Mt Pleasant IA Midwest Old Threshers 2018 Events

People riding on a trolley see a restored truck
Watching a Truck from the Trolley During the Reunion

What Is Old Threshers?

Midwest Old Threshers Reunion is a very unique event in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. There are other “reunions” where people bring steam traction engines, tractors, and small engines to show them off and have a good excuse to get them out and play with them. However, Mt. Pleasant’s event has a broad array of different events and interests gathered in one place. Besides the machinery list above there are groups for old cars, old trucks, antiques, horse teams, an active printers hall, demonstration of equipment like a veneer saw, a threshing machine, and cooking down sorghum, an antique restored steam carousel, quilts, antique dolls, button collectors, a big craft show, trains (you can ride in), trolley cars still on their track (you can ride in), a group demonstrating life in the 1840s in the log cabin village fairly seriously and a group demonstrating life in the late 19th century not so seriously (desperadoes who steal candy & dance hall girls who stay fully dressed), a children’s game area including the chance to drive an actual tractor through an obstacle course and pony rides, fair food, big country music shows, and a theater museum mostly devoted to the traveling shows of the mid-19th to early 20th century. Come visit every year on an expanded Labor Day Weekend. This year it’s August 30 – September 3, 2018.

Events Keep Coming All Year

With all this going on the reunion continues to burst at the seams, but that’s only one week a year. They have a whole bunch of other events through the year.

This isn’t their full schedule, but these are the ones I think you might find interesting.

Steam School : April 28 – 29 and May 5 – 6, 2018

How to drive a steam engine like those used to work threshing machines. These are two separate classes, one in April and one in May.

Trolley School: May 5, 2018

Learn how to drive a trolley.

The Bussey Doll Event : June 9, 2018

The event is for doll collectors and those interested in dolls. There are speakers on various topics, everyone gets a gift doll, and there are vendor tables. My post about the year they did a Laura Ingalls Wilder theme is one of my most read.

Henry County Fair: July 18 – 23, 2018

A county fair like the one the James Wilder family attended in Malone, New York.

Summer Theater Happy Funny Are People:

July 20th & 21st at 7:30 p.m. July 22nd at 2:30 p.m.

July 27-28, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. and again during the 2018 Reunion

Every summer they once again put on one of the plays once popular with traveling theaters to give you a taste of late 19th/early 20th century entertainment.

Theatre Seminar: July 21 – 22, 2018

One of the departments of the organization is a traveling theater museum. It covers things like tent rep, opera houses, show boats, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin shows.

Reunion Event: August 30 – September 3, 2018

Annual Midwest and Great Northern Printer’s Fair:  September 12 – 15, 2018

It is specifically geared to people practicing or curious about letterpress printing for letterpress printers, from beginners to professionals. They use the extensive collection of printing equipment gathered in the printing part of Museum B. If you want to know about how they ran the paper in De Smet or how Carrie helped run a newspaper this would be a great event to plan for.

Holiday Events

They also run events every year for Halloween when the Midwest Haunted Rails shows you a ghost of a good time and for Christmas when you can take the North Pole Express to visit Santa Claus. Dates are set later in the year.

I hope you come and visit Mt. Pleasant for the best reunion anywhere or any of their other great events.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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Travel Times Winding Up in Traer, Iowa

Every year I get the opportunity to travel around Iowa and adjoining states as I share the life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder with fans of all ages. Every year I say I’m going to get better at sharing those places with you. Hopefully this will be the year.

Sarah Uthoff as Old Laura in Traer, Iowa
Sarah Uthoff as Old Laura in Traer, Iowa

Iowa Tourist Sites

It used to be that, in the great tradition of the often mocked the world’s biggest ball of twine (there are several – farmers like to save twine), you’d hear about various places in Iowa on a regular basis. Whether it was the Amana Colonies, Plow in Oak, Albert the Bull, or the Little Brown Church, you heard about these places a lot. Over the course of my lifetime these quirky Iowa spots seem to have fallen out of favor to the point that you don’t hear about them much. So I hope to point more of them out as I tour around the state.

Sarah on the Stairs
Sarah on the Stairs

Spiral Staircase

I adore a good spiral staircase. The one in Traer, Iowa is a gorgeous one and unique because it was built to provide the only access to the business on the second floor of the building. It stands free at the curb connected by a catwalk to the entrance to the second floor of the building. It’s such a unique sight that it’s become a symbol of the town which it plays into with the slogan “Winding Up in Traer.”

A man by the name of E.E. Taylor built the stairs to provide access to the offices of The Star-Clipper which were in the second floor of the building he built. The first floor was kept completely separate for rental space. It created a very unique site. Over the years the building changed hands several times and the stairs were in danger of disappearing, but the community always rallied around to keep their town’s unique landmark. The Traer Historical Museum now owns the building. Learn more of the history on the town’s landmark.

Add a Dash of Pepper to Your Visit

I didn’t actually make a stop at the world’s second largest collection of Salt and Pepper Shakers, but I’ll have to try to get back.

Although it seems that it has really gone out of fashion to collect things like souvenir spoons and thimbles from the places you’ve visited or different designs of salt and pepper shakers, collecting salt and pepper shakers used to be a popular hobby. You’d try to get as many as you could in different designs. My great-great-grandmother collected them and we still have a pair from her collection (2 bears cubs each hanging on a branch). Take a look at the brochure I linked to above to get an idea of all the different kinds and if you’re looking for something to collect it’s fun to see all the different types there are. Otherwise consider stopping by the museum just to see them all.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

 

 

One More On the Way: Niland Cafe

I’ve posted about the famous Lincoln Highway (now roughly followed by US 30) before, but it wasn’t more than a few years ago that I learned there was a Jefferson Highway (now roughly followed by US 69) too that went north-south. (The Lincoln Highway goes east-west.) The Jefferson Highway had the advantage of a neat nickname. It was known as Pine to Palm. Where these two once mighty roads cross is the little town of Colo, Iowa.

colo-hamburger

Bypassed For Bigger Roads

Much like Route 66, in the dilemma depicted in Cars, towns that once made their living off travelers stopping found themselves drying up as they were bypassed and larger and newer restaurants, gas stations, etc were built to cater to the interstate traveler. These Lincoln Highway gas stations establishments were actually small garages – where they could fix cars as well as pump gas – despite being a lot smaller than those we know today.  They had a porch extending out from the building and usually featured those globe top gas pumps that are prized by collectors today. (Those globes lit up and helped guide motorists in at night before the days when it was always as light as daylight by a gas station.) One famous manufacturer of the pumps was the Tolkheim company that designed all sorts of pumps for various purposes right here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – visit a display on them at Ushers Ferry Historic Village.

The Mom and Pop Cafe

lincoln-and-jeffersonNearby was often a mom and pop style cafe and sometimes the type of motel that was small individual cabins. You will sometimes see these buildings still there or preserved as museums or rotting by the side of the road. It’s much rarer to find one up and working. There is the Youngsville Cafe near the turn off 30 to Vinton, Iowa, but this is the only example I know of where you can actually eat in the real cafe (now themed with Lincoln and Jefferson Highway artifacts) AND stay in the real hotel. The gas station is just a regular type museum that displays artifacts from the two roads that you can view from the outside.

The pole above is inside the restaurant. It dates to a time before roadsigns when highways were designated by painting on telegraph, telephone, or electrical poles whichever were close to the road. The L is the symbol for the Lincoln Highway and the JH symbol is for the Jefferson Highway.

Cabin Type Motel to Stay In

This motel isn’t QUITE that old. This version of the motel was built in the 1940s as one of the first “modern” motels in Iowa which basically meant the cabins were smashed together in a row sharing interior walls. Six units were restored to resemble the 1940s period in 2008, except with updates like bathrooms, wireless access, cable and self-controlled heating and cooling.

Reed/Niland Cafe

Named for two sets of owners, Reed/Niland Corner was originally started in the 1920s. In 2003 it was restored to the 1940s and serves a roughly 1940s style menu. They advertise “hot beef sandwiches, ham and bean soup with corn muffin and homemade pies.” Plus milkshakes from a real milkshake machine.

http://www.reednilandcorner.org

I’ve stopped there twice and eaten there once. It’s worth a stop, especially if you’re tracing one of the routes or if you’re passing nearby on the modern Highway 30.

If you’ve read  A Little House Traveler, these are the types of places where Laura and Almanzo would have stopped on their journeys, so try it for yourself.

**I will note that service was not great at the cafe when we were there. They were understaffed. I understand that, but we were not offered any of the apologies that servers normally give to customers in that situation (we were there before a large group came in and only got a chance to order well after them). In fact, we were pretty much ignored for long stretches of time. I had to get up and walk over to the waitress for her to take our order. After we finished we had to wait a long time for the check even after hunting down the waitress again to ask for it until finally we gave up and asked at the cash register to get our bill. I have not had anyone else I’ve talked to about the cafe who had had this kind of experience, so we probably just caught them on a bad day, but I thought it was fair to say.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on  FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Audubon County, Iowa

The first half of my experiment worked, so I’ll be including photos a little bit more often from now on. The second half didn’t, but that will have to wait for another day.

Anyway, I was giving a program recently over in Audubon, Iowa and I wanted to let everyone know who much I enjoyed the trip. First, I should explain that we raise Hereford cattle (they are beef cattle, red with a white face, blaze down the back, belly, and stockings). So it’s long been a lifelong dream to see Albert the Bull, the largest Hereford in the world. This gigantic statue sits outside of Audubon in it’s own park. I thought I had seen some large cement Hereford bulls before (there is a lovely one in Minnesota on the way to Pepin), but I was wrong. They wouldn’t even look like calves next to Albert. He’s HUGE! The informational display lets you push a button and he’ll talk to you. It’s great, well worth the wait.

Sarah and Albert

Another thing I crossed off my life list was the Plow in the Oak. The story goes that a farmer left for the Civil War and left his plow leaning up against the oak tree. He never came back and over the years the tree grew around it. Whether the story is true or not, generations of Iowans have trouped to see this wonder, but it was actually more interesting when the oak was smaller and you could see more of the plow. I was surprised by how few photos this pulled up in an image search since I’ve seen lots of them in various publications over the years, but you can see one at the attraction link below.

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/12357

Plow in Oak

Also, down the road in Kimballton is a replica of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid that was made in his honor in Copenhagen. I always figured I may not see the original, but I hoped one day to get to this copy honoring the town’s Danish heritage. Unfortunately I didn’t realize Kimballton was so close until after the time schedule was set.

Those I knew about before, but I was surprised how well Audubon honored its namesake John James Audubon. There is a statue of him in the town square. Many copies of his prints hang in the town library and this spring over 400 tiles showing his art will be in the sidewalks around the park. They have done a great job and I was pleasantly surprised.

You can see some of the sites of Audubon here:
http://www.auduboncounty.com/tourism/attractions.aspx

I should also thank Taylor Hill Lodge where we stayed. A converted 19th century barn served as the bed and breakfast. It’s situated on a century farm about 5 miles outside of Audubon. They really did a nice job with it. There were 6 rooms with baths connecting in between. I should mention it’s probably someplace you enjoy more with a group or at least one other person. There are trophy heads from an African safari and if I was all alone I might have found it just a little creepy, in the deep, dark night. However, it was a beautiful view during the day and a nice breakfast in the morning. It was still a frozen tundra when I was there, but when the garden is in full flower in must be breathtaking. If I was looking for a good central place for a family reunion, this would be perfect.

The Lodge

Visit their website at: http://thlodge.com/

UPDATED February 20, 2016: I still love Albert the Bull and when I found a lovely blog post by a fellow Albert fan I just knew I had to add it to this post.

http://www.wanderingworldslargest.com/stories/2016/1/20/albert-the-bull

I also fixed the link to the tourist information site about the Plow in Oak in Exira, Iowa and the link to a page about Audubon attractions. I made my normal few edits for clarity and added my signature block.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,  LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.