Antique appliance collector decides to slow down


A lot of people might view Darrell Kaiser’s collection of antique appliances, including a couple of Maytag washing machines, he has accumulated over the years as nothing short of amazing.

The 79-year-old rural Brownstown man has another name for that collection, which he has been bringing to the Jackson County Fair for 40 years.

“Junk,” Kaiser said from the yard holding the antique machinery exhibits during the fair in late July.

Unlike the Maytag repairman who was known to be lonely because that company’s appliances never needed repairs, Kaiser has spent a lot of time compiling and restoring his collection.

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He said he started collecting antique machinery in 1979 while he was working at Cummins Engine Co. That interest was sparked by Glen Gorbett, who also lived in the Brownstown area.

“He had that stuff, and I was friends with him up at Cummins, and so I got started in it,” Kaiser said.

While he has brought many pieces to the fair over the years, Kaiser has narrowed it down to a trailer with four antique washing machines in recent years.

“I used to bring a whole row of things to the fair,” he said.

One of the Maytag washers he brings is a 1936 model purchased new by his grandfather for his grandmother.

That washer still was being used by his grandmother until her death in 1976. Then her sister used it for another three years or so, Kaiser said.

He also brings a miniature wagon that he put together many years ago to the fair.

The three hand corn shellers attached to the wagon are designed to pique the interest of children.

At the time of his retirement in 1997 from Cummins, Kaiser had already accumulated 35 old tractors. He later started getting rid of some of them after having open-heart surgery, but he now has 50 garden tractors.

And that’s not all he has managed to accumulate over the years.

“I’ve got sheds full of stuff,” he said.

He said his wife, Lynn, doesn’t have a lot to say about his collection and likely has no idea how much he has collected over the years.

Kaiser said he can’t pinpoint the reason why he started collecting.

“Because I’m an antique, too, I guess,” he said. “I was raised on a farm with junk, and that’s part of it.”

Besides holding onto his grandma’s washing machine, which contains a meat grinder attachment, he also has an International tractor that his dad bought when Kaiser was 13.

He also has a butter churning attachment for a second Maytag washing machine in his collection, which he also takes to Fort Vallonia Days each year.

One of the biggest changes Kaiser said he has seen in his 40 years of exhibiting at the fair is fewer people visiting the antique machinery display area.

“The younger generation of people aren’t interested in this,” he said. “It’s the older people.”

Kaiser said he has about decided to not bring any of his antique machinery to the fair next year and hopes to get his son, Curtis, interested in doing so.

“If he wants to and if he don’t, he can do whatever he wants to with it,” he said.

Kaiser said he’s got more things to do than he has time.

“You don’t do as much, but it takes longer to do it,” he said.

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