Tag Archives: irma harding

photo of Downtown Des Moines

The Octane Press Party

graphic of Court Avenue Brewing Co. Logo

Court Avenue Brewing Co. Logo

Teardrop Trail Log: June15, 2017

Lee Klancher, of Octane Press had hosted a meet-and-greet in conjunction with Red Power Roundup in Racine the previous year. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the other authors and many of the people I had worked with to publish Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. This year, the gathering was in downtown Des Moines at the Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Company. It is located in the historic Saddlery Building, built in 1881by J. Rubelman of Muscatine, Iowa who decided that Des Moines with its two rivers and 13 railways would be a good setting for his saddlery company. The building had housed many different businesses but after the flood of 1993, the building was filled with 19 feet of water and was vacant until 1996 when the Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Company began to move its brewing equipment in. The décor and beer labels celebrate the history of the building and brewing in Iowa. The walls are adorned with pictures, posters, signs and bottles from old-time Iowa breweries.

The room was buzzing with energy. The food was delicious and the beer memorable. It was a great opportunity to see old friends like Sally Jacobs from the McCormick International Harvester Collection and meet new friends.

photo of presenter and Irma Harding

Femineering, My Irma Harding Presentation

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

graphic of Irma Harding with "They're Femineered"

They’re Femineered

I can still remember meeting Lee Klancher from Octane Press and discussing food and cookbooks. Sometimes the universe can create amazing opportunities. I was delighted when Lee introduced me to Irma Harding and invited me to write Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. It was a great project that has put me in touch with so many wonderful people. Octane Press has hosted book signings and my presentations at each of the Red Power Round Ups. I always love to meet Irma’s fans and enjoy hearing people share their personal family stories about relatives who canned as well as how they started preserving food.

It has been fun being “Irma’s ghost writer” and telling her stories as well as the stories of the home economists who took Irma’s message to the women of the Mid-West farm county and taught them how to freeze food. This year’s topic was Femineering, a term developed by International Harvester to highlight and honor the unique contributions of the women who helped develop the refrigerators and freezers. One of the old newsletters describes how the “feminine eye continued watching, spot-checking the production lines and testing performance under laboratory conditions.”

It was nice to see several friends from previous presentations. I had met Marsha Corbin, the Executive Director at the Old Trails Region in West Central Missouri at a past Red Power Roundup. She had invited me to share one of my Irma Harding presentations for the Missouri Cattle Women. After the presentation ended, Travis Loschen and his wife Meghan stopped to say hi. They had seen several of the Irma presentations at the last few Red Power Roundups. They have an incredible Irma Harding Collection in the garage of their home in Royal, Illinois. Check out the video. Irma’s fans are a dedicated group!

photo of presenter and Irma Harding

Femineering in action

Red Power Roundup 2017 Walkabout

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

This was my fourth experience with the Red Power Roundup. Huron, Sedalia and Union Grove had been memorable, but the Iowa State Fair was the largest layout I had ever seen. Previous attendance had been between 15,000 and 25,000, but the estimate for this gathering was 50,000. This was going to be special!

Marilyn safely ensconced with her adoring public at the Octane Press booth, I set out for a quick tour of the nearby environs. The vendors, including Octane, were mostly located in the “Varied Industries Building.” I spent about and hour in its air-conditioned interior and headed outside.

I was immediately introduced to the “Machinery Grounds,” and beautiful red tractors were visible in every direction. Not surprisingly, much of the grounds were large concrete lots. But a pleasant wooded park was also nearby and crowded with the fascinating machines. In one curious display, 15 progressively-sized tractors — both toy and real — were connected together end-to-end. I couldn’t help wondering what the point of that was, but I would find out while watching the parade a couple of days later.

I enjoy looking at old machinery, in part because my grandparents were farmers and I had free reign of their place on summer visits as a child. There was plenty of old machinery there to look at and play with, and the fascination was born. As mentioned in an earlier post, my morning walkabout ended by meeting a new friend, Ron. The young man with the pedal tractor Marilyn and I had encountered earlier in the day (and would see again later on) made a cameo appearance also.

Photo of the Iowa State Fair Varied Industries Building interior

A Day at the Red Power Roundup

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

photo of vendor with IH Curios

IH Curios

Marilyn had duties in the Octane Press booth, so I decided to see how much of the fair I could survey before lunch and her afternoon Irma Harding presentation.

photo of negotiation at Red Power

Driving a Hard Bargain

The vendors were mostly located in the “Varied Industries Building.” and it took about an hour to look over the displays. You tend to see the same folks year after year. It’s always interesting though, and fun to catch up with the folks you know from previous ‘Roundups.

photo of a Red Power Clown

A new friend

After the vendor displays, it was time to venture out. The Fairgrounds are huge, and there were tractors everywhere. I started on the “Machinery Grounds” and spent the rest of the morning looking over the assembled equipment. As I was shooting a tractor, a fellow struck up a conversation. We had both noticed a youngster peddling a toy tractor down the sidewalk, and I mentioned that I had seen this hard-working lad earlier. As we talked, Ron told me about his years of farming, love of cows, work with animal breeding and avocational clowning. Quite an interesting fellow. We exchanged business cards and said we’d keep in touch. You just never know who you’re going to meet at a Red Power Roundup.

photo of Lunch at Red Power

Lunch at Red Power


It was time to prepare for Marilyn’s presentation. We found her hall along one side to the Varied Industries Building and with the help of Lee’s staff, got the projector set up. Hungry with plenty of time for lunch, I wandered over the the food concession. Hamburgers and fries were the delicacy of the day, and we chowed down.

Marilyn’s presentation went perfectly (see separate post), and the afternoon was ours to explore. I took her around Machinery Grounds for a little while before we decided some air-conditioning would be nice. The “4H Building” was relatively close, so we headed there. Inside, we discovered ranks of Cub Cadet garden tractors and IHC Autowagons.

In one corner of the building, they were setting up the annual auction and I noticed an enormous chest freezer. It was immaculate, and the owner was supervising the load-in. Inside, there were packages of mock food all wrapped in authentic Irma Harding freezer paper. We chatted with him for a few minutes before he had to go out for another load. We both wondered: did he realize that the Irma Harding paper he had used was more valuable than the freezer itself?

On the way out of the building, we spotted the toy tractor operator. It looked like he was done for the day.

photo of boy with toy tractor resting on a bench

That’s enough for one day

photo of One of the consessions and the Sky Glider in the distance

Checking in at Red Power Round Up

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

On the first morning in the campground, we decided that it would be best to head down to the main part of the fairgrounds and get breakfast rather than cook in camp. We had been able to explore a bit as we drove in, but the sheer size of the fairgrounds was challenging. We ventured down the campground’s rolling hills taking in the sights. It’s always fun to see the trailers, tents and other rigs and how people set up camp.

photo of Breakfast at Red Power

Breakfast at Red Power

As we walked though the fairgrounds, I began imagining what it would be like when the Fair was in full swing. Over a million people from around the world attend the fair during its 11-day run. We went by the various buildings, exhibition halls, the Sky Glider, Giant Slide, rides, and other popular attractions. Over 70 types of food on-a-stick are available during the Fair, I was imagining all the tastes and smells but sadly those concessions were shuttered.

Tractors began to appear from all directions, heading for the start of daily parade. We found the Varied Industries Building where many of the events and exhibitions were being held. The booth for Octane Press, the publisher of my cookbook, Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding was in that building. We checked in with everyone and then went off in search of breakfast. At Barksdale, next to the famous chocolate chip cookies, we found an amazing breakfast croissant, with bacon and egg. For a few seconds, I thought about cookies for breakfast. Yum! A great way to start the day.

photo of the Octane Press at Red Power 2017

Octane Press at Red Power 2017

photo of maps and brochures

Des Moines – Here We Come

Teardrop Trail Log: May 2017

Planning for our trips on the Teardrop Trail is always an essential part of my experience. I love exploring the possibilities. This year, Red Power Round Up, the annual gathering of the International Harvester collectors, would take place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines from June 15 through 17. We discussed places and events we might want to see before and after the event. Trying to limit the driving to around 6 hours a day, we prefer to take the scenic route, including time to stop and stretch, grab a photo or try a local eatery when time permits. Several months before our scheduled departure, I began an intensive Internet search of websites, blogs and travel emails that would inform our route. I even tried a few on-line planning tools. Hard to believe this would be the fourth year traveling in the Ambassador, our teardrop.

We’ve been part of the Teardrop online community for quite some time, so I began posting inquiries about campgrounds, restaurants and points of interest on several groups’ Facebook pages. Members of Heartland Tear Jerkers had some great suggestions and even extended an invitation to a gathering in Rock Creek State Park, just prior to RPRU. I also reached out to Sarah Tucker of Cool Tears magazine and Marsha Corbin, the Executive Director at Old Trails Region in central Missouri. We had seen a television program of the Flint Hills in Kansas and Jim had seen an event featuring video woodworkers he followed online in Skiatook, Oklahoma. so I started researching the possibilities and contacting organizations along the route requesting brochures.

Armed with our trusty National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition,  I began to compile our wish list and enlisted Google Maps to get the mileage from point to point and answer the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?” As the itinerary came together, Jim and I reviewed options. I printed out the notes that would be clipped to the cover of the atlas for quick reference. Next step –- the to-do list.

photo of the Darst International Harvester Museum

Darsts’ International Harvester Museum

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23, 2016

movie of Tracto, the Talking Robot

Tracto, the Talking Robot

Next stop – the Darst International Harvester Museum. One online source describes a visit to the museum as a history lesson because the couple, Darrell and Kevin, have a story to go with each item. We met Darrell at our very first Red Power Round Up in 2014 at the State Fair Grounds in Huron, South Dakota. Last year, we had the pleasure of stopping in Madison and seeing both Kevin and Darrell as well as their amazing collection of tractors, thousands of IH keepsakes and memorabilia. Darrell is the editor of Harvester Highlights, the quarterly publication of the International Harvester Collectors Club that provides for the preservation of International Harvester history, products and memorabilia. Tracto, the 8-foot talking robot, built from 227 tractor and implement parts, greets visitors at the museum like he had done at county fairs, state fairs and special events for 60 years. Darst had known Tracto since he was 13 when he met the robot at a corn picking contest and now has lovingly restored him.

Kevin has been described as the queen of IH refrigeration and freezer collectables. She has a corner dedicated to International Harvester refrigerators, freezers, documentation and mementos. My publisher, Lee Klancher introduced us as I began working on Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding, the IH “Betty Crocker” spokeswoman for home refrigeration . Kevin had known many of the IH home economists from the promotional team and has letters describing the role of these women in the company. It was good to see the Darsts again as we started discussing another book project.

photo of Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding in the Darst Museum

Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding

photo of old tractors with Harvester Heritage logo

Harvester Heritage Interview

Teardrop Trail Log:  June 18, 2016

At Red Power Round Up, I was able to connect with Sally Jacobs, the McCormick/International Harvester Archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society. I had been working with Sally and other staff members as I compiled the material for Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. The collection is amazingly rich, offering publications like Harvester World online. The Internet has radically changed how authors access material. On past projects, I traveled thousands of miles, poured over boxes of papers and books, created countless index cards, before even starting to write.

image of Irma Harding by Haddon Sunbloom in 1948

Irma Harding by Haddon Sunbloom in 1948

Because the 27th annual Red Power Round Up was in Wisconsin, I really enjoyed getting to meet the people behind the emails and phone conversations I’d worked with for several years. As I was walking through the fairgrounds, I noticed a portable recording booth that was part of Harvester Heritage, a project of the International Harvester Collectors Club established to preserve the history. After Sally and I chatted for awhile, she mentioned Harvester Heritage and suggested that I sign up to record an interview about my research on Irma Harding. I walked back to the booth and the process began. I’ll be contributing both the visual and audio parts of my presentations to Harvester Heritage to share not only Irma’s story, but the story of the women behind Irma Harding, the roles they played at International Harvester and how they helped change the mid-western farm families way of life.

photo of "Irma Harding" speaking

Irma Harding Book Signing and Presentation

Teardrop Trail Log: June 17, 2016

One of the best parts about writing a book is getting out, meeting the people and sharing their  experiences. Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding reached a wonderful group of folks who have a connection to the subject of preserving food. I also enjoy hearing people share their personal family stories about relatives who canned as well as how they started preserving food. Octane Press, the publisher of my Irma Harding book hosts signings at each Red Power Round Up and this would be my third. I headed into the exhibition hall to don my Irma Harding apron, created with Irma Harding fabric.

photo of Marilyn and Holly signing autographs at the Octane Press booth

Marilyn and Holly signing autographs at the Octane Press booth

This morning, I would be in the booth with Holly Dufek, the author of the Casey and Friends books. Her books introduce children to the world of farming through a cast of illustrated characters including Casey the farmer, Tillus the Worm and a whole team of farm equipment characters, each with their own personalities. Holley arrived and quickly put on her Irma apron.

People stopped to share their stories. Many girls thanked Holley creating Casey, a young girl who farms. Other visitors stopped by to share that their International Harvester refrigerators were still running after all these years. Several folks recounted the difficulty of getting such a sturdy (heavy) and dependable freezer out of the basement of an old farm house. Several people ask if I was Irma Harding and I had to explain that I was Irma’s ghost writer.


A little before 1:00, I left for the Main Building to share Irma Harding and Rural Electrification. The presentation provided the background for the introduction of the IH refrigeration products. I make a new presentation for each Red Power Round Up. Last year it was The Women Behind Irma Harding, that introduced the home economists who answered Irma’s mail, wrote the recipe books, ran the test kitchen, consulted with the designers and engineers on femineering design features on the appliances as well as going into the IH dealers for field demonstrations on the techniques of freezing food. More than 70 of Irma’s dedicated fans filled this audience.

photo of The author speaking

The author speaks

photo of the Water Street Brewery in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

Octane Press Red Power Reception at Waterstreet Brewery

Teardrop Trail Log: Thursday, June 16

cover of Canning Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding

Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding

Octane Press, the publisher of my cookbook, Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding was holding a meet-and-greet in conjunction with Red Power Round Up. The invitation offered an evening of appetizers and libations. We established camp at the Racine County fairgrounds and un-hitched the Ambassador. Then Jim and I headed down the Teardrop Trail to the Water Street Brewery in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Octane Press, founded by Lee Klancher, began in the Mid-2000s. Lee had always loved books and the company now publishes his own work and  the work of others. Octane has more than 50 titles in print with about 6 – 12 new projects each year. Octane has been working with International Harvester on a variety of projects that range from calendars to coffee table books.

cover of International Scout Encyclopedia

International Scout Encyclopedia

Since this year’s Red Power Round Up was held in Racine where Case IH Headquarters is  located, this party was an opportunity to meet Sarah Pickett, from Case IH Marketing Communications and many of the folks I’d been working with on the cookbook project. There were other Octane Press authors in attendance. Jim and I enjoyed meeting many of the folks, especially Jim Allen and John Glancy, who had just published the International Scout Encyclopedia.

Wisconsin is all about beer!Since 1987, The Water Street Brewery has produced more than 78,000 half-barrels which is approximately 12,987,700 glasses of beer. The Oak Creek location opened recently in a modern, well-lit building that has one-of-a kind beer and brewing artifacts, featured in the book “The World of Beer Memorabilia” Book. It was great to have Jim was accompanying me and we enjoyed a great dinner of fish tacos and tasted a few more of the delightful brews.

Good restaurant too

Good restaurant too