New show grounds

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Sec. Emeritus Sent by John H. Fletcher 714 7th Street, Baraboo, Wisconsin 53913

New show grounds, new traditions. When you leave a show site where club members exhibited for over 30 years, things change. Members who always had their favorite spaces are going to have to break the habit and start at square one.

Just a little strange? What if the people near me are strangers? How will people find where I'm set up? When will the show site be ready? Can I reserve a space in the shade ?

Do not worry, we have 40 acres of shade! I'm not sure about finding your friends' exhibits--I guess we will all have to look around until we find each other.

When all the club's property has to move to a new home, teamwork takes on a special meaning. Moving old engines, old iron, old memories. At one point, most members doing the moving did agree that stamp collectors have an advantage. You will not find a stamp collector using a tandem trailer to haul one piece of the collection. I had no idea that the club owned a half ton of rusty pipe fittings, boxes of valve packing, and an unbelievable assortment of unusable, unsorted hardware.

Working as a club to build buildings is another education. We have members of all skill levels. We have machinists who work to the smallest measurements. We also have members who build fence gates that are not quite square! So when the levels of skill merge to build buildings the comments are sometimes very enlightening and colorful. One man with a Skil saw, the next with a chain saw, one with a 16 ounce carpenter hammer, and the man beside him with a sledge, you get the picture.

Two scenes come to mind. While working on a very unpleasant spring day, cold, slight rain, nasty weather, one of our members is toe-nailing 2 x 4's into a stud wall. Our group leader is an excellent carpenter and decides to explain the proper way to nail a stud into place. After a few minutes the member is back doing it his way. An exasperated leader says, 'I wish you would nail from the other side like I showed you.' After a small amount of time and thought, the reply came, 'I can't help it, I'm left handed.' At times like this you are more family than club!

The second scene was shingling the office building. The person next to me kept measuring and adjusting each shingle and it drove me a little wacky! After a few questions, he explained he is a machinist and when he works with wood he uses a milling machine to get the perfect fit. My way of shingling was giving him fits! Believe me, there were lots of compromises.

Our new show site has a different boiler fired with wood. We have many dead trees on the grounds, so fuel is not a problem. The week of the show is time to get fuel. We are in an extremely hot, humid time of summer. Six men cutting firewood. By Friday we had a large stack of wood, and six woodcutters saying, 'Next year we cut wood when the weather is cool.' Ninety degree heat and ninety percent humidity ain't woodcutting weather!

My own 15 minutes of fame happened during the exhibitors parade. When we added the new boiler, we installed a large steam whistle on top of the boiler building. Our boiler does an excellent job of providing steam for the whistle! The sound is loud enough to vibrate your pants legs at 100 feet! Our parade route passes within 150 feet of the boiler buildings. I was firing the boiler during the parade. A group of show goers asked me to blow the whistle so they could get the picture. I was more than happy to grant their request. It looked and sounded so good they went for their video camera for more sound and action. I guess I sounded the whistle 10-15 times. We had a lot of fun.

That night at home, my wife said the parade was great except some idiot kept blowing the whistle and nobody could hear the announcer! I had to plead guilty. Next year there will be whistle rules, and maybe we'll grease the handle so the culprit will be easy to find.

With all the heat our boiler generates, I think the boiler building may be the perfect place for our Sunday church service. We will keep adding to the fire as the minister gets to the fire and brimstone portion of his message. We'll keep the doors closed. After a reasonable amount of congregational sweat and the collection is taken, we open the doors. . . it might be a good idea to run this idea past the board of directors. Actually, our church services are very well attended, and I personally hope to see all our club members in heaven along with steam boilers, old gas engines, and an unending supply of interesting projects.

Don't forget the club's homemade ice cream! This is assured, because the Bible says in heaven the thin shall be fat. I wonder if the fat will be thin. It's a nice thought.

Our club has lots of enthusiasm and optimism to spare. Two thoughts seem to provide much of the spark for improvements. The club is always ready to add a quality building, and we hope to provide the best possible place for exhibitors to show their own pieces of our nation's history.

Hope to see you at the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club Show at Baraboo, Wisconsin, someday soon. The year 2000 show dates are August 18-20.