633 Cleveland Street, Decatur, Indiana 46733
What is it about a steam thresher show that draws the crowds
year after year after year? The smell of smoke? The steady purring
of the grain seperator as the bundles are passing through,
seperating the golden grain from the golden straw? The whine of the
saw as it is passing through the log? These are but a few of the
reasons. For some, the opportunity to see how things were done back
in Dads’ or Grandpas’ day. For others, a day of relaxation
and to get away from the hustle and hurry of a busy world and, for
some, the joys of meeting old friends and the making of new
What must be done so that we may live in the past for a few
enjoyable hours? Days, weeks and several months of time are
required for the four days that the ‘Old Time Thresher
Show’ is held in the month of August each year. The grounds
must be thoroughly cleaned and gone over after the winter season
has passed. Repairs made from the damage caused by storms, winter
blizzards and heavy spring rains. The grain has to be cut and
shocked and then loaded on wagons and stored in the dry until show
time. The exhibition grounds and parking areas have to be mowed and
then raked. Logs have to be hauled in and in place ready for the
saw mills. These are but a few of the thousand and one jobs that
have to be done in order to get ready for the Big Days.
Two of the big jobs that were done before the 1965 show was the
remodeling and enlargement of the sanitary rest rooms and the
overhauling and adding to the grounds electrical system. More
circuits, floodlights and convenience outlets were added. Quite a
few extra outlets were necessary because of the number of people
that now do their traveling in the popular camper mounted on a
pick-up truck. In order to get all of the has to be work done
before show time, a lot of thanks are due to the Jims, Franks,
Johns, Macs, Jrs., Shays, Tommies, Irvins and a host of others.
The show grounds were kept fairly dust free thanks to the use of
two sprinkling wagons. One of these has been in use on the grounds
for several years. The other is a large tank mounted on a truck
chassis with sprinkling attachments added by the members of the
organization. The main drives throughout the grounds were paved
with road stone which made them more solid in wet weather and more
dust free in dry weather.
There was plenty of threshing for the visitor at the show as
nine acres of wheat was cut, shocked and stored on wagons. Two
large grain seperators and a smaller one were used and powered by
the various steam engines and old time gas tractors on the grounds.
Two saw mills on the grounds were kept busy. One mill permanently
installed by our president, Jim Whitbey, and the other a portable
mill owned by Dick Link of Starr City, Indiana. In addition to the
two big mills, a small model mill was brought to the show by M.C.
Lake and his brother of South Bend, Ind. So, in all, the visitor
had plenty of saw mill activity.
Other attractions on the grounds was the plowing with the big
steam engines and large gas tractors. Two plows were hooked
together, making nine bottoms in all, for this demonstration. The
old hickory tree was again well ventilated as four Baker fans were
anchored to it. It certainly is a demonstration of power when four
engines are in the belt and strutting their stuff on these fans.
Not to be overlooked were the verneer mill brought to the show by
Melvin Lugten of Hamilton, Michigan. This mill showed the process
by which a thin slice of wood can be shaved from a large log. Next
in line was the shingle mill furnished throught the courtesy of
Elmer and Jack Egbert of Botkins, Ohio, showing how wooden shingles
were made years ago. Also brought to the show by the Egberts was
the Minard-Harder chaffer and horse-power. This chaffer
demonstrated an early method of threshing before the modern grain
seperator took its place.
Still like to hear of other happenings that took place at the
1965 ‘Old Time Thresher Show’? Well folks, read on as
plenty of other events were a part of the show.
No steam show would be complete without the engine balancing
performances put on so well by Melvin Lugten, Jack Egbert and Harry
Woodmansee. Once in a while some over bold fellow would try it with
his gas tractor. Another looked forward to attraction was the hill
climbing events so ably performed by Harry Woodmansee, Jack Egbert
and Percy Sherman.
Gas Engines? Gas Tractors? Put-Puts? We had them, Holy Smoke,
did we have them. What was once called gasoline alley and then
renamed gasoline boulevard must now be called gasoline acres. This
writer doesn’t know the exact number, but several hundred would
be a good close guess. Squirrel, move over, some guy just moved in
with a truck load of gas engines and parked where my tent used to
For the added entertainment of the visitor to the ‘Old Time
Thresher Show’, they were delighted with the show put on by
Nancy Lee and The Hilltoppers from the radio station W.O.W.O.; by
Bud Widmer and his Rube Band from Defiance, Ohio; by the Keystone
Kops from Findlay, Ohio and by that wonderful group of youngsters,
the Elkhart Co. 4-H mounted drill and square dance teams.
As is the custom each year, the well known and looked forward to
Old Time Thresher church services are held on Sunday morning of the
show. No activity is permitted during the hours of devotion so that
those who wish can attend the services in comfort and quiet. It
certainly was an inspiring sight to see when the 4-H club
youngsters came to the services riding their well-trained
A note of sadness must be added, at times, to the good times
just mentioned above and that is the passing to the great beyond of
Mrs. Cecil Burns. We of the ‘Old Time Thresher Show’ knew
her personally as ‘Fannie’. Most of you will remember her
as the smiling-faced lady that helped to sell tickets at the
box-office. She will most certainly be missed by all of us.
And now a note of gladness; to the proud parents and to the
members of the organization of a new director to be, in the years
to come. A daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Dean Saunders of
Addison, Michigan. Mrs. Saunders, if you will recall, was and is
one of our famous lady engineers.
Since the first ‘Old Time Thresher Show’, many years
ago, to the present time, Jay Gould, farm service director of Radio
Station W.O.W.O. has been a co-sponsor of the show. Jay is on the
grounds to greet and visit with his many friends of the air waves.
From time to time throughout the show, live broadcasts were made
direct from the show grounds.