Gala occasion to take place Sunday, Aug. 18
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The Sobieski Creamery is celebrating 100 years this month. Manager Sharon Hegna has planned a celebration event for Sunday, Aug. 18, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Creamery.
“We will have a tent set up, music, food, fun and lots of memories,” she said.
Hegna is asking for stories from people who have done business with the Creamery, worked for the Creamery or even just knew someone who did. There are gaps in the history time line that she would like to fill in.
“We would love to see pictures of the inside or outside of the Creamery from any year,” said Hegna. “I would like to make copies for our archives. I am also looking for old shares that people may have stashed away. We are still paying dividends on them.”
One bit of history from the Creamery was filled in by Mark Pietrowski, who worked there from 1952 – 1954.
“When I started, we had three milk truck drivers, Jerry, Clarence and Al Knopik,” said Pietrowski. “Each had his own route and each brought in two loads a day. One route went south to the Opole area, another west to Swanville and Upsala areas and one had what we called the Canadian Route. That went to Pillager and Motley.”
Pietrowski said each load carried about 240 gallons.
When the drivers stopped at a farm to pick up milk, they also dropped off Swan River butter or cheese from the American, Land O Lakes or Velveeta (Kraft) companies.
The butter was named Swan River because the business was not always called the Sobieski Creamery.
“The area was called LeDoux after the man who settled in the area in 1872. When he left, the locals called the town Swan River. It wasn’t until 1916 that the Polish immigrants to the area changed the name to Sobieski,” said Hegna.
Pietrowski started at the Creamery when he was 15 years old. His job was to wrap the Swan River butter, dump the milk when it arrived and to wash the machinery at the end of the day. If there was time, he would help the meat cutter wrap the meat.
Butter was made by separating the whole milk from the cream. The cream was heated for pasteurization, then cooled to 40 degrees. Steam was run through the storage vat and the cream was pumped into an 8-foot by 6-foot churn and mixed for about an hour. When curds were visible, the buttermilk was drained off, salt and coloring was added and the butter was put into 50-pound boxes and sealed.
“When about 250 boxes were collected, they would be picked up by Land O Lakes,” said Pietrowski. “For our local customers, the butter was packed into 60-pound boxes. A butter cutter would be pulled through the box leaving 60 perfect 1-pound blocks of butter. They were wrapped into a Swan River Valley box.”
The local farmers started the creamery in 1913, selling $5 shares to members of the co-op. At that time, it was called the “Farmers Co-op.” In 1929, a new building was erected over and around the old one by local Works Progress Administration workers. When it was completed, the old one was torn down.
The Creamery got electricity in 1938 and in 1947, started cutting meat for the local farmers and hunters. Lockers could be rented then and are still available today.
For more information, stop in during the centennial celebration.