Dairy Items Hobby Takes on Life of Its Own

Butter churns, cream separators and milk testing equipment part of extensive dairy item collection


| March 1999



The Elms Near General Store, a display Jack Allen created to take "on the road" to nearby fairs.

The Elms Near General Store, a display Jack Allen created to take "on the road" to nearby fairs. 

Photo by Jack Allen

Jack Allen ran a dairy farm for nearly 30 years. Now retired, he collects dairy items. But it's a little more complicated than that. He also collects typewriters. And old sweepers. And potbellied stoves. And cultivators. And plows ... 

"I had a stroke when I was younger," he said. "After that, my wife said I should get a hobby. She probably thought I'd take up needlepoint, like Rosie Grier."

Then, too, there was the matter of the barn to deal with.

"When we sold the cows, my son was an auctioneer, and he set up an auction barn in the old cow barn. But the upper half was still empty. Then he moved to a different barn on the farm, and the whole barn was left empty," he said. "Well, when a barn's left empty, when it's not used, it'll go to pieces. So I started collecting things."

An obvious starting point? Dairy items.

"In the old milk house, we have 35 or 40 butter churns, all different," he said. "There's glass churns, and wood, and the kind you'd sit in a rocking chair and rock. Some of them date to the 1890s. And we have half a dozen cream separators."