Wisconsin Steam Antique Engine Club

| July/August 1986

The article and photographs on these two pages were sent to us by Ed Westen, Route 2, Box 127, Kewaunee, Wisconsin 54216. They are from the show book of the Wisconsin Steam Antique Engine Club, which holds its shows each year at the Calumet County Fairgrounds in Chilton, Wisconsin. This is the third year that the club has published a large show book containing information and pictures pertaining to the steam engine hobby. The books have been favorably received by the public and are being placed in libraries and historical societies as a 'valuable contribution to the recorded history of the area and a tribute to the efforts of our people who are helping to preserve our agricultural heritage.' Copies of the book are on sale to the general public for $5.95 each and can be ordered from Mr. Westen at the above address. The club's 1986 show is scheduled for August 9 and 10.

Farming has undergone continuous change throughout the years. The rude pioneer farms that were wrested from the wilderness by our ancestors have been replaced by super-farms of hundreds of acres with machinery to match. However, not every change is an improvement. Many of us remember, with fond nostalgia, the fine quality of the social life in the years before the Second War, when labor was traded between neighbors as a way of life; the resulting social interaction was welcome and valuable.

Threshing, silo filling, hay baling, and firewood sawing were jobs that required a crew, and the long hours of hard, often cold, dusty work were rewarded not so much by the obligation of repayment in kind, but by the opportunity to meet friends and neighbors in a pleasant interruption of an otherwise solitary, humdrum life. We looked forward to those excuses to get together with our neighbors and enjoyed, in spite of the discomforts, those long work days. A snake or a nest of field mice found under a grain shock could, by some fertile, active mind, be transformed into the basis for a new practical joke that was long remembered and often recounted.

There is a difference between a group of men sweating together in a hay mow and their modern counterparts congregated at a bar or a bowling alley. In the first case, we were united against a common enemy, the Depression, and our work together was a way of conserving a slender income by bartering labor instead of dollars. This attitude put a finer point on the reason for being together, and made the socializing especially worthwhile as a means to an end. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have experienced those times recall them with fondness. The pictures seen here, some of which were rephotographed from the picture collections of Ed Bisely, Frank Schnabl, Walter and Gerhardt Kiekhaefer, Fred Reckelberg, and Edwin Water street, help us all remember those good old days!