National Thresher's Association
111 Sexton Street, Porter, Indiana 46304
The author of this report writes: 'When Shirley Brodbeck, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Threshermen's Association, asked me to review the show for the 40th Annual NTA Show in June of 1984, I envisioned flashbacks of the very first show on Roy Blaker's farm in Alvordton, Ohio.
' I taped many interviews with sages whose expertise boggled this ole gal's mind. Since my experiences with steam were limited the information was wealthy and appreciated. I learned about lap strapped seams, butt strapped seams, horsepower, injectors, water flue engines and fire flue engines and so on. In fact, I kept getting in deeper and deeper and quite frankly a little uncomfortable.
'Overlaying all these technical questions were the flashbacks and the people. So, I wrote about the people. After all, are they not the ones that really make the machines go? I certainly respect the people who invented the machines and designed them and I greatly respect those who run them. This is a small tribute to those people and with all sincerity a thank you.'
Date Line 1944Riding next to Grandpa Kunkle on this hot day in July of 1944, I am unaware of the underlying tension of the day. Discussions earlier of the war and shortage don't make much of an impression on this four year old. I just know what I'm told and what I see in my world. We are on our way to Roy Blaker's farm. Grandpa is driving a 1936 B John Deere and pulling a grain wagon. My brother and sister are excited at this outing as in the small town of Alvordton not much goes on in the way of recreation. Mom says that's due to the war. I don't understand war though, except that it has made Mrs. King unhappy and she has three stars in her window.
Mr. Blaker's farm is about two and one-half miles from Alvordton. He has a pretty farm and has organized a threshermen's gathering at his farm. He has three steam engines and a small saw mill set up on his farm. With gasoline rationed this year many of the farmers shocked wheat by hand and are taking it to Blaker's to be threshed. I don't understand the process but I remember carrying bundles of wheat and stacking them up in neat little stacks. Then the farmers would twist wheat stalks around the bundles and they would stand in the fields. The shocked wheat was neat to look at and stood like soldiers at attention. Yesterday we gathered a whole load of these and grandpa and I are sitting on them on our way to Mr. Blaker's farm.
Mom has already gone ahead this morning with grandma Kunkle. They are cooking the dinner. Mom made dressing real early this morning in brand new washtubs. My sister helped and so did the other members of the Mother's Club of Alvordton. Everybody is helping. They even made a tub of lemonade. I got to help squeeze the lemons. Golly there sure were a lot of lemons! Everyone was laughing and full of suppressed excitement. I feel this too because it is like waiting for Christmas. I wish I were old enough to know what it is that they see that I don't.
We're there! My gosh! I've never seen so many people since the box social at school. Even more, the whole town is here and even some people I don't know. They've got a tent! There are rows of tables with checked oil cloths and heaps of food; ham, and chicken, and potatoes and watermelon and, and everything!
Just look at those steam engines. They are huge! I've never seen anything like them. All the men are crowded around them and talking and laughing and so full of excitement. They are like I was when I got my birthday party last month. They look like they could bust too! Some of them are so dirty and dusty and sweating. It is also hot today but they are plumb glad to be on those machines. They are throwing bundles of the wheat shocks from grandpa's wagon into the separators and dust and straw are flying everywhere. Grandpa was supposed to watch me but he's so interested in the machinery he forgot, but I don't care, some kids and I are playing in the straw.
Oh, Oh! here comes my sister! Ar is taking me back to the tent. Ice Cream! They're making ice cream! I love home-made ice cream! Two big tubs of ice! Grandma is chopping the ice and putting it in the ice cream makers. We turned the handles for a long time. This takes too long. I'll just run off and play. People always watch out for me and tell me to stay away from the machinery. I just run around and enjoy the fun and I'm getting dirty too! I love it!
The whistles! I know what that means! It's time to eat! Everything stops and all the kids and most of the men stop and we all gather in the big tent. Dinner's on! My gosh! It's-... beautiful! Then a man stands up with Mr. Blaker. He's just as dirty as the guys running the Baker engine. He's a preacher. Gosh, he doesn't look like a preacher! Everything is quiet. It is so still after the noise of the day. The preacher and Mr. Blaker each talk and thanked everyone for their work. They pause and sadness returns to many faces as I watch. Grandma is crying, and mom and Mrs. King and many others as the preacher mentions the war and hardship and thanksgiving. I don't understand the words but the moment is strange and touching. Then a blessing is asked from God for those who provided and prepared the food and the commotion starts all over again. The pain disappears from all those faces and the gloom dissipates. Everyone is happy again. After dinner they thresh and saw and talk and laugh till the sun sets.
We start for home in the pickup truck. I look at the tent, clean and empty tables. The engines are quietly hissing and only a few people remain. The saws are quiet and the mound of sawdust is huge. I am so tired and numb. My legs just can't go anymore. Everyone is close and reflecting on the day. Tomorrow we'll do it again.
Forty years have elapsed since I was at Roy Blaker's farm in Alvordton. The show has grown beyond the farm and the 40th Anniversary of the National Thresher's Association still peaks my interest. It is indeed a reunion. Mr. Roy Blaker and wife, Lucile are gone. Mr. Percy Sherman is gone, Grandpa is gone and many others. But the idea, the feeling is not gone. I see what my grandmother, my grandfather, my father and my mother saw that I, as a child sensed but could not put my finger on , yet, I saw it then too!
The fellowship at this reunion removes all age barriers. The interest in a common purpose unites everyone. The lines of worry disappear from the faces of all generations as the miseries of the day are put aside. I love the smell, the sounds, and the beautiful machinery as much today as forty years ago. I have watched my eighteen year old, and now my seven year old climb up on machines, ask questions, and learn how they work and something about the people, who run them. I've interviewed many people at this show this year to find they have been here before and have taken a spark from a firebox back home to start a show in Western Ontario, Canada; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Winamac, Indiana; Pontiac, Illinois; Portland, Indiana; Mt Pleasant, Iowa; and many others. But, they come back home to share, to learn, and to participate, and to be with 'family'.
Marcia Bell was born in 1940, daughter of Arthur and Kathleen Kunkle. Clarence Kunkle owned and operated Kunkle & Sons John Deere Implement Dealership in Alvordton, Ohio.