The annual Williams Grove Steam Engine Celebration, 10 miles south of Harrisburg, Pa., began in Nellie's Diner at Dillsburg on March 25, 1959.
The Rev. Elmer Ritzman, founder of Iron-Men Album, was on hand to help organize. From that meeting has grown a strong organization which involves families as well as individuals, and women as well as men.
The bulk of the information for this article came from Mrs. Linda Artz, a second-generation member who is secretary of the organization. As we made notes on what she enthusiastically related, we got a message we'd like to pass on to all readers.
Our message is that we must do more people-oriented stories about the organizations who started them, who keeps them going, who does what, who makes special contributions. So here's an invitation to all groupsget your best teller of your organization story to write it down for IMA.
John Shiffer is current president of Williams Grove. He is a charter member. Harold Scheib is first vice president; William 'Lefty' Duncan, second vice president; Dean Deibert, third vice president; Arlene Deibert, treasurer and Tammy Bucher, membership secretary. Thus the men and the women are evenly divided in holding of high office.
Mrs. Dorothy Becker, mother of Linda Artz, is Ladies Auxiliary president; Sara Rudy, vice president, and Dorothea Fawber, secretary-treasurer.
The show is held one week before Labor Day, opening this year on Aug. 29. Last year's event, at which we spent part of a day, was plagued by heavy rain at the outset, but Linda maintains that 'farmers don't let rain stop them', and that sets the pace for Williams Grove. Activities continued, even though attendance was affected during the wettest periods.
On hand were 25 regular steam traction engines, all of which were in at least one of the nightly parades. There were 187 tractors, from OilPulls down to bantam garden tractors, and 181 different gas engine exhibits. Total of all the different exhibits was 393, Linda reported.
An engine must be at least 25 years old to be considered an antique and registered at Williams Grove. This sets a standard and also heads off protests. A horse and buggy parade, threshing and sawmill operations are a regular part of the program, as are other events.
This 1923 Peerless 50 HP is owned by Chris Sell, of Duncansville, Pa., a teenager who is one of Williams Grove's youngest members.
Mervin Grubb, Steelton, Pa., Williams Grove board member, owns this 1928 Peerless 50 HP, last Peerless made in Waynesboro, Pa.
Richard Shaffer, a Williams Grove board member, feeding the thresher (wheat); with Dean Deibert's 1914 Frick engine; Case thresher, New Holland baler.
Part of Williams Grove lineupDean Deibert's 1922 Keck Gonnerman 65 HP and 1914 Frick 60 HP, and Sam Colva's 23-90 Baker.
Shiffer notes that the grounds belong to Williams Grove amusement park, but the buildings used by the organization are its own property. The organization also owns a railroad engine, two flat cars, a boxcar and a caboose, plus rail; the train is a big attraction for rides.
Also owned by the organization are a steam crane from a York paper mill; a big Corliss in a boiler house; a museum with a miniature railroad, and other equipment. Morgan Haughes owns the park land, and collects admissions for cars of those attending the show.
No admission fee is charged for the show, making it the largest show in the East with that distinction, Linda comments.
She is very proud of the roles taken by women. She does her work as secretary in addition to holding a fulltime job as an accountant; she is secretary to the controller and is commission clerk for the MTA truck drivers' school. She also made a full-sized afghan to be sold for the organization last year.
'Each different steam show has its own distinction,' she adds. 'Ours is our sausage sandwich.' There is a butcher shop on the grounds, selling fresh meats. The Auxiliary members make the scrapple in the museum kitchen, and serve it piping hot in rolls. Other home-cooked foods are also sold.
Mrs. Artz is proud of the family tradition. Husbands and wives are serving in various capacities; her father is a board member. We regret that we have no photo of Linda, because she is so ardent a worker and so able a spokesperson.
The organizers did well in setting the path. Ralph Hull was first president; Lee Karnes, vice president, and George Fawber, secretary-treasurer. There were 16 at the first session; the board was set up with a membership of 12. Today membership is over 1,400. Of these, about 55 'regulars' do the bulk of the work but any organization is lucky to have that many on whom it can rely to keep the show on the road.