We had the pleasure of renewing 'Auld Acquaintenances' at The National Threshers at Wauseon, Ohio, this year. The one day we were there, Friday, it was very cold and windyevening raining some of the time. One fellow, 'busting' into the men's parlor, exclaimed in a shivering voice, 'Gee it's coldwhat a feller needs is some antifreeze.'
But the friendships were warm, even if the weather wasn't which Agnes had blown our way. Earlene seemed so surprised and happy to see us. And I was relieved to hand her the next Iron-Man story, which I always hustle to finish up, whenever going to Wauseon, so I can hand it personally to 'ye Editor'. (From then on my responsibility on a story ends and hers begins). And happy we were, too, to see Mrs. Pauline Schaefer and her husband, Elmer, the inventor and mechanical wizard.
I always like to look over the new books on Americana that are usually spread out on the Stemgas Publishing table at The National Threshers. 'Uncle' Elmer always made it a point to 'fetch along' all his historic Americana publicationsbooks with pictures of old-time automobiles, buggies and buck-board wagons, village fire engines, covered bridges, railroad locomotives and thresh engines, not to mention Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Books, cartoon albums, Gas Engine Guides and Steam Engine Guides, besides others depicting the historical and picturesque eras of the American past.
One book that caught my eye was a new publication entitled, 'THE THOMAS A. EDISON ALBUM'. Packed with so many photos of the world's greatest inventor, the volume so attracted me that I whispered to Earlene, 'If you'll trust me with this book, I'll look through it very carefully while here.' Which I did. And, in doing so, was amazed at the many historic pictures of Edison engaged in the multitudinous facets of his diversified career which I had never seen before in the several books I've read on him. There were pictures of his earliest inventions on improving the telegraph, the early development of the phonograph, which he invented, a view inside his 'Talking Doll Factory' where tiny cylinder phonograph mechanisms were being installed in doll babies, photos of his development of moving pictures and sound, the Edison Moving Picture Studios, the invention and evolution of the first Nickelodeon (an offshoot from the early phonograph and moving pictures), the invention and development of the electric light bulb and its eventual use into municipal power plants, just to list a few of the high-lights. But still there were more-pictures showing the huge stone-crushing plants to develop cheaper iron ore, the invention of cement and the pouring of entire houses from concrete in a single day, for the working class and those of low income. Further on in the volume are photos showing Edison again taking up the improvement of his most-loved 'toy', the phonograph, when he spent millions in research in developing the Diamond Disc Phonograph which boasted a natural tone that couldn't be distinguished from the real artist, the improved Edison Recording Studios where the records were made, Edison's work in providing safety inventions for the Navy during World War One, and his final great attempt to find a cheap source for rubber.
After reading about Thomas A. Edison, I have never ceased at marvelling how one man can be such a diversified genius as to invent the phonograph, the electric light bulb, the municipal electric light system, moving pictures with sound, the electric locomotive, cement and concrete-poured houses, nickelodeons and talking dolls, and still return to develop the phonograph into the finest natural-toned instrument of its era way ahead of Victor, Columbia and other competitive namesall of which transformed our nation from a primitive prairie to the bustling civilization we have today. This single man with but a grade school education made the crude frontier blossom into a garden of technology. Though he was deaf from boyhood, he gave us the purest music. And everything else that constitutes our modern sophisticated technology and media has stemmed from the ground work of his inventive genius. The microphone, recorded sound, the improved telephone, electric lights, power-tool electric motors, electric generators, concrete, modern pre-fab housing, the storage battery, the electric railway, moving picturesname almost anything we enjoy today and Thomas Edison invented it during the lifetime of one man. To me he is one of history's greatest heroes, greater than Napoleon because he made life better rather than taking lives, built rather than destroyed what other men made. Yet, today, the name of Thomas A. Edison is hardly ever mentioned in the modern classroom. Kids today barely know such a man existed. A travesty of our times!
As I said earlier in one of these columns, I never believed the claims of Edison that his phonograph was superior in tone to the Victors and Columbias of the late teens and twenties, until I purchased an old floor model. Then I became instantly convinced, after comparing his with the rest. It was then that I began believing, not doubting, the things that history books had been saying all along about the genius of this solitary man.
But, convinced as I am, it's still hard for me to understand how a man who developed huge rock crushers to lower the cost of iron ore and who invented cement to provide low-cost housing for the middle-class and fabricate electric locomotives could also develop a disc record and phonograph which reproduced the delicate 'harmonics' in music which the other phonograph manufacturers and engineers of his day could not. But he did! And it would profit the education of our youth, and us, too, to avail ourselves of how such a great genius lived and produced to make the lives of everyone more liveable and enriched.
Before we left Wauseon, Earlene Ritzman called me over to her stand and handed me a package, folded up in a crumpled paper sack. 'Joe, don't open this until you've left the grounds,' she said. On the way home, I opened the package and there was the copy of 'THE THOMAS A. EDISON ALBUM' which I had been perusing. I am so thankful to Earlene and certainly was not expecting such a grand surprise.
The more I leaf through its pages, the more I like the Edison Album. And I would certainly urge any man of an inventive, creative nature, or who is interested in the history of our nation's rise in industrial-technical leadership, to invest the $12.95 and send it to Earlene Ritzman at STEM GAS PUBLISHING CO., Enola, Pa. 17025, for a copy.
And I might suggest that, if you ever get around the STEM GAS PUBLISHING CO. table, where Earlene sells the IRON MAN ALBUM, THE GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE-and the historic books we all love to browse throughby all means strike up a conversation with Elmer Schaefer who usually can be found close by. Let him tell you what he does in the field of mechanical invention. To me, he is one of our modern engineering geniuses and to listen to him tell of his thousands of experiments in developing new machines to make life better, you will sort of get a personal glimpse into the same kind of mind that made Thomas A. Edison work. One never knows how hard an inventor works until he talks to one. And this is a rare privilege, as well as a most interesting and rewarding one-just to let Elmer Schaefer relate some of his experiences in the field of invention and experimentation. My late uncle, Milton Dunkelberger (another Pennsylvania Dutchman), was also an outstanding inventor having invented and developed the first remote-controlled toy electric train in the world, not to mention numerous inventions in fishing rods (The Stubby Rod & Reel), fishing lures, and many gadgets in advertising, one of which included a tiny automatic phonograph (similar to an old Edison) which explained Frigidaires the instant a customer opened the refrigerator door to look inside. It was the first time a refrigerator ever talked back to the customer! Having seen Uncle's many accomplishments over my boyhood years, I can better appreciate such geniuses as Elmer Schaeferand Thomas Alva Edison. (Pauline, you can be justly proud of Elmer.)
After we left the IRON-MAN stand, and took in the sights along the many exhibits and concessionaires at The National Threshers, I couldn't help but overhear a lady complaining to a friend how her teeth hurt her. She was telling how painful it was trying to chew her food, due to her poor-fitting dentures. The thought struck me how many people, both young and old who have dentures, suffer instead of enjoy their meals. And when a person is thus pained, they cannot properly chew their food, their health suffers, their bodies do not get the proper nutrition they need. Indigestion racks their frames, causing sickness and many related ailments. They think their stomachs and digestive systems are out of order, whereas it's only their chewing that's causing the trouble. If only they would go to their drugstore or discount shopping center and purchase the EZO DENTURE PADS, learn to press both the upper and lower pads into each plate under warm water, until there is a snug fit, they could chew well, even popcorn and raspberries, almost as if they had their natural teeth. There are no pastes or cements to squeeze or crumble in the mouth. Yet the EZO DENTURE PADS last almost a week, even during cleansing. Now Edison didn't invent these pads, but we have a sneaking feeling that one of his earlier laboratory experiments might have contributed something to the realm of human knowledge that made them possible later on. My book tells me that Edison even enjoyed helping sick friends get well by some of the chemicals he developed and that his cures ran a higher percentage than the local Medics. It is little wonder that Henry Ford once said of him, 'Edison has created millions of new jobs, made jobs more remunerative, and has done more to abolish poverty than all of the politicians, statesmen and reformers put together.'
Although it is not our policy in these columns to plug denture pads, or claim that Edison invented them we will not hesitate to suggest anything beneficial that might make life more liveable for the steam threshermen and their kin who attend a steam engine reunion. But well wager that, had Edison overheard the complaint of the lady who couldn't chew her food, he'd have stayed up a few extra hours into the night until he'd have invented a good denture pad so she could eat in comfort.
And now to illustrate how little things lead to bigger things which we hadn't expected. When we attended Easter Sunrise Services this spring, I learned that the name of the new Presbyterian Pastor was Rev. Edward Sensenbrenner. As a result, we wound up attending services at the First Presbyterian Church in Troy, Ohio. And at the close of the Sunday School, I told Rev. Sensenbrenner that I had bought a little Edison Phonograph that had a metal nameplate on it which read, 'Sensenbrenner's Watch Shop, Circleville, Ohio'. He at once replied, 'That was my grandfather. I want to come out and see it. After the morning service, we felt we had heard one of the finest sermons in many a month. A few weeks later a knock came on our shop door, and there was Rev. Sensenbrenner who introduced his father who had been Mayor Sensenbrenner of the city of Columbus, Ohio, for fourteen years. 'We came to see the little Edison Phonograph,' the Reverend said.
We found both Rev. Sensenbrenner and his father quite interesting people who valued the things of the past. 'Dad has his garage so full of old things, in Columbus, that he can't get his car inside,' laughed the preacher.
A 28-50 Hart-Parr I own and it is working on the Puffer Maker Fan. Kevin Weeks, my helper, is standing in front of tractor.
Rev. Sensenbrenner went on to tell us that he had saved two old Edison phonographs from his grandfather's watch shop, which he valued very much, along with numerous other memories. (Later, during his open house, we went there to see them.)
After our distinguished visitors had left that day, I couldn't help but reflect-how little things lead to bigger events. Just because I had innocently and unknowingly purchased a little old antique phonograph, with a certain name tag under its lid, I had become acquainted with a very fine preacher of the Gospel, a whole new and thriving congregation, and my wife and I enjoyed the visit of a distinguished mayor from the capital city of Ohio.
Often the little things we do lead to larger, more significant results! Often, in The New Testament, a sick or deformed invalid was healed of his affliction by merely a word or two he answered to the Savioror a mentally-deranged maniac was restored to his right mind by what his father or mother said to the Master.
Only nine words transformed a thief during his last hour on a cross during the agony on Calvary. A woman, suffering from an issue of blood for years, was suddenly healed after touching the hem of His garment in the crowd, and a boy was miraculously healed of epileptic siezures when his father answered Jesus with a few words, because he couldn't.
Blind Bartimeus was made to see, simply because he cried out to the Lord, when He was passing by even though the disciples tried to quiet him from doing so.
Often the innocent words we say, the little things we do like tiny seeds, into mighty oaks they grow. Whether it's an insignificant tag on a phonograph lid, or just something we say in passing, without thinking the consequences can often be frightening, leading to good or to bad. Let us watch what we say, and what we think.
'Thou shalt be judged for every idle word,' says the Scripture. Let us make our words, and our deeds lead upward toward the higher ground that our seeds grow into mighty oaks and not weeds.