Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
The 14th annual reunion of the Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association held September 4-7 was bigger and better than ever.
A hundred engines paraded and performed for the biggest attendance to date in spite of one rainy day. As usual a dollar membership was all it cost for adults to attend the four day festival, children free. Approximately 29,000 bought memberships.
The narrow gauge railroad with its mile long track and 1891 cabbage stack locomotive was very busy. Its two coaches and caboose holding close to a hundred passengers ran on a tight 20 minute schedule much of the time. Two hold-ups by masked riders caused a slight delay and the loss of a mail pouch. One bandit was shot but not captured a companion threw him across his horse and made a get-away.
The hundred antique cars were on display in the two story concrete building and also paraded. Some of them dated away back there was a 1901 Locomobile. A few collector's items were valued at $10,000 each.
Over 50 stationary engines occupied a tent. The thirty or so old tractors were a far cry from their descendants we now see on farms but just as glamourous to some, especially the youngsters.
A pioneer village is under way and now consists of the railroad depot, a one-room country school, barber shop as last year with the addition of a country store, wagon shop and log cabin. A country church has been secured and plans are to move it in. Other buildings of the time are being planned. The country store had a continuous line of patrons going in the front door and out the back some stopping to buy old fashioned candy and inspect the displays which were just as in the old days.
As usual the sawmill operated steadily, with the several steam engines taking their turn on the belt. The Prony brake and Baker fan had a good work out. The shingle mill, flour mill, various separators and baler were put to use.
As in other years, there were a few new engines with the regular ones: the Cases, Under-mounted Averys, Wood Brothers, Nichols-Shepard, Gaar-Scott, Baker, Kitten, Huber, Port Hum, Minneapolis, Keck-Gonnerman, Reeves, Russell, Rumely and Advance.
Since its beginning in 1950 several parcels of land have been bought and added. Now another 14 acres will extend the grounds to the south. In spite of the large crowd and many activities there seems to be plenty of room.
The buildings were used to capacity. The displays of pioneer furnishings, antiques dishes, glass ware, guns, and equipment were good and interesting. Mrs. Monson put on her spinning and carding demonstration. The ladies auxiliary had separate displays in the shelter house and programs which included musical skits, cooking demonstrations lectures on Indian lore and a program by Hugh Orchard, the 90-year-old 'Grand Old Man of Chautauqua.' This was right in keeping with the evening chautauqua given in the big tent on two evenings.
The success of the chautauqua has resulted in plans for the 1964 reunion to include chautauqua each of the four nights as well as the Cavalcade of Power, and on one night probably a parade of antique cars.
About 30 model engines came in for their share of attention. So did the steam table which had 13 stationary models under steam. They were the work of one man covering a period of twenty five years, Frank Lesley of Peoria, I11.
The steam merry-go-round with its galloping horses and caliope carried old and young riders. The old time medicine man and his wagon were in evidence. The Fife and Drum Corps performed in the parade and around the grounds. The Old Fiddlers held their contest as did the horse shoe pitchers and checker players. Community singing was spontaneous around the organ in the little one-room school and around the electric organ in the shelter house. The old tunes and songs are hard to beat.
Seven churches put out the old threshers meals for which the reunion is noted. There was eating in the tents from the middle of the forenoon until 8 at night.
The Cavalcade of Power was led by the high school marching band. The announcer described the various engines and identified the passengers as they passed before the crowded amphitheatre, getting an answering toot from the whistle. Pete Bucher balanced a 10-ton Port Huron engine on the teeter board as easily as he has done it for years.
The shuttle bus (free) between town and the air port and the grounds was kept busy. Planes were coming and going. Ed Vogel from Buhl, Idaho, flew in for his tenth year at the reunion. He has nine engines on his ranch and runs one in the Cavalcade of Power.
A ham radio station broadcast messages to foreign countries and other states for visitors.
Visitors remark about their pleasure in attending an event free from commercialism, raucons midways and concessions. There is something going on all the time, room to sit down in the shade of one wishes, and plenty of time to leisurely enjoy the reunion. The friendly atmosphere is typical of Mt. Pleasant. The success of the reunions has been the result of hundreds of volunteer workers going all out to make it possible for visitors to have a good time.
Better come and see for yourself. The 1964 dates are September 9, 10, 11 and 12 the last four days of Labor Day week as usual.