Iron Man of The Month


| May/June 1967


Whether it's supervising the degree of incline on the hill-climb, deciding the position of the Prony Brake Wheel, checking out last-minute inspections on the big sawmill, calling up the order of the afternoon grandstand parade or presiding at the evening conclave of the annual National Threshermen's Reunion the slight, be-spectacled man in the polka-dot cap must be 'Johnny on the spot' to add his final blessing.

For the agile, 78 year old non-drinking, non-smoking and God-fearing LeRoy Blaker, host to thousands each year at the big National Threshermen's Reunion at Wauseon, Ohio, the challenging job of being president means being everywhere, shaking hands with everyone, preaching boiler-safety, keeping engines smoking and engineers happy, as well as coaxing all the horsepower he can get out of that mighty Port Huron compound of his. Little wonder I understood all this, the day I arrived at my first threshing show at the LeRoy Blaker farm, near Alvordton, Ohio, back in 1948, and, thrusting my paw out to get acquainted, said, 'You're President LeRoy Blaker? Could I get you to explain one of these engines for a recording?' To which, replied he, mopping sweat and coal-smoke from his brow, 'I'm too busy to help you now. Get Ormann Keyser, over there. He can explain the engines.' Thus was my 'baptism of fire' into the busy life of one LeRoy Blaker who, with his capable wife and secretary, Lucille, has been president and guiding spirit of the National Threshermen, ever since its humble inception on the Blaker farm, back in 1945.

'I don't know why I became so interested in steam threshing outfits when I was about knee-high to a grasshopper,' says LeRoy Blaker. who has been hopping up and down on steam engine decks ever since. 'My father was a farmer and carpenter when our family lived near Minden, Nebraska, prior to the 1900's.'

But we're willing to wager that young LeRoy's eyes must have taken in the grand and glorious sight of someone's steam threshing rig in operation, sometime, somewhere, during those precious boyhood years out on the Nebraska plains.

For at a very tender age he was quite preoccupied in making a boiler out of a tin can, and a whistle from a brass rifle cartridge generating steam and tooting that whistle from an improved firebox atop Mom's kitchen range.