Midwest Old Threshers

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It all started with a dream. The dream had developed over a period of years and was the result of hours of discussion between a man and his son. The man is Louis Tuller of Mount Pleasant, Iowa; and his son, Barry is presently an engineering student at the University of Iowa.

For many years, both men have been active exhibitors and supporters of the annual Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mount Pleasant. They have a fine collection of fly wheelers that are all in excellent working condition; do all their own mechanical work; and pride themselves on being able to resurrect the rusted, the neglected, and uncared for gas engines that they find.

In 1978, Louis was appointed to the Board of Directors for Midwest Old Threshers. He had been a part of the operation for many years, but as a director, he could help to shape the policies of the association. He was given the task of coordinating the gas engine exhibit area. Louis soon realized the tremendous amount of planning involved in making a large show operate. Assisted by Barry, they set about reorganizing the gas engine exhibit area for the 1978 Reunion.

Their major concerns were safety for the visitor, ease of access to the area for the visitor and the exhibitor, public relations, and an increase in the caliber of engines exhibited at the annual event. All aspects of the tasks were considered by the two men. A logical layout of the exhibit area was developed by Barry. Both men corresponded with past and potential exhibitors, and Louis established the policies and rules for the reunion.

Louis had been concerned with the quality of engines brought to Old Threshers. He was convinced that if someone came to his area, he wanted them to see a splendid array of various types and models of gas engines. But more than just that, he wanted the visitor to see the engines in operation, good working order, and in a restored condition. His feeling for quality shaped the policy for the gas engine exhibit.

Also both men felt it was important to show the uninformed visitor some of the chores the gas engine performed on the farm. To the already fine examples of operating exhibits (wood sawing, corn grinding and shelling, water pumping, and clothes washing) the Tullers added a rock crushing exhibit. The crusher had operated at prior reunions, but the men used a 10 HP Fairbanks-Morse engine owned by Milo Mathews, Mt. Union, Iowa; mounted it on a wheeled truck after restoring the engine; added a cooling tank; and created a new approach to the exhibit. It was more appealing to the visitor and was much easier to view the machine in operation.

But back to the dream. The dream was to construct a powerhouse that would give a full-scale demonstration of the capabilities of such a structure. Both felt the structure should be portable. This was important as the structure could be shedded in the off season to protect it and its contents from vandalism. All aspects of the house would have to be structurally sound so as to allow the operation of a power shaft throughout its entire length. Also, the sides should open to allow the ultimate in viewing pleasure for the reunion visitor. The Tullers put their creative talents to the task.

After receiving approval from the Board of Directors, Barry set about designing a 12 x 26 foot structure with three room divisions, and a gabled roof. The association acquired the undercarriage from a salvaged mobile home, and the project was under way. During the summer months, the initial construction of the floor and super-structure was completed by members of the Old Threshers staff. But as the reunion neared, the completion and outfitting of the powerhouse became the sole responsibility of the Tullers and a good number of dedicated volunteers. The roof was shingled, the house was painted, and the interior was filled with an assortment of implements to be operated from the central power shaft.

The power shaft itself was no easy undertaking. The pulleys and hangers were finally acquired from an old warehouse in Burlington. An odd sized shaft had to be ordered, and adapted to the structure. Ultimately time had to be dealt with, as the reunion was getting painfully close.

The structure was outfitted with three large doors on both sides under the eaves. The bottom half of the door was constructed to lift out and the top half was attached with hinges. When open, the top half of  the door became an awning to protect the visitor viewing the exhibit from the elements. The openings into each of the three rooms were six feet wide and almost seven feet high, affording the visitor an ample field of view. The working and authentic equipment inside the powerhouse included a water pump and pumpjack, bread crumber, corn sheller, grinding mill, grindstone, work bench, and a restored Dexter washing machine.

Power for the working exhibit came from a 5 HP Economy gas engine manufactured in 1920 for Sears and Roebuck. The association acquired the engine in 1976 from Mrs. C. F. Baldwin of Des Moines, Iowa. The Economy was one of 8 gas engines donated to Old Threshers in memory of her late husband, Mr. Carroll F. Baldwin. The Tullers have taken on the project of restoring all of the Baldwin's engines to perfect working order.

The powerhouse was an excellent addition to the 1979 Old Threshers Reunion in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. It gave the visitors a working example of how the power of a gas engine was utilized on the farm.

To further increase the offerings of the gas engine area at the 1980 reunion to be held August 28 through September 1, the Tullers have decided to feature the engines of the Root and Vandervoort Engineering Company which was located in Moline, Illinois. For a time, R & V made gas engines for the John Deere Plow Company. The 1980 exhibitor plaques will sport an R & V engine and a special section of the exhibit area will be devoted to that particular line of engines.

Both Louis and Barry are excited about gas engines and the Old Threshers Reunion. Their ideas and high standards have given the association an exhibit area to be proud of during its annual reunions. Who knows what else the Tullers will add for the interested visitor to enjoy in 1980. Maybe a threshing demonstration with a gas engine for a power source?

By Lennis Moore-Administrator for Midwest Old Threshers in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Each year Old Threshers hosts a reunion and will celebrate its 31st year in 1980 The photographs are to be credited to Loren Anderson of the Threshers staff.