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
‘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
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
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
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
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.