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Strathclair Museum welcomes generous donation

Collection of Sunbeam Mixmasters will live on, thanks to Jim and Shirley Dayton

Curator Lacey Winstone (l), puts beans in a Sunbeam Mixmaster/Attachment unit donated to Strathclair Museum by Jim and Shirley Dayton of Shoal Lake.

Jim and Shirley Dayton of Shoal Lake donated a unique collection to the Strathclair Museum this summer. You might think it has something to do with John Deere farm equipment, as the couple used to own a dealership in Newdale and later in Shoal Lake, but the collection involves Jim’s other passion — restoring Sunbeam mixers.

Jim and Shirley donated nine Sunbeam Mixmasters to Strathclair Museum curator Lacey Winstone, at a presentation at the former CP Rail Station.

“All of the items we donated in our Sunbeam Mixmaster Attachment Collection have their own power units, which I have restored. They will probably run long after I’m gone,” said Jim, who turned 82 this past June.

“Each mixer is equipped with its own unique and rare attachment such as a potato peeler, silverware polisher, coffee grinder, and a bean cutter. Other attachments include a butter churn, baby food maker, juicer, and a pea sheller.”

The first Sunbeam Jim ever saw was shown by a fellow resident of the mobile home park where Jim and Shirley spent the winter at Mission, Texas. Neither of them ever remembered seeing an appliance like it in their childhood homes.

Struck by the overall shape of it and the graceful curve of the stand, Jim was smitten, and in 1995 he bought one at a flea market. He took it apart to see what made it run. Taking pictures of each piece both before and after removal assisted with the restoration. This spurred him on to search Vintage Sunbeam Mixer on the internet, and a response from Dave Harnish of Pennsylvania set the course for a great friendship and mentorship over the years.

“Buying additional Sunbeams off eBay, with Dave’s guidance I soon was able to make all of them run as they did as new, with restorations including repaint, new power cord and decal.”

Jim estimates he has restored well over 200 units, all manufactured between 1939 and 1967. The decision to donate nine of them to the Strathclair Museum was an easy one for Jim and Shirley, who have roots in the community. Shirley (nee Prus) was raised in Strathclair, they were married there, and have many great friends there.

The first Sunbeam Mixmasters were sold in 1930 and were made from aluminum until 1941 when the United States entered the Second World War. Needing aluminum for aircraft production, Sunbeams became a very heavy appliance, as they were then crafted out of steel.

In the spring of 1934, the Chicago Flexible Shaft Company advertised a Sunbeam Mixmaster for $21. If you lived west of Denver, Colo. the cost was $21.70, and attachments ranged from 45 cents for a sausage stuffer to $6.95 (Sunbeam Ironmaster). Promoted as being one of Sunbeam’s best electrical appliances, the Mixmaster was advertised as the king of all food mixers — powerful, sturdy, efficient, silent.

Jim and Shirley have displayed restorations at summer fairs and events in Birtle, Sandy Lake, Strathclair and Shoal Lake.

“While Shirley has her own hobby/pastime, she does tolerate mine,” said a very appreciative Jim. “I feel I have made cooks, bakers and collectors very happy all through a minor or major restoration of a household appliance and a powerful tool.”

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