Old Thresher's Reunion Home to Midwest Memories

The 48th annual Midwest Old Thresher's Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, attracts steam enthusiasts young and old

Cadillac & Calliope

A 1907 Cadillac & Calliope provided lighthearted music on the Old Threshers grounds during the reunion. It made a colorful sight with 10-year-old Jacob Palmer at the keyboard.

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Midwest Old Threshers,1887 Threshers Road, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641

Although the grounds are quiet now, the memories of a great 1997 Old Threshers Reunion linger on.

This was the year for some fresh young faces among those seasoned exhibitors at the Reunion, at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. One of the youngest steam enthusiasts was eight-year-old Jason Turnbull, who operated a model Russell steam engine under the supervision of his uncle, Tom Turnbull of Rushville, Missouri. Tom built the model in 1989, and Jason has been running it for about three years.

What's he like about being able to drive the engine? "I like it 'cause it's easy and I like to go fast," replied Jason. Tom said Jason gets a kick out of driving the model engine in the daily Cavalcade of Power before the grandstand. The Turnbull family has been coming to the Old Threshers Reunion since 1976.

Strains of lighthearted calliope music floated over the grounds as another youngster "played" at the Reunion. Ten-year-old Jacob Palmer from Buffalo Prairie, Ill., spent several hours on the 1907 Cadillac and Calliope in front of the crowds all over the grounds. His grandfather, Lawrence Parish of Wapello, Iowa, is the owner of the calliope. He bought the Cadillac the calliope rests on in 1935 for $250. Although it was only Jacob's first year playing the calliope, his two and a half years of piano gave him good training. "The calliope is harder to play because it's louder and the keys are harder to push," he says.

It's not a Cadillac, but the 1910 Hupmobile brought smiles of admiration to the faces of visitors in the Antique Car Building. Bill and Joyce Hudson of Walcott, Iowa, own the buggy-top two-seater with wood spoke wheels which was selected the Car of the Year for the Old Threshers Reunion. The pneumatic four-cylinder two-speed auto had been restored to its present condition when Bill bought it two years ago from a friend and fellow member of the Southeast Iowa Antique Car Club. Even though Bill had to do quite a bit of mechanical work on the Hupmobile, he maintains that he doesn't get overly wrapped up in his antique car work. "This is a hobby for me, not a lifestyle."

Young Danny Reynolds' lifestyle includes a lot of volunteering during the Old Threshers Reunion. He could be found working several hours with the popular 1894 steam-powered carousel. When the carousel was in need of an extra hand, Danny stepped in to take tickets and ring the bell to start and stop the "smile machine." He'd even clean up the horses after muddy-shoed riders departed. Reynolds, 10, is the son of Alan and Bev Reynolds of Mt. Pleasant. His grandfather, Earl Reynolds, also of Mt. Pleasant, was reelected to the Midwest Old Threshers Board of Directors this fall.

Traffic was steady through the antique tractor area with visitors able to see more than 350 unstyled tractors. Toward the end of the show Larry Holmes of Kahoka, Missouri, started his 1937 YT two-cylinder Minneapolis Moline tractor. It will be the featured tractor at the 1998 Old Threshers Reunion. The '37 YT M-M was an experimental tractor, according to Larry. Probably designed for the small farmer, the company took it to Arizona and tried using it in the vegetable country. Larry bought the tractor in 1981 in Oklahoma. Out of the 25 built, now only six remain in existence.

Near the antique tractors, Ted Young's model Link belt Railroad steam crane loaded and unloaded cargo to the fascination of several children and adults. The model, measuring 1 inches to a one foot scale, was being run by Todd Hazel-wood of Springfield, Illinois.

Midwest Central Railroad narrow gauge trains take people back in time as they transport them through the grounds. Three locomotives pulled the trains from the centrally-located roundhouse north to Snipe Run. But before that could happen, volunteers got the crossing lights and signals tuned up. Lee Rajala of Joliet, Ill., and Glenn Hultquist of Burlington, Iowa, installed a newer version of the block signal to keep the trains on pace for the Reunion.

The special feature engine in the gas engine area was the fully-restored line of single-cylinder Novo upright Model S engines restored by Louis Tuller of Mt. Pleasant and his son, Barry Tuller of Humboldt, Tennessee. The engine line included the single-cylinder 1 HP Jr., 1.5 HP, 2 HP, 3 HP, 4 HP, 6 HP, 8 HP and 10 HP, and the two-cylinder 12 HP and 15 HP. They began collecting the engines in 1976, restoration work got under way in 1989, and was completed in time for the '97 Reunion. (See Gas Engine Magazine April 1998.)

Glen and Novie Foss of LaPorte City, Iowa, paid their second visit to the Old Threshers Reunion. And, for the second year in a row, they brought along the farm literally. The Fosses exhibit the functioning Klein Mini-Farm to the delight of all who view it. The miniature scale model farmstead was built by Ray Klein and is patterned after the farm he grew up on. It features a farmhouse, an operating windmill and pump, outbuildings, a barnyard complete with animals, and a working steam engine. The exhibit is such an eyeful, it's hard to take everything in at once. "There is a lady who stops and looks at the farm every day (during the Reunion) and she tells me she sees something different each time," said Glen.

After five days, the Reunion comes to a close, but not without the hard work of steam engine clean-up. Don Hardin, 64, of Keokuk, Iowa, and several other volunteers in the steam area earned some of the first volunteer hours for the 1998 season by washing out the fireboxes and ash pans on several steam engines before they rolled them back into the museum. The dedicated volunteers who helped make the '97 Reunion a success are already anticipating the 1998 Old Threshers Reunion, September 3-7 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. IMA