A Concrete Demonstration at Old Threshers

A longtime Old Thresher Reunion supporter and antique gas engine enthusiast makes concrete blocks the old-fashioned way.

| April/May 2019

Steve Alt at the 2018 Old Threshers Reunion with his Triumph (left) and Wizard (right) concrete block-making machines.

If you’re a regular visitor to the annual Old Threshers Reunion, held every Labor Day weekend at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, since 1950, you’ve probably watched Steve Alt give a demonstration or seen one of his engines – even if you didn’t know it.

A dedicated engine man and ardent supporter of the Old Threshers show, Steve, who hails from West Liberty, Iowa, has a particular love for Stickney engines, a fact we documented in the October/November 2017 issue of GEM when we showed off his 1910 3hp Stickney. Steve bought that engine in 2011, and the next year, in 2012, he set up a special Stickney display at Mt. Pleasant for that year’s “Gathering of the Sticks” recreating a scene from a 1912 photo of a Stickney engine dealer.

Setting up that display was really satisfying for Steve, who believes the best way to encourage interest and participation at events like Mt. Pleasant is by actively showing and talking about the vintage engines and equipment he and others collect. A volunteer of many years at Mt. Pleasant, Steve is working hard to make the event more engaging for attendees. “I do a lot of volunteer work here,” Steve says, adding, “and we did some surveys that said we don’t interact enough with people, that we don’t explain enough. People said they walk by and look, but they don’t know what’s going on.”

That feedback prompted Steve to get more involved during the annual five-day event, giving talks about vintage presses at Printers’ Hall in addition to setting up and explaining gas engine displays. For the 2018 show, Steve decided to re-engage with a project he started back in the 1990s: concrete block making.

A 1915 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog showing homes made with its concrete block-making machines.


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