Monday, 16 August 2010 10:15

50 Years Ago Late Summer/Early Autumn 1959

Written by  Maurice Telleen
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(From the general news of the day.)

The 1959 Belgian Review carried a shocking article. Here is how it read:

"After 36 years of holding the National Belgian Horse Show at Waterloo, Iowa, along with the Dairy Cattle Congress, their board of directors voted to discontinue the Belgian Show in 1958. The National Belgian Show was organized in 1919, and except for the years '43, '44 and '45, when some of the buildings were leased for war purposes, it was continuous through 1957.

"The decision of the directors of the Dairy Cattle Congress to discontinue the National was not made known to the Belgian exhibitors until late in March of 1958. This left very little time in which to organize a show and find a suitable place to hold it.

"Fred Cook, president of the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America, appointed a committee to organize a National Belgian Show for 1958. Those appointed were Herb Schneckloth, Iowa; Charley House, Indiana; Harold Clark, Michigan; and George Harkness, Ohio. These men met with several fair boards and committees in an effort to find a suitable time and place for the show."

Talk about a "Dear John letter" … that one sort of takes the cake. In retrospect it seems almost unbelievable that a business relationship that had been in existence for almost 50 years would be terminated in such a tardy and abrupt fashion.

So, what happened next? The Belgian folks did not go quietly into the night, saying "I guess you're right … our horses are a 'thing of the past' (a very commonplace phrase in those days). Sorry to have bothered you."

To make a long story short, it was through the efforts of the Minnesota Horse Breeders Association that this offer was possible. At their annual meeting, held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Rossler Jr., Menomonie, Wisconsin, (yes, it is just a long hour's drive from St. Paul to Rosslers') it was moved and seconded that an invitation should be extended to the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America to hold their next National Belgian Show in St. Paul, along with the Shriners Horse Show on September 19-22. Gordon Fickett was then appointed by the president to serve as committee chairman representing the Minnesota Horse Breeders Association in this effort. Etc., etc. The National Belgian Show was preserved and even wound up with a balance of $19.28.

There would have been a deficit had not so many people donated their time, services, money and judgement to preserving this showcase. It was just a week ahead of their old dates at Waterloo. Eventually the Belgians found a new permanent home at the Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, in southeast Iowa. They are still there.

So what does all this have to do with us? Jeannine and I were operating the Midwest Pedigree Co. in nearby Waverly, just about 20 miles north of the fairgrounds. We were busy compiling export pedigrees, Holstein sale catalogs and preparing extended pedigrees for all the bull calves being offered for sale by the Carnation Farm Holsteins in the state of Washington. The export trade was very lively at the time and we compiled a large number of Holstein pedigrees for that. And we ALWAYS ATTENDED THE CATTLE CONGRESS.

I had been on 4-H dairy judging teams and shown Swiss heifers there since I was big enough to show a heifer. So it was not surprising that I was well acquainted with the Cattle Congress and had many fond memories of it. I often helped with those 4-H judging contests as an adult.

Then one day a couple of years later, be darned if I wasn't offered the position of assistant manager of the show. So we sold the pedigree business and moved ourselves to nearby Cedar Falls, just a short drive to the Cattle Congress grounds.

Then one day a year or two or three later, I was offered the position of secretary-manager of the show. One of the first things I asked the board was to reinstate a draft horse show into the offering of events. They said, "OK," and we promptly brought the big horses back into the picture. But it was a little different picture. It now included not only Belgians, but also Percherons and Clydesdales.

When I inherited the secretary-manager position, I was blessed with the support and counsel of Miss Adeline Hays, who had served that show as office manager for decades. She remembered the bombshell timing of the dropping of the National Belgian Show. She liked Ed Estel, the long time secretary-manager of the show and a true-blue leader in the dairy industry in this state. She recalled that when Ed came back to the office following that board meeting when the Belgians were told of the decision, he simply walked around in a daze … he couldn't believe the audacity and timing of it. I'm sure he was stunned and probably wasn't privy to the fact ahead of time. He was also on the brink of retirement or maybe even retired.

We stayed there about 14 years or so, and by and large, I enjoyed the work. When our kids got a bit older we thought they ought to be active with 4-H livestock projects so I bought a few Oxford sheep, which we kept on the grounds, along with a couple teams of Percheron mares which we kept on the grounds for hay rides. Fred Pearson and I rented one of the extra barns for our livestock and then hauled them off to some rental places during the show.

In 1964, Jeannine and I started The Draft Horse Journal as a sideline in our basement in nearby Cedar Falls. Eventually it became time to resign at the Dairy Cattle Congress and get ourselves and this bevy of kids out on a real farm. The kids are now gone but we are still here … most of the time.      –M&J Telleen

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