Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, saw the biggest attendance of all time at the 11th Annual Reunion September 7 – 10. General opinion was that this was again bigger and better than ever. This reunion, as one radio announcer so aptly said, is the grand-daddy of them all.
More than a hundred steam engines and tractors, antique cars galore, farm machinery of pioneer days, threshing underway with various machines showing its evolution, displays of antiques, floats showing early day church services, school and farm homes, exhibits of guns and Indian relics — even several Indians in person from the Tama reservation — and the outstanding new feature a 69-year-old cabbage stack, narrow gauge steam locomotive on which visitors could ride all were part of the scene.
Some of the visitors had been to every reunion since the first. There were folks here from over forty states and several other countries. They came by car, train, bus and plane. Some stayed on the grounds in trailers and tents. Meals on the grounds were provided by five churches. Their ‘Old Thresher meals’ were really that! Much of the credit for the success of the reunions must go for the fine, tasty food prepared and served by the church groups.
Meals on the grounds were provided by five churches. Their “Old Thresher meals” were really that! Much of the credit for the success of the reunions must go for the fine, tasty food prepared and served by the church groups.
Engines which come from Iowa and the surrounding states are hauled by low-boy to the grounds. They started to arrive nearly a week before opening day and there was activity from the very first arrival. Those exhibited are selected by the board for their interest, uniqueness, history, type or make to give a well-rounded selection covering a wide range and having educational value. New ones are added each year. There were 40 of the large ones on display and parade. Each must be state boiler inspected and tested. During the reunion they are in operation much of the time, parading, belted to the Prony brake, Baker fan, sawmill or other machinery, or just idling.
The association has expanded each year; buying more land; putting up a 80′ x 80′ exhibit building; adding equipment; and depending on volunteer $1 memberships for much of the necessary capital. This has resulted in a deficit. In order to grow and advance a worth while program a charge was made for the first time—–a $1 membership button being the price of admission for an adult over the four days. This resulted in over 21,000 memberships and much favorable comment. All that was necessary was an explanation of the need and the co-operation was there.
Saturday, the final day, saw the largest attendance with the grandstand full and folks standing 5 and 6 deep around both sides of the track to watch the Cavalcade of Power. Many at the same time were wandering around the grounds taking in the displays and other sights, and in the dining tents.
A new attraction was the 1891 narrow gauge, cabbage stack, locomotive and tender, on its own track, with steam up taking ‘owners’ for rides. One became an owner by buying stock in the railroad at $10 a share which also provided a lifetime pass to ride the train. The locomotive is a 2-6-0 Mogul type built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. It saw service hauling passengers in Virginia on the short line Surrey, Sussex and South Hampton R.R. Later, with its mate, a 1906 model now also owned by the association, it was operated in the lumber camps of South Carolina for 35 years until sold to a Georgia firm. Here it was sold at auction. The two locomotives with three section cars (since restored) were trucked by low-boy to Iowa. Plans are to add three 1890 vintage coaches. The equipment is housed on land purchased this year on the south side of the grounds where the reunion is held, and in a 72’x 96′ railroad building constructed largely with volunteer help.
Antique cars put on their own parade and show and in addition had valuable old models filling two tents just as exhibits.
There was something going on from early until late: engines were being fired up, put through their paces, tested on the Prony brake, belted to the Baker fan, and taking turns on the sawmill and threshing machines. There were engine-powered pieces of equipment new to many people a shingle mill, a cut-off saw, a small flour mill, to name a few. The demonstrations and exhibits with the descriptions given by those in charge were informative and educational. In the Ladies Auxiliary tent and booths programs were given, also in the large new building that housed antique exhibits, guns, Indian relics, pioneer furnishings and a wool carding and spinning demonstration.
There is a great deal of shade around the tents and buildings and benches were plentiful. Entertainment was provided by an Old Fiddlers contest, checker players, horse shoe pitchers, Fife and Drum corps (whose members averaged 72 years of age), organ music and just visiting. It is easy to get acquainted at the reunion. People are friendly and having an enjoyable time. There is something for the whole family.
The Old Settler award went to Mrs. A. D. Hayes, 98, of New London, Iowa. Five shared the honor of being designated Old Threshers: Ray Ernst of Wayland (one of the reunion founders and first president of the Midwest Association), Ray Trout of Douds, Earl Trout from Colorado, Warren Coonrod of Center Point and R. w. Creek of Batavia.
Old time buildings now on the grounds include a railroad depot, a one-room school and this year’s addition of a barber shop which was in use in the late 1800’s in this county. Others will be added to this settlement.
A short wave radio was set up and operated from the depot. Over 180 radiograms were sent for visitors to many states and both coasts. Specially stamped letters and post cards were again carried by steam engine to the post office.
A larger number of gas tractors and stationary engines were on display than previous years. Ten of the latter belonged to Howard Boese of Pairfield who has 47 in his collection ten of which he has rebuilt. The oldest model was built in 1902.
Twenty six of the steam engines and three of the larger tractors are now stored in the buildings on the grounds so these will not have to be hauled in for the 1961 Reunion. The hauling expense has run around $5,000 in the past for all engines. The new railroad building holds about 20 of the engines in storage.
One of the attractions to the reunion is the lack of midway and commercialism. People enjoy getting back to the flavor of the ‘old-time county fair and state fair’ with the emphasis on agricultural interests.
The dates for 1961 are September 6, 7, 8 and 9.