, 238 Ag Administration Bldg., University Park, PA 16802, (814) 863-1383, e-mail:; or Lolly Lesher, PA Farm Show Complex, 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17710, (717) 787-2905

Sherry and Carl Abells’ Elm Farm Ice Cream and Dairy Museum, and Victorian ice Cream Parlor, are open to the public daily except from Jan. 1 to March 1. The address is : 1050 Lafayette Rd., Medina, OH 44256; (330) 722-3839; e-mail:

For more Information on the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors convention, contact Leslie N. Firth, 348 N. Stonebase Rd., Mercer, PA 16137, (724) 662-0794, email:

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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