HOW WE GOT THIS STORY
Joyce, left, and Annie on cleanup detail.
This article, about two beautiful steam persons who make great
'cover girls' with the family Reeves, started with a photo
essay about Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, by Paul W. Holton, 10022 Marnice
Avenue, Tujunga, California 91042 (IMA. Jan.-Feb. 1981).
Anne was in one of the photos, unidentified. We wrote to Lennis Moore, administrator of the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshing, who provided names. Then we wrote to Lyle, and the family cooperated with comments and pictures.
The Hoffmasters typify all that is best in the American family. We know there are many other parents, children and grandchildren who find pleasure and grow together, through the engine hobbies.Gerry Lestz
Lyle Hoffmaster, of Bucyrus, Ohio, has the great satisfaction of knowing that his two lovely daughters, Anne and Joyce, find just as much joy in the family Reeves steam traction engine as he does.
Lyle bought the engine in 1951, and found that the girls were interested in it from the time they were toddlers.
IMA asked Lyle and the girls to tell the story, and they have responded like thoroughbreds. Lyle is an oldtimer; he recalls Rev. Elmer Ritzman, founder of IMA, from visits to rallies.
The engine itself is a Reeves double simple built in 1906; number 3547. Nothing is known of its early history until it was shipped into Monroe County, Illinois, in 1917.
It was used in the Waterloo area for the next 15 years. It sawed, graded roads, pressed cider, threshed and filled silos until 1932 when the boiler was considered unsafe.
The Knobbe Machine Works of Waterloo, Illinois, traded a rebuilt Reeves engine for this engine. They remounted the engine on a new Nooter boiler which cost an astounding $800.00 in 1932.
Fred Schneider, the last owner to use the engine for work, retired it in 1951. When he learned that Lyle would make it a pet, Fred readily sold it to him.
Lyle started restoration at once, but other responsibilities prevented completion until 1961. The Reeves will be 'Engine of the Year' during the Mt. Pleasant Old Threshers Reunion in September.
Lyle comments: 'The Reeves made a terrific pet to raise a family on. It was an easy engine for the girls to learn to run. As soon as they could reach the throttle and see where they were going, they were running the engine.
'Within the girls' memories the engine has always been shown and shedded at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Joyce first attended the show at Mt. Pleasant at age four and Anne at age two. They had attended shows in Ohio when even younger. The girls soon had the run of the Mt. Pleasant grounds. This we would not have permitted at any other gathering of that size. In the early years of their attendance they got to stay only one day. One evening when I was leaving to return them to their mother and grandparents, I heard the most pathetic words that I ever heard. 'It's all over for another year. Yeah, the best day of the year and it's over already.' It was obvious that the show girls were sincere. My heart melted, and I returned to the showgrounds where friends offered to put the girls up and so they stayed another day. Two days soon grew to the entire show and now they stay longer than I do.
'I doubt either the girls or I could tell you their reason for taking an interest in my hobby. I do recall an incident when they were about 4 and 7 years old when I was being admonished by the better half for not having made a will. I was not opposed to the idea and during the ensuing discussion mentioned my hope that my modest collection of machinery would not have to be sold for family support. The girls were to have first choice at these items providing they would learn how to care for them and operate them. They say that they remember this incident and that it provided incentive for them to learn about these iron monsters that they already loved.
'The girls developed an early appreciation for the meaning of heritage. Two of their great grandfathers were threshermen as well as their grandfather and their father. It seems to give them a torch to carry.
'We have never encouraged 'canned' entertainment. To become involved and a part of something had much more to offer as it provided opportunity for growth. Few hobbies present any wider scope than does the restoring and showing of our vintage machinery. These activities have enriched their lives beyond measure.'
Anne comments: 'When I was a little girl the engine was both a joy and an amazement. I can remember climbing on it, wiping off dust, prying mud off the wheels and falling asleep on it one day during a parade. I evidently was not quite as observing as I should have been, though. I can remember one evening just after we had returned home from Old Threshers, dad asked me to describe our engine. Being only about six at the time, I guess I must have picked up on something familiar to me and responded by saying, 'Ours is the one with the bulldog on the front.' It took about two hours to peel dad off the ceiling and I never made that mistake again!
'Dad mentioned once when we were young that he went to shows to see his friends rather than the engines. I could not comprehend this because at this time I did not know the people but I surely liked the engines. Now, I too, go to see the people. Dad, however, is getting worse than ever. He goes to see his friends and talks about engines, but forgets that the engines need wood and water. When we leave him in charge of our engine we come back to find him talking and the engine with no steam, no fire and little water. We are considering demoting him from engineering to public relations!
'This past year Joyce and I threshed and ran the sorghum press and we did invite dad along.'
Joyce comments: 'I can't remember a time when I knew no engines. True, we have never had one running at home but we have always been in contact with them at shows. Then in 1975, it became apparent that we weren't going to make it to Mt. Pleasant. I think that then it became obvious to Anne and me just how much seeing and running our engine meant to us. We concluded that we were not going to stay home so we took the train and with a little help from our friends, operated the engine and put her away for the winter. Caring for the engine occupies at least as much of our time as does running it. Putting her away for the winter is quite a process and goes beyond the obvious tasks of cleaning flues, thorough draining, and removal of ashes. We also remove the grates, scrub the smoke box and firebox and oil them, disembowel check valves, wash the boiler, remove all hand-hole plates, cover the mahogany tool boxes, and oil everything. We are proud of our engine and aim to keep her a long time.
'This past fall, we offered to let Haston St. Clair and Larry Bohlmeyer, both 86 years of age and long time operators of engines, take the engine on parade. Anne and I fired up, filled grease cups and oilers, started the lubricator and turned the engine over to them with a full head of steam and a hot fire. Mr. Bohlmeyer laughed and said that the tables had certainly turned when two young ladies got an engine ready for two old men to go play. Almost without exception, the engineers accept us as part of 'the gang'. They are always ready to lend a hand or offer some advice from their store of personal experiences if we need it, but give us credit for knowing enough to handle an engine.'
Lyle adds . . . 'Joyce graduated from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, in May 1980. She received a bachelor's degree in biology. Anne is a sophomore at the University of Toledo, studying pharmacy.
'The old threshermen had many problems, not the least of which was, once the boys learned how to run the engine, they were soon off to the railroad; so it still is. Joyce will just desert us for a day and fire on the Midwest Central Railroad. So far, she has always returned.
'Incidentally, in case you were wondering, Joyce and Anne do have a mother. She tolerates greasy steam engines, washes clothes and wonders where she went wrong . . .
'At one of the Threshers Reunions Barbara and I attended during our courtship, we ran across dear Rev. Elmer tending his I.M.A. booth. After introducing Rev. Elmer, the three of us had a very pleasant conversation. Word later returned to me (I will always think this was intentional) that he was well impressed with Barbara and thought we belonged together. Now one doesn't take the advice of an old sage like Elmer lightly, and his word weighed upon my decision to propose to the lady. I have never been sorry of my decision and it will soon be 25 years and there have been no harsh words between us, nor has the sun ever set on ill feelings.'
Tell us more about mother, we suggested. So Joyce responded: 'Mother has nothing to add. She has no interest in steam engines whatsoever. As we said, she washes dirty clothes and tolerates all this iron. She does enjoy the friendship of the marvelous people that we have met through engines. She claims that engines 'spit on you' and has never forgiven them because once one spotted the white collar on her blouse. She learned only within the past ten years that engines do not have button strap boilers. Ironically enough, father met her through engines. He went to a farm near Peoria to get a load of sand to sandblast the 16 HP Reeves. The farmer's wife decided that he should meet her cousin and arranged a blind date. The rest is history. Mother is tremendously patient and understanding with her family, all of whom suffer from terminal steam fever. Perhaps she does have a reason for her dislike of steam engines, for one nearly killed her. She was helping father load the horsedrawn Aultman engine when one front wheel hit a bump. The axle swiveled and the iron-shod end of the heavy tongue missed her head only by inches as it lashed to one side.'