Friday, March 6, 2009

Museum Tours, Part 1

What do you get when you cross a history nut with a pack rat? Two things. Firstly, me. And secondly, museums. I actually have three museums in my house. These are mostly as conversation pieces and for decoration.But also to honor and remember the past. This blog is one of a series of nine blogs, three on each of three museums.

The first museum is in the entry area of our home. It is a museum of pictures and mementos of the cheesemaking heritage of our family. Specifically the early years of my Dad as a cheesemaker. He got his inspiration from his Dad, John Rechsteiner. This is an award my Grandfather won at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1937.

....another award from the Wisconsin Cheesemakers association in 1939.

....The awards, indeed the entire heritage and museum, is about Swiss Cheese, that King of cheeses. The Swiss are proud (and stubborn, but that is a different blog) and they display the flag or shield of their canton (or state, like Wisconsin) on their homes. Our family has two. This is from the canton Appenzell, my Dad's side of the family. Appenzel would, unfortunately be the Swiss equivalent of Arkansas, but, hey, everyone has to be from somewhere. My daughter Hannah has a tattoo on her lower back (commonly called a "tramp stamp") and it is this bear.

....My mother's family's heritage is the much more respected canton of Berne. These symbols are an important part of Swiss culture and can be seen on Swiss homes throughout the world.

....Our Dad's hobby was photography, a stroke of luck as it left a rich trail of pictures for us to enjoy. Some of these pictures are the main stuff of this museum. One day, in 1953, he decided to record his work as a cheesemaker, putting my Mother behind the camera for the day. The little guy in the picture is, yes, Rex......

....years later, when we made prints from his old Kodachrome slides for this museum, my Mom agreed to make a comment on the back of each one. Little did she know that she would be "blogging" someday. Little did YOU know that Rex is actually named Robert (sorry, Rex)

....Here is our Dad pouring milk from an old-fashioned milk can into the separator. This machine separates the cream from the rest of the milk. The cream goes off to become butter or ice cream at another location. Milk cans were replaced by on-farm milk storage coolers in the 60's and became obsolete. They became popular as bar stools, and other decorations in homes and then they got so far from our memories that now they are only in museums.

....Many of the tools in the museum are the actual tools in the pictures from 1953. Apparently, "pack rat" is hereditary. This milk can is not the one in the picture, however, as I bought it from antique dealer a few years back.

....This item makes my Mom edgy. It is a old home buttermaker. It is used to turn cream into butter. In Wisconsin, the cheese was made (still is, to an extent) by organizations called Co-ops. The state law allowed for farmers to band together and build cheese factories, feed elevators, seed stores, etc, and supply the needs of farmers in raising, utilizing, shipping, and marketing their products. The Clay Hill factory was one of several hundred co-ops in the state and about 10% survive. There were about 25 "patrons" or farmer members. They, technically, owned the milk, cream, and cheese until it was marketed and the proceeds distributed back to them. My Mom was reluctant to explain the use of the buttermaker as it actually represented a small "theft" from the patrons and she was reluctant to talk about it even 50 years later. This was literally "skimming off the cream", but the scale was very tiny. I hope my Mom chooses to to skip reading the blog today. She usually does on Fridays......

Uncle Hans


saucersrus said...

I'm looking forward to the sequels to this family history!!

Thanks for taking the time Uncle Hans :)


Being a Wisconsin farm girl myself, if have first hand aquaintences with milk cans...having hefted many of them in and out of the spring feed water tank in the milk house. Fond memories for me with this blog today also...we had a creamery too!!....Mary