Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
The forty acres of reunion activity of the Midwest Old Settlers & Threshers Association presented a welcome sight to the many old and new visitors as they drove in the gates of the 'old fair grounds', now McMillan Park, for the thirteenth annual reunion this past September 5, 6, 7, and 8.
The biggest noticeable change was the narrow gauge railroad, now with a mile long track circling the grounds. Every twenty minutes or so old No. 6 pulling its tender, two coaches and a caboose filled with passengers, 'flashed' by whistling for the various crossings and gates.
More land has been added so that there was plenty of room although there was more activity and a bigger crowdexcept for the last day when it rained.
The large buildings made it possible to store thirty-five of the large steam engines, saving hauling and making it possible to get them out and lined up some time before the reunion.
More than a hundred steam engines, large and small, took part in the Cavalcade of Power before the crowded amphitheatre and crowded track side, many of them later performing. Some tried out the Prony brake and the Baker fan; others took a turn on the belt running the old time threshers, a shingle mill, the big sawmill, a flour mill, a straw baler and other equipment. Hill climbing was a new feature. Largest engine was Bob Willit's 23-ton, 40/120 HP under mounted Avery. They ranged from that down to a 1/3 HP scale model.
The exhibit of old tractors and stationary gas engines was larger. There were over thirty tractors and seventy-seven gas engines.
The two-story concrete building housed over a hundred antique cars-many of them rare collector's items.
The steam operated carrousel, with its calliope music accompaniment, was back. Seemed like as many 'oldsters' rode the merry-go-round as youngsters.
The five church-run eating tents with their fine old threshers meals did their usual large business and contributed immensely to the success of the reunion.
The many exhibits were a continual attraction - - the antiques, the gun collections and Indian relics, the pioneer period household appliances and the farm equipment came in for their share of appreciation. The various items of yester-year bring back many memories as visitors recognize familiar ones.
The Ladies Auxiliary prepared and took part with floats in the Cavalcade of Power; with demonstrations and other entertainment during the day, so that the reunion was truly a family affair. There were demonstrations in flower arranging; with household appliances; in cooking and exhibits of various kinds. Music - girl's barber shop and organ, too - were features.
The shade and many benches were appreciated. Just watching the crowd was enough for many. Others enjoyed the checker tournament, the horseshoe pitching, the old fiddlers, and the famous Fife and Drum Corps.
The Cavalcade of Power was also part of several evenings' entertainment. The big feature again was a pageant commemorating the Civil War Centennial. It was written and produced with local talent over 700 persons actually performing in it. Props included livestock (60 horses, too) and thirty authentic flags, making very real the settings for fourteen different events shown.
The 1891 cabbage stack, narrow gauge locomotive, its coaches and caboose, 'roundhouse' and authentic old time depot, was a major attraction. Local conductors in uniform punched tickets and honored life time passes of the many stockholders-those who had bought one or more $10 shares in the Midwest Central Railroad and could therefore ride free. Another narrow gauge locomotive and car is being rebuilt and will make possible two sections leaving from opposite sides of the grounds at the same time during the 1963 reunion.
The Mark Twain Zephyr, its complete diesel power unit 'Injun Joe', and three coaches, plus one coach from the original Pioneer Zephyr is the most recent addition to the exhibits on the grounds. For twenty five years the streamlined Burlington Mark Twain Zephyr was a thrilling sight as it streaked along between Burlington and St. Louis, from Chicago to Denver for awhile, and on several other runs before its retirement. Now engine fans can enjoy seeing it in its permanent location at the reunion grounds.
Rain on the last day of the reunion reduced the record attendance that appeared certain up until then. But visitors were in general agreement that it was bigger and better than ever and well worth coming to next year. The 1963 dates are September 4, 5, 6 and 7.