Remembering a Thresherman, Historical Society Founder, Steam Truck Owner

The Golden Roll: Honoring the memory of steam community members

| July/August 2006

  • Golden-Roll-Brodbeck
    The late Marvin Brodbeck and his 24 HP Port Hurton steam engine.

  • Golden-Roll-Brodbeck

Long time steam enthusiast John (Jack) Fritcher of Saratoga, Iowa, passed away Nov. 21, 2005, at the age of 88.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Jack in the early 1970s at Antique Acres, Cedar Falls, Iowa. We soon became good friends due to Jack’s great capacity for making one laugh. This God-given talent made Jack a welcome guest at the shows and get-togethers throughout the years.

Jack and his wife, Ruth, were longtime Howard County farmers as well as raising their family of four children – Butch, Joeie, Janet and Pete. Jack also did custom threshing in his younger days as well as keeping a sawmill in operating condition.

He was the proud owner of a 20 HP Minneapolis traction engine he had purchased in the early 1960s from Roy Harper of Cedar Falls. Some of my best steam engine memories came compliments of Jack and this Minneapolis engine. He had taken the Minnie to Harlen and Maggie Boes’ annual threshing bee in the early 1980s, and asked me to be his engineer, which I readily accepted. We annually threshed about 10 acres of oats during the one-day get together, usually not even stopping for lunch. Everybody pitched in, worked hard and got the oats threshed with anticipation of the evening entertainment. Barbeque chicken with all the trimmings was served up, a keg of beer was tapped and old time music was played. It was the closest thing I had ever experienced to a genuine old-fashioned threshing day.

Just this past summer Jack had passed the Minneapolis engine on to Jim Bodenham of Riceville, Iowa, knowing that Jim would give his old engine a good home and a new lease on its life.

It will sure be hard to drive along Highway 9 through Saratoga in northern Iowa and not think of my old friend Jack, all the steam shows we attended together and all the fun we shared. But I guess that’s not so bad after all, now is it.


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