8 Dudley Road, R. R. #2, Champaign, Illinois 61820
The long awaited Saturday morning of July 23, 1977, had finally arrived and what a beautiful day it was. This was also to be a very special day because we were traveling to Fred And Brenda Nolan's farm at Arcola, Illinois to photograph their one day Steam and Gas Show. Having been friends of the Nolans for quite some time and sharing their interest in historical preservation, we had readily accepted their invitation not only to take photographs but to enjoy the excitement of the day with them. Arriving early in the morning at the Nolan's farm we were surprised to find many cars and horse and buggies already parked in the field, pasture, and along the side of the road. It was evident that there was going to be a heavy turnout which, at the end of the day, did number over a thousand people. Black smoke, which we had been watching for the past seven miles, was billowing up through the many shade trees as the steam traction engineers were stoking their fires, filling their grease cups and I suppose swapping their stories as to which engine was the easiest to fire as evidenced by the first pound of steam pressure. My wife, Gail and I having had a hurried breakfast headed immediately for the Lakefork Christian Church's food stand to purchase a hot cup of coffee and a sweet roll. This group of people also had the best homemade ice cream I have ever tasted which is backed up by the fact that they sold over fifty gallons of ice cream alone during the day.
Free roasted and salted peanuts were continually poured into a large apple butter kettle by Brenda Nolan for the visitors to sample as they wished. The setting for this show, if you can imagine, is picturesque of the Illinois prairie, highlighted in the mid-nineteenth century when men such as Jacob R. Moore built beautiful homes to outwardly display their prominence and stature in the community. The grounds are well dotted with stately trees planted by the hands of people of a bygone era. The home is styled heavily in Italian Renensaince and has been cited by a State Historical Survey Team as a potential historical landmark for the State of Illinois. Also a nice hip-roof barn resides on the premises and contains many articles of interest such as an 1850 child's footman sleigh, gasoline motors, antique tractors, etc.
Almost having finished our coffee, we were pleasantly surprised by the many sounds of steam whistles as the engineers were signalling they were ready for a hard day's work. Black smoke belching, gears growling, and steam cylinders hissing, the show was about to get underway. The many sights and sounds that followed as the day went on were music to our ears. My camera shutters were constantly snapping one moment after another of 'History in Motion.' The loud steady exhaust of the Nichols and Shepard on the plow, to the distinct bark of the snappy Baker on the fan, to the chuckle of the Case on the threshing machine, were all sounds of yesteryear that were once again being heard by the young and old of today.
As the various events occurred throughout the day it was evident that there were two men that were always there when needed no matter what was asked of them and were undoubtedly thoroughly enjoying the day. Later in the day I asked Fred who these two men were and he said that they were Dean Cole and Jim Jenkins of Arcola, Illinois who had helped him day and night for the past few months and without their help and the understanding and patience of their wives this show would not have been possible.
I understand that the show has already been scheduled for July 21, 22, and 23, 1978 and that the official name will be 'Douglas County Historical Steam and Gas Show, Inc.' and that it will be advertised in this publication, Iron-Men Album, as show time approaches. It is a show that you will not want to miss as the home will be open to the public for the first time and will be complimented with rare period furnishings that I know you will all enjoy. Also in the planning is the rebuilding of a rare Pat. 1889 Garr Scott double bladed sawmill which Fred hopes will be operating at the 1978 show. The shelling of corn by steam engines is also being planned.
I hope to see all of you at Arcola, Illinois in 1978 and also hope you enjoy the photographs that Gail and I have sent along with this article.