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Published September 03, 2010, 12:00 AM

Big show at Rollag provides glimpse into an amazing past

People who attend the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, Minn., each Labor Day weekend have an opportunity to experience a “live” museum as they learn about how the pioneers lived and worked in this community many years ago.

By: Roger Engstrom, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

People who attend the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, Minn., each Labor Day weekend have an opportunity to experience a “live” museum as they learn about how the pioneers lived and worked in this community many years ago. By working together, each one of them, in their own special way, however great or small it may have been, had a part in building a great and mighty nation.

Whenever I watch the machines of a bygone era working at Rollag, I marvel at what our forefathers accomplished with what they had to work with.

There are operating engines at Rollag that have parts weighing from 12 tons to 36 tons. How did our forefathers manage to forge castings like that? How did they get them into place to build the engine? And the question many people ask today: How did the guys from Rollag get that huge engine here, assemble it and then get it running?

Just about every facet of life you can think of from a bygone era is demonstrated at Rollag. Each year, homemaking and women’s activities show how women worked to raise their families and kept them clothed and fed. Providing for their family was a full-time job for them. Sixty years ago, many homes in rural communities didn’t have indoor plumbing, electricity and central heat. These conveniences didn’t come until electricity came to many rural communities after World War II.

This year, the featured tractor is Allis-Chalmers. Allis-Chalmers was a leader in building heavy industrial machinery. At WMSTR, a huge steam-powered generator that supplied electricity for the Pabst Brewery at Milwaukee, Wis., is on display. Each year, this 85-ton, 600-horsepower engine and generator, with 40 tons of moving parts, runs during the show on steam produced by the Montana Boiler.

A trip to Rollag on Labor Day weekend gives us a deeper appreciation and understanding of how our ancestors lived and worked. It helps us realize we are indeed the beneficiaries of the labors of those who went before us.

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