Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
'IT'S BIGGER AND Better than ever,' was the general opinion expressed by many visitors as they roamed the grounds at the Midwest Old Settlers & Threshers eighth reunion, held at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa-renewing acquaintances and meeting new ones. And the town, the board members, and uncounted volunteers have done much this past year to make it that way.
Over five acres of ground joining the park have been added since the last reunion allowing more room for engine spacing, activity and car parking. On this area has been erected an 80'x80' steel building, first of its type in the state, to house display booths and inside exhibits.
Five churches again served home-cooked thresher meals and short orders-their high quality and reasonable prices adding greatly to the enjoyment of visitors and success of the four-day reunion. The friendly atmosphere and lack of commercialism around town and on, the grounds, so evident that many comment favorably, are factors responsible for the repeated return of visitors reunion after reunion and the high place it holds in gatherings of this kind.
Although attendance has increased yearly, this reunion was outstanding in apparent attendance. No count was available since gate, amphitheatre and parking were all free. The added area allowed more space for several engine activities at the same time, and provided more 'elbow room' than in previous years. Except for one day the weather was ideal and picture takers had a field day.
Repeated showers one day cancelled the parades but did not halt anything else. Between showers the engines were on the Prony brake, Baker fan, and the large sawmill. Iowa's Governor Loveless flew in and talked with a large group in the Ladies Auxiliary tent, and by public address to others scattered over the grounds in buildings and tents. Folks wandered around and sought shelter in eating tents and display buildings during the rain. Music supplied by an electronic organ playing old familiar songs soon had a 'community sing' under way in the park's shelter house. They came to see the reunion and apparently intended to stay as long as there was anything doing and they were not disappointed.
Folks from over 40 states and three foreign countries registered and took memberships in the association. Riding an engine was Elsa Parvianinien, an International Exchange Student from Finland who came to Mt. Pleasant as the guest of Rotary to make her home with a local family and attend school for a year. She was presented an honorary membership and spoke briefly to the packed amphitheatre which gave her friendly applause. During the reunion the founders were presented by the mayor; the awards for 'Old Settler' presented to Arthur Morris, 83-year-old collector of pioneer relices, of Stockport, Iowa; an award of 'Old Thresher' to each of the four Beck Brothers from adjoining Des Moines County, all long-time farmers and thresher-men. Notables visiting the reunion and riding steam engines in the Cavalcade of Power, included Iowa's Lt. Governor Nicholas, U. S. Senator Martin, and Representative Schwengel. Leading the parades were school and military marching bands. Other entertainment was furnished by an Old Fiddler's contest, a 4-horse Overland Stage, performing pony hitches, old time fife and drum corps, and parade of the antique car clubs flashily-painted automobiles of yesteryear.
Three floats prepared by the Ladies Auxiliary preceded the Cavalcade, each drawn by a steam engine-one a pioneer school room, then a sewing bee, and the kitchen where everybody works but father. Vice president of the association, Lyle Burroughs, again was the announcer describing the engines as they paraded before the amphitheatre and naming the owner, operator, and riders. Fifty steam and traction engines made up the parade.
Engines from near and far in Iowa were there, and from Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Oldest was a 6 hp. Case Portable built in 1873. Others were the 12 hp. Case built in 1886 which carried the mail to the post office; the 1901 model, 20 hp. New Giant-one of 5 engines brought by Milo Mathews of Mt. Union, Iowa; and new to the reunion, a 1903, 15 hp. Rumely. Several other new engines were on the grounds and likewise farm machinery which included two horse-power outfits.
In operation was the teeter board, threshing with hand and self-fed separators, flour mill, drag saw, shingle mill, the large portable Trout sawmill of previous reunions and several miniature rigs. There were plenty of logs brought in so that the sawmill was in almost continuous operation as various steam engines took a turn on the belt. The slabs were buzzed by engine power as a pile accumulated then distributed with coal around to the engines so that there was plenty of fuel all the time.
The Ladies Auxiliary had a continuous varied program which included cake decorating and small electrical appliance demonstrations, home talent, a kitchen band and handicrafts exhibited in booths.
Displays included antiques, Indian relics, guns, a carding and spinning demonstration, rock polishing and a display of gem stones and native rocks, cars of early 1900 vintage, World War relics and pioneer home furnishing and farm implements.
Pictures were shown in the evening. These were of past reunions here and elsewhere, and visitors had the opportunity to show any of their own they might have brought.
As in the past, the quality of the displays and engines was top-notch; the engines were clean and well painted; a few more new and interesting ones added and everyone seemed to have a good time.
And now plans are under way for next year's reunion. The experience gained from eight successful years should make it 'even bigger and better than ever,' again. We'll be looking for you Labor Day Week, September 3, 4, 5, and 6, 1958.