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Old Thresher Reunion Memories

by Judy Richardson | Published September 3, 2021

Old Threshers Reunion 2021

The very first look at farming in Iowa began with a visit to The Old Threshers Reunion in 2012.  While later I made several visits to the Wendel family farm near Atkins, my first moment of awe was looking at a sea of tractors. I had never seen so many. This moment will be forever burned in my memory. 

By the time this is posted, OT will be in full swing, with the last day of the event on Labor Day. While the memories are so fresh in my mind, I will share somethings about my experiences there as fiancé and later wife of C. H. Wendel. Bias insists I tell you he was a most remarkable man. 

Chuck parked his camper near the railroad tracks just across the street from the OT main office, and not far from the entrance to west entrance of Museum B.  At the east end of the Museum was Printers Hall which contained many fully operational turn- of- the- century letter press printing pressed and other amazing machines. There I began my education in Letter Press printing and continued to marvel at types of machines on exhibit on the OT grounds.

Every year from 2012 to 2018, despite his stroke in 2013, we drove from Amana, Iowa to Mount Pleasant and parked our camper. His son, Steven, drove the camper town and we towed a trailer with his electric wheelchair and our portable Hoyer which I used to lift him up and down.

Being wheelchair bound did not phase Mr. Wendel. We got a camper with an extra wide door, and he designed a ramp with the help of a friend. Many, many folks helped us get settled in. After that, we were up early, and he tooled his electric wheelchair to the museum and down to Printers Hall.

Chuck reminded me that he had been going to OT since he was a child. His father raised work horses and used them to plow and reap until he finally broke down and bought a tractor. Chuck’s love of engines and other farm equipment grew out of his childhood experiences on the family farm. Even after his first stroke which required his to use a cane, he did not let that little glitch stop him from his yearly pilgrimage or taking tours to Europe and Australia. His love of gas engines made him a collector of gas engines and wrote a book that most farmers and collectors are still referring to today. After his first stroke, he focused more or printing and with the help of his good friend, Jim Daggs, and other printing cronies, established the Printers Hall. 

My first experience there featured the use of the huge Mielie Press which he had managed to get for the museum. After getting the 30 some ton machine in place, he and several volunteers got the machine in working order and printing. As the story goes, he crawled under to it to help clean it freeing several pounds of junk and a few mice. There is a great video posted on YouTube of the first time they got it going. 

At my first visit, I learned to use a big platen press and made my first poster using that press and wood type. I was hooked on the place and the man.

Besides his love of locomotives and managing to get me a ride in the cab of one when we visited the Georgetown Loop in Colorado, Chuck like the big stream traction engines. I was in awe of these huge machines. The idea that these were the tractors that plowed the prairies and powered the combines and thrashing machines was an eye opener. We often watched videos of the Amish still using them to power sawmills on YouTube. Chuck wrote a book on sawmills that was still in demand when he died.

I have many more great memories of our OT days. Without the help of family and friends we would never have been able to go once he was wheelchair bound. But Chuck always seemed to find a way around whatever problems his condition might cause. I have literally hundreds of pictures and videos I have taken over the years when we were enjoying Old Threshers. Perhaps I will share some more with you later. I am just learning how to post YouTube videos. There is one little one up now. Just search CH Wendel and stay tuned.A person and person posing for a picture

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The brave pioneers. Chuck and Judy

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