I Hate Steam Shows!


| November/December 1989



LaFrance

LaFrance steamer pumper from Wichita.

101 S. Main Ave., Suite 201 Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57102

I hate steam shows: the heat, the soot, the noise, the dirt. But I like the steam enginesand I love the steam people. My husband is one of these people, with a shed full of the engines occupying space desperately needed by vehicles in daily use. The shed has achieved a certain residential quality, as he spends evenings, weekends and holidays 'working' on the iron tenants. And the money poured into this 'work' transforms the engines (at least in my mind) into huffing, puffing, lumbering versions of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Like the spouses of other steam people, I surfer these indignities in comparative silence, with an occasional long-suffering smile, accepting them as among the many compromises necessary to maintain 'marital harmony'. But I draw the line at attending steam shows.

My husband knows all this, of course. I've explained my feelings on the subject in gruesome detail with the occasional angry outburst which emerges when my spirit of compromise fails me. So I was mildly surprised at the insistent tone in his voice as he suggested I accompany him to a steam show in Valley Center, Kansas, over Labor Day weekend last summer. It wasn't near anything I would enjoy, like a big shopping mall. Where is Valley Center? For all that, where is Kansas? Isn't that the place Dorothy ran away from? 'Auntie Em, hate Kansas. Have taken dog.' It was at the wrong time of year. Anytime is the wrong time for a show, as far as I'm concerned. But summer in Kansas has little appeal to a woman who vacations in northern Minnesota in the winter. There would be nothing for me to do. That is, of course, unless one views sweating and getting dirty as 'doing something'. But two arguments persuaded me to ignore my better judgment: First, he would be there. Second, I would enjoy all the other people, particularly Tom and Lois Terning who run the show.

4 Avery engines in a row: Tom Terning's 40-120 with Avery Sullivan at the throttle and John Tomey at the wheel. Linda Britton and Joe Heath with their scale Avery built by Paul Kusnefsky. Dick Burd with his scale built by Paul.

So we loaded up our scale Case 65, which was built by Tom Terning, and a scale Avery we had purchased from the Paul Kusnefsky estate. In spite of my husband's glowing accounts, I was ill prepared for what lay ahead: The amount of engines, machinery, and equipment on display, the exceptional condition of everything present; the number, variety and novelty of events and displays; the willingness (to say nothing of ability) of every exhibitor present to keep everything running full tilt every day of the show; the remarkable collection of knowledge and skills spread through the exhibitors and their unfailing willingness to share know-how, tools, parts, and tall tales. And last but, for those of us not enamored of steam shows, not least, the presence of some semblance of civilized living including enough toilets to meet the needs of large crowds without long lines, food suitable for human consumption at a going rate, places to sit down, shade, music from both live and recorded sources throughout the show, religious services on Sunday, and smiling people with IQ's larger than their shoe sizes who want to pass the time of day. I was impressed if not entirely converted.

I'm probably a poor person to make this report. What's of interest to 'engine ignorant' me might not stand out to this readership. But it will probably bear some interest to the 'significant others' of the 'engine aficionados.' Here's what caught my eye and kept me hoppin' for three days: