Elmer Ritzman

Elmer Ritzman, IMA founder (1888-1971)

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This is a very special issue of IMA for us, since we are beginning the 50th year of publication with this issue. From time to time, we are asked to recount the history of IMA, or to reprint the first issue, for the many folks who weren't on the mailing list in the summer of 1946. For the first time, we are happy to reprint the full 8 pages of the very first issue of the FARM ALBUM, beginning on page 17.

The Farm Album was the name that founder Elmer Ritzman used for his publication when he began his enterprise in 1946. Rev. Ritzman was a well known, indeed a beloved collector, as well as a preacher. When Elmer died on May 5, 1971, Anna Mae Branyan wrote about him:

To know what you want to do with your life is a wonderful thing Elmer had his convictions. He knew he wanted to be a preacher, he knew he loved people; and he knew he loved steam. And he did some thing about it! He became a preacher and administered to many people throughout his lifetime. He gathered innumerable friends throughout his ministry and from just being 'Elmer.'

Anna Mae Branyan began her first SOOT IN THE FLUES column in the March/April 1953 issue of IMA, after starting work for the magazine in September 1952. Here is how she described her selection of the name of her column, which we now carry on in her memory:

I chose the title for the column 'Soot in the Flues' for anything I'd try to say concerning the workings of this wonderful steam hobby would just be like cloggin' the flues with soot. However, if you're patient with me, I might get the hang of the vocabulary and educate my self in this field I do think I'll enjoy it.

And enjoy it, she did. Until her sudden death last summer, Anna Mae was a busy and cherished member of the IMA staff. Since 1973, Gerald Lestz has been publisher of IMA. Gerry was a longtime newspaper reporter and publisher of Baer's Agricultural Almanac, who purchased the magazine from Earlene Ritzman at the urging of some engine collecting friends. Gerry still comes into the office every day at age 81, but most of the chores of getting the magazine to print have been taken over by others in the office. Linda Sharron and Gail Knauer are now the two who keep up with the typesetting, laying out and editing of your articles. Happy Birthday, IMA!

Our first letter this month comes from: DAVID BEACH, 919 Chest nut Street, Roaring Springs, Pennsylvania 16673: 'I have wanted to write to the Soot column for over a year and now I only have regrets since I heard of Anna Mae's passing. But her spirit lives on as does one's romance with the era of steam that had passed us years ago.

'I am 28 years old and I was first introduced to steam by my father, Rex Beach, around age six or seven. He was always making model engines for me, and a boiler to fire up so that I could experience that silent power! He always overbuilt his creations and used approved safety valves, plumbing and gauges. Around age nine or ten, my grandfather Lester Beach purchased a 9 x 10 Frick, 1926 engine. It had a nearly perfect boiler when bought, but needed much T. L. C. elsewhere. He worked on it several years and ended up with a beautiful showpiece that was inspected to factory working pressure. This engine now belongs to the Goldsmith family of the Grease, Steam, and Rust Association in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania. It looks as proud as ever with a recent re-restoration. I would like to thank the Goldsmiths for taking such fine care of that Frick! Had I not been in college at the time of sale, I may have taken more interest in the engine's fate.

'Now, I am looking forward to the '95 show season and the opportunity to show my recently purchased Peer less. Our local show is the Southern Cove Power Reunion, held the third weekend in September, in New Enterprise, Pennsylvania, each year. The show has grown so much in four years that we are looking for more land to expand! We have over 75 gas tractors of all makes show up, as well as dozens of gas engines, several thrashers, rock crushers, Baker fan demonstrations, corn shelling, a cedar shingle mill, and even a steam powered water well drill that can strike at any time and soak the curious onlookers! As show chairman, I believe in the importance of presenting a show that is organized and takes full advantage of exhibiting every possible piece of machinery for each person that comes through the gate.

'My grandfather taught me every thing he knew about steam as I grew up and went to shows with him. I drove that Frick through the Martinsburg parade, Centre Hall, Kinzers, and Williams Grove parades. All the while, his experienced and watchful eye keeping track of the operations. He continues to instruct me with my Z-1 and I think it is important to educate others of younger generations at our shows with demonstrations and by answering questions.

'The antique enthusiast who wants to let others know 'how much he knows' or likes to critique his peers condescendingly has no place in my book. Allow people to ask 'silly questions' or make harmless mistakes in figuring something out, because the answer they get may determine whether they will become involved, or even support our hobby. I won't ever stop learning, and I respect an experienced mind. A positive outlook will allow our steam engines and antiques to run generations into the future. I look forward to our fall show and invite all readers to stop by and see the traction engines powering the sawmill and to go for a hayride on Saturday evening!'

LLOYD A. MERCHANT, 4310 Smith Road, Dimondale, Michigan 48821 writes: 'A few months ago I read there may be only six Greyhound steam engines left. My father gave me a picture he had for about 70 years. He said his sister took the picture near their Kalkaska County farm in northern Michigan. This Greyhound has a jacket, a little smoke coming out of the stack, and a man standing at the rear. These, being rare, I thought someone might like to see it in the magazine.'

We hope to hear from more of you next month!

Steamcerely,Gail and Linda