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Creamery played large roll in town's history
Glimpses of Yesteryear
By Mary Jo Dathe
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 5:47 AM
This photo, taken in l928, is of butter makers at the Spring Valley Creamery. From left are Weber Littlefield, Al Kemmer, Albert Hatlestad and John Fenstermacher.
During its 72nd year of operation in 1964, the Spring Valley Cooperative Creamery was going great guns - 26 men at the creamery and 10 bulk haulers. They boasted $2 million in sales and were very proud of their butter making process.
One of the ads in the Spring Valley Tribune told part of the story: "You could butter a lot of toast with the large quantity of Double AA grade butter unloaded from the new modern butter churn at the creamery. With legalization in Minnesota of the colored substitute and with the natural curiosity to see if it is "just as good," it is most gratifying to know BUTTER (fresh-wholesome-pure) still reigns supreme. The substitutes are recognized as such - just imitations. Butter can be served proudly. There is nothing better than BUTTER."
Spring Valley's first creamery was built in 1881 half a mile west of the village near the railroad; capacity: 3,000 pounds of cream could be processed in one day with three employees; 11 teams gathered cream in the summer, seven in the winter.
The Farmers Cooperative Creamery was organized in 1892, and a new creamery built east of town near the Kumm farms (just east of the city cemetery today). Then in 1916, a more suitable location was discussed, and soon the downtown creamery was erected along East Jefferson Street. A contract for the brick building costing $8,790 was let to the Aurlie Bros. The firm was reorganized in 1922 as the Spring Valley Cooperative Creamery with officers Albert Kumm, L.C. Hintze, A.L. Sheldon, E.L. Cole, C.F. Turner and E.W. Clark.
In the adjacent photo dated 1928 are four employees shown with the wooden churn full of fresh butter: Weber Littlefield, Al Kemmer, Albert Hatlestad and John Fenstermacher.
At the annual meeting in March 1964, directors on record were Curtis Swanson, Alden Marburger, Walter Hafner, Elmer Zink, Leo Glady, Lawrence House, Bob Turner, Glenn Shipton and Ben Johnson. They were pleased to note the annual payroll of $201,600 had been paid to local residents and the community was encouraged to support and cultivate this most valuable business, which had grown and served the community well.
The new modern butter churn was shown off, with Albert Hatlestad and Mabry Taylor handling the butter making. A new evaporator in the dry milk plant could reduce milk from 45 percent solids to 85 percent solids in less than seven minutes, and the creamery produced about 9 million pounds of powdered milk each year.
In 2005, Charlie Warner with the Spring Valley Tribune interviewed Lyle Clark, longtime milk hauler. Lyle reported his grandfather, Ed Clark, started a milk route in 1905 with a team of horses, continued for 40 years, and retired in 1945. Lyle told that in the 1940s, almost every farm had 10 to 20 cows, most still milked by hand. With farms about l60 acres in size, the creamery had so many patrons there were at least nine milk haulers to collect cans from hundreds of area farms. Lyle first accompanied his grandfather, then worked for Mike Makowski. However, in 1942 he purchased a 1937 Chevy truck for $375 and owned and operated his milk hauling business for the next 54 years. Soon he was loading 100 70-pound cans on his truck every day, seven days a week - milk every day, cream every other day.
In 1958, Lyle bought a second truck and hired Cappy Winslow to drive it. By 1960, many dairy farms began using bulk tanks, and Lyle then bought a bulk truck. Bob Voeltz also drove for him from 1966 to 1995. Lyle said his family had been in the milk hauling business about 90 years - quite a record.
At centennial time in 1955, John Halbkat wrote an excellent creamery history relating the improvement in quality of the products. There were eight haulers collecting l00,000 pounds of milk and 2,000 pounds of cream, six men on duty at the creamery, three in the dryer department, two engineers, and an office force of two bookkeepers and one secretary. They paid $754,000 to 550 patrons; haulers received $68,000 for transport of raw product and $43,725 to plant labor.
Many of us have a commemorative plate from the creamery in our collection, dated 1891 to 1968. Perhaps there were rumblings regarding a pending sale, because in 1970 the creamery was sold to Land o' Lakes. In 1983, the operation was considered the third largest employer in town, after the hospital and school. They discontinued collecting cans in 1984, but a few loyal patrons still used cans, which were hauled to Wykoff, then Racine.
I have fond memories of the Spring Valley Creamery. My dad, Carl Boucsein, often drove a milk truck in the 1940s for Milton Jahns, our neighbor across the fields. My sister Cynth and I occasionally rode along for the fun trip. Dad, too, had half a dozen cows, and milk and cream were stored in the well house cold tank awaiting pickup by the milkman.
In the early 1950s when I first worked at the Osterud Agency, Dad was working at the creamery in the milk drying plant. I often stopped by to catch a ride home to Racine and watched the amazing process. A long trough with very hot revolving drums ran quite a length; overhead long pipes sprayed milk onto the drums, which cooked it at once into flakes of powdered milk; this accumulated in the bottom of the trough and was fed along to the end where it was automatically put in containers for shipping.
It was impressive - another interesting industry that played a large role in our local economy.
In 1987, Land o' Lakes stopped milk processing but "would still be a bulk milk receiving station." Two years later, 1989, Spring Valley Feed Specialties bought the creamery site to dry fats into animal feed.
The "Brick House" opened in the old creamery in 1990, selling cheese, meats and other goodies. However, by 1997, Feed Specialties was experiencing serious problems with the wastewater treatment plant and in October, they shut down completely, thus ending an intriguing chapter in our city history. We aren't sure what the present owner plans to do with this neat old brick building.
You might want to check out the Country Store at the historical society museum to see the one-pound (empty) paper cartons labeled Spring Valley Butter and Spring Valley Cooperative Creamery Butter. There is one of those commemorative plates, too.
The museums are open on weekends through October, l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
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