On a wet and cloudy morning of Sept. 2 the fifth annual reunion of 'The Rock River Thresheree' opened its gates in readiness of another show. The parking lots were wet and soggy as well as the fields. Cars were stuck engines were mired in the mud. Some tents were partially down due to an early rain and wind storm. These had to be re-erected, as well as resurfacing of entrance and driveways. Soon the park became alive with spectators, the sky cleared soon afterward, the ground dried off and everyone smiled again.
On this morning of Sept. 2 A. M., 'The Dedication' of the park took place, with the Rev. Holiday of Edgerton present, speaking briefly. Miss Ruth Reiner, of Cambridge sang 'Our National Anthem' as four Boy Scouts unfolded the Flag, and slowly raised it to the top. For a moment it remained motionless, then with just a whisper of a breeze, unfurled and gently waved over what is to be known as 'Threshermans Park'. This event we shall long remember, and cherish forever in our hearts. Our sole purpose in the development of this park, is for the 'preservation' and' restoration'' of the implements of agriculture of some century or less ago. We feel many will benefit, learning of its existence and its use. To some it is entertaining, others educational.
In the early winter months of 1961, a dream had become a reality. Two parcels of land were available for purchase, to be developed in to a permanent park. A 65 acre parcel of land was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Grob. Another 5 acre parcel adjoining the Grob property was purchased from Martin Bro's., thus giving the club some 70 acres, to develop in to a permanent park and show grounds.
Came spring, about 25 acres were plowed and sowed to oats, so we would have our grain to thresh at. the park come show time. This was later placed in stacks, to give that old fashioned threshing scene.
In June we started to clean up the park, what a mess, broken down trees, long grass and weeds, trees to be trimmed, stumps to be removed, an old basement to be filled in, the well had to be repaired. Many hours of hard work went into this project, yet no one receives any pay.
After the cleanup came the task of wiring. Used poles were obtained, once erected wiring was purchased, funds being made available thru funds donated by some of the Directors. A sincere thanks to Glen Beedy, of Beloit, Wisc., our chief electrician who gave a great deal of his time to do the job. A real swell guy.
In the late summer, the wives of the directors and members, organized their own auxiliary. At the show they operated a lunch stand, as well as selling fancy work and novelties. They done wonderful. Bless their little (pea picking hearts) what would we do without them??
Before the show a permanent exhibit was delivered to the park by Peter Burno, of Deforest, Wisc., president of our club. The exhibit is a 70 ton steam pile driver, the tower rising almost 100 feet skyward. A landmark that can be seen for miles. Pete has completely restored this rig, and operated it during the show. Driving 40 foot logs deep into the ground, much to the delight of the many spectators.
Sunday, Sept. 3rd, was a very hot beautiful day, much to the delight of everyone. Activities were coming to life, the aroma of food being prepared to serve the hungry spectators. Now and then a whiff of smoke mixed with steam, would fill the air. Everything ready for a busy day.
Just ahead of us a large 'Nichols & Shepard' backing into the belt at the saw mill owned by Si. Havey of Madison, Wisc. Ready to saw into boards, some choice cherry and walnut logs, later to be used in the repair and restoring of antique furniture.
Over to the west side of the park, the 1890 Jumbo is getting lined up to a case hand feed separator owned by Sayre & Horton, Edgerton, Down a ways a 65 horse case is plowing operated by Francis Reiner of Cambridge. This ground will be sown to winter wheat, next year's threshing grain. Yes, here we have everything. A helicopter gives rides.
On the way back a drag saw is busy sawing block wood, this has been in the Richard Carter family since 1885. Already Pete has steam up on Derick No. 1, ready to place logs over to the saw mill. The stage coach and four horses owned by Alf Barlass, Janesville, plus the many rides for the kiddies, adds to the amusement of the spectators.
It is high noon now. Many acres of the park area is filled with cars, a tremendous crowd has filled the park, ready to participate in the fun and festivities of an old time threshing bee. John Achey of Dresser, Wisc., was with us the three days of our show. John spent most of his time at the microphone, directing activities about the show for the convenience of the spectators. Also met some very fine folks from the 'Northern Illinois Steam Club.'
Mr. Rollie Spenberg, from W. R. E. X. TV, Rockford, Illinois, was present to entertain us with his magic. At 2 P. M. a very honored guest arrived directly from Washington, D.C., Congressman Schadaberg, to greet every one and to speak to the many people gathered around the arena.
The parade is just starting. First to pass the viewing stand is a 16 horse Jumbo of 1890 vintage by Pete Burno, Deforest. Clear and distinct rings the voice of John Achey at the microphone, as he gives the description and history of each engine as it passes.
Fred Chapman and three grandsons as they pass with their Reeves, next Ray Klinger with his Keck Gonnerman, a larger Jumbo by Ferd. Rodau. In came a 1910 Mogul and a Aultman-Taylor by Helgersen, a very snappy Port Huron operated by Wm. Bretherst, Lodi. A steam racer by Harry Schel from Blue River, as well as many steam engines not mentioned.
There were many old tractors such as the Samson, Titan, Oil Pull, San-dusky, Eagle, Case, also a Fairbanks Morse, a rare one. As the parade draws to an end another event is about to begin, something new, a Pony pulling contest, staged only the second time in So. Wisconsin, Ed Hackbarth in charge. These ponies weigh from 500 to 700 lbs. It was a thrill as thousands watched on the side lines to see the best team pull a stone boat weighing 2,385 lbs.
This contest will again be staged next year, only bigger and better. Also added will be one of the finest horse show and roping contests presented anywhere.
To add more color the Indians from the Wisconsin Dells were present with their baskets and jewelry. Later in the day they entertained the spectators with their dancing in full dress, very colorful indeed. Down in the arena can be heard the shouts and laughter of the spectators as 100 men and boys try to out-pull a steam engine.
A final tour of the park calls my attention to an old Keystone Hand check corn planter, 1845 model. A prairie roller, hand hewn out of logs, an 1840 model, also a reaper and a tread mill, as well as many more primitives.
As the show draws to a close many still linger on, as for the most of us, very tired. Yet it was worth every bit of it.
A sincere thanks to all the fine folks who attended our show and helped make it a success.