It was a beautiful warm sunshiny day in Pond Du Lac Saturday, June 10th. The smell of hot steam and coal smoke filled the air and brought back nostalgic memories to many old timers as the Wisconsin Steam Antique Engine Club, Inc., members put their steel steeds thru their paces for over 2500 fans that filled the grandstand at the Fairgrounds. Even Governor Gaylord Nelson and Alice in Dairyland - all decked out in engineer jackets and red kerchiefs -were on hand to witness the event.
On the reviewing stand President Gilbert Steinbecker from Manitowoc was at the microphone as one by one the smooth running, gaily bedecked old timers rounded the track in front of the crowd. Each had a full complement of engineers and firemen plus a bevy of small fry aboard. Whistles blew, mingled with loud applause, as each one of the 16 behemoths came to a halt to be announced.
The oldest steamer, an 1899-16 hp Frick, owned by George Poull of West Bend, led the parade. Next was a 1902- 16 hp Reeves Twin cylinder which had been beautifully reconstructed by Bill Richardson of She boygan Falls. Another old timer was the 1904 - 15 hp Garr Scott piloted by Roy April of Oconto Falls. Hubert Oechsner of Ashford had his 16 hp Baker Engine, made in 1910, in the parade, followed by Herb Moehrke's 26 hp Aultman & Taylor that was made in 1912. Herb is the Vice-President of the organization and hails from Sheboygan.
Next came a 1912- 20 hp Peerless owned by Herman Reckelberger of Green Bay; a 16 hp 1915 Nichols & Shepard belonging to Joe Heimrel of Hilbert; followed by an old 24/65 Minneapolis made in 1917 owned by Elmer Grantman of Lomira. A little girl began to cry when the shrill whistles blew, and MC 'Steinie' had to ask to 'lay off the whistle cords. Bennett Halverson's 20 hp (1920) Illinois trundled up next. He is from Collins. The smoke and steam was mingling with the spectators in the stands and they loved it. In quick succession came Ray Klinger 's entry, a 1920 - 22 hp Keck and Ernest Ahner's 18hp 1923 Advance Rumely. Ray is from Hartford and Ernest from Juneau. Willard Griswald of Pewaukee had his 1924 - 22 hp Case quietly puffing away in the parade. Walter Kienow of Randolph with a Minneapolis 24/70 hp of 1924 vintage was there also, and Walter Bohm of Little Chute had old Minneapolis 8011 working to perfection. The last two entries were by Bernard Kleinschmidt of North Fond Du Lac who had a Minneapolis that worked for the city of Pond Du Lac during WPA days, and a 1926-22 hp Keck Gonnerman owned by Adolph Nettershein of Waukesha. The histories of these old engines would fill a book in itself.
Of special interest to the children were the small scale model working steamers in the parade which were towing trailer loads of kiddies. Some of these were so small that the engineers sat astride the water tanks with their feet almost on the ground, but they had enough power to haul the loads with ease. Every one operated perfectly.
How the boys with those giant combustion engine tractors got into the steam engine show is beyond me, but there they were in the parade. Many of these were built after the First World War when the gas tractor was beginning to challenge the steamers. They were almost as big. Most could pull 6, 8 or 10 gang plows. Lewis Stolfoss of Fond Du Lac and Alfred Siefeld of Campbellsport each had 20/40 Oil Pulls entered, and Herb Moehrke of Sheboygan had a bigger 30/60 Oil Pull in the lineup. A 12/25 Avery that John Harmon of Neshota had bought in parts and reconstructed chugged by, this one of 1919 vintage.
The Wisconsin Antique Car Club also had many of their beautifully reconditioned cars and trucks on display. As these were getting ready to pass in review before the grandstand, a serious accident happened in the infield that was the only mishap of the day. Unfortunately this drew much of the spectators' attention from this colorful display.