Iron Man Of The Month

of Dayton Daily News And Radio's Joe's Journel

| September/October 1971

  • Kitten Engine
    Elmer doffs his hat to the Kitten Engine ''what a beauty!'' he says depending on what he's looking at. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Lucille Blaker
    Elmer shown with N. T. A. secretary, Lucille Blaker, after his last sermon delivered before the grandstand on Sunday, 1969. Ever since the inception of the National Thresher, Elmer Ritzman was its chaplain, Lucille its secretary. Together they conducted t
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Wooden model of threshing rig
    Elmer proudly shows me a wooden model of threshing rig which he just bought on grounds of N. T. A. in 1966. Rumor has it that Joe Ernst, Grand Truck engineer, made it for the Korn Krib. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Elmer
    Editor to writer Elmer points out a thing or two in latest issue of IRON-MEN ALBUM to me. Really we should be arguing but we weren't. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Elmer
    The first time I saw Elmer, he was taking subscriptions for THE FARM ALBUM, at the Blaker Farm National Threshers Reunion, Alvordton, Ohio, back in the forties. Photo by Leo Clark, Washington, Illinois. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Elmer
    Elmer grabs a few moments of ''shut-eye'' prior to delivering Sunday morning sermon at 1966 N. T. A. I sneaked past, saw him there, couldn't resist snapping picture. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Big bronze plaque
    Elmer said the most fitting words, dedicating the big bronze plaque and engine wheel, mounted in front of the Blaker farm home, to commemorate the first organized steam threshermen's reunion in America. I. to r. Elmer Ritzman, Merl Newkirk, LeRoy Blaker,
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Kitten Engine
    Elmer's favorite engine at N.T.A. was the Kitten. Here he gets the ''feel'' of the Kitten throttle to see if it can purrrr. Behind him is Walter Knapp, Monroe, Michigan, owner of the Kitten. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Locomotive oil-can
    Many friends drop by to chat with Elmer Joe Ernst, Grand Trunk engineer, gives Elmer his old locomotive oil-can to put in his KORN KRIB MUSEUM. Ernst has also made some threshing rigs out of wood for the museum. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Ind
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Leroy Blaker
    Some of Elmer's happiest moments, were relaxing under signs of his children THE IRON-MEN ALBUM and GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE chatting with N. T. A. president, Leroy Blaker. They both were in on the birth of THE FARM ALBUM, forerunner of I. M. A. Courtesy of Joe
    Joe Fahnestock

  • Kitten Engine
  • Lucille Blaker
  • Wooden model of threshing rig
  • Elmer
  • Elmer
  • Elmer
  • Big bronze plaque
  • Kitten Engine
  • Locomotive oil-can
  • Leroy Blaker

UNION CITY, INDIANSA.

Every now and then, but quite rarely, a man struts across the stage of life, changing all he comes in contact with. And, after his passing, things aren't the same again.

Some called him, 'The Editor', others, 'The Preacher', or 'The Reverend still others preferred 'Uncle 'But by far the most knew him as 'Elmer'. And 'Elmer' he was to most of us just plain 'Elmer'. For, unlike the brotherhood of the holy ordainedmen of the cloth who strut in their priestly robes to the Reverend Elmer Ritzman farm overalls were the holiest of garb. A firebox poker was his 'sheperd's stave' for the leading of his flock. He never preached on the unquenchable fires of hell, for to him the hot coals and roaring flames inside an engine firebox were the greatest sermons of all. With his eye on the steam gauge, and his hand on the throttle, his pulpit was the swaying deck of a steam engine at workhis congregation the teeming thousands that came to 'tend the threshermen's reunions which his faith nurtured from humble beginnings by his praying and preaching. Though the Reverend Elmer Ritzman may once have been ordained of God a Methodist pastor, to serve his village and town, the hand of the Lord led him into vaster fields to pasture flocks numbered among the stars. All were blessed by his presence and all mourn at his passing.

To those who have held onto the illusion that all preachers are a separate breedstuffed shirts, aloof and uninteresting let me say they have just never met the Reverend Ritzman. Somehow they have been denied one of life's richest experiences sitting beside him, elbow to elbow, sharing his rich loquations on every day philosophy, delicately interwoven with Divine Theology. To him the hard facts of life were never divorced from the gentle humor of the Pennsylvania-Dutch idiom. Though his sermons were without jokes, one could often detect sermons in his jokes. And whenever it came to the telling of jokes, Elmer always had a big bagful from which to draw and select, depending on whether his listening audience, happening to be within ear-shot, demanded the feminine or masculine touch.



It was at the National Threshers Reunion, held on the Blaker Farm at Alvordton, Ohio, back in '48, that I first met the Reverend Elmer Ritzman or Elmer. He had invited me earlier, by letter, to come and 'learn a little about steam engines' which I did (a little). And, of course, the first person I sought out on the crowded, busy grounds, as I made my way amongst the sweating men and steaming engines, was Elmer who had pitched his little tent just over by LeRoy Blaker's steam engine workshop and far enough away from the maddening throng to out-shout the melee and hawk his little FARM ALBUM pamphlet across a thin and wobbly board which served both as counter and something to lean on.

'Are you Reverend Ritzman?' I yelled his hands reaching for pencil and subscription pad in the hopes I was a customer.