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Back and Forth: Days of Yesteryear returns Aug. 8-9

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Ted Kueker rides the grain binder while cutting grain at the History Center of Olmsted County. Driving the 60 John Deere tractor is Irv Plitzuweit.

You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can never take the farm out of the boy — a perfect thought leading up to the 41st annual Days of Yesteryear, Aug. 8-9 on the grounds of the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester. It's the year of the Oliver Farm Equipment, which includes numerous tractor models collected and restored by these farm boys.

Sponsored by Mechanical History Roundtable , you'll see grain threshing, steam powered lumber sawing, rock crushing and the list goes on. There'll be a blacksmith and tin shop, both working.

One original founder was Lyle Sundry of the Byron area who took several stationary gas (water cooled) engines to the Olmsted County Fair in 1974, a springboard for today's big weekend. Suddenly there were several other collectors of old tractors, trucks and cars who formed the Mechanical History Roundtable, and each year features another "ancient" tractor.

"There's a lot of pride in restoring these machines," said Ted Kueker, nearly 85, a retired English and speech instructor at John Marshall High School. He and grandsons Joseph and Samuel have been working together for many years restoring a half dozen tractors. Starting with a 1947 Farmall Cub, they moved on to a 1948 Ford 8-N, a 1950 WD Allis Chalmers, a 1951 Oliver 77 and a 1954 Case SC-4.

Lonnie Blackwell, former IBM whiz, taught Joseph bodywork. "It's tough to do restoration," said Ted, "if you can't get the metal straight, get all the ruffles out."


Lonnie actually gave a 1946 B John Deere to Joseph and that brought back a ton of memories to me since my Dad and I waited three years during the Second World War until our "B" arrived.

Ted's grandson Joseph Wick, 23, is a graduate of St. John's at Collegeville and is now a medical student in orthopedics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Samuel, 21, just finished his second year in engineering at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Their tractor collection also includes a 1952 B John Deere. Ted Kueker grew up on a farm near Fairmont, and remembers his father's WC Allis Chalmers. As for the Days of Yesteryear event, he plows the ground for planting oats with a 1954 Case SC-4 tractor.

Since this is the year of the Oliver, I suspect Lyle Sundry's 12-24 Oliver Hart-Parr tractor will be on display. That number means 12 horse power on the drawbar and 24 horsepower on the belt. Others who play a large role in this two-day extravaganza include: Zach Klaus, Mechanical History Roundtable president; Russ Turner, treasurer; Merle Winte; Gene and Marlys Ohnstad; Marv Barreth; Irv Plitzuweit; Lyle Sundry; and John Koenig, who sets the display of old tractors at this week's Olmsted County Fair at Graham Arena East through Sunday.

On the history center's grounds both days from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. you'll find plenty of food and refreshments. Enjoy horse- and tractor-drawn wagon rides, 1860s baseball, the old schoolhouse, and the Daughters of the Revolution. There's an antique tractor parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, and a church service Sunday morning.

Adult tickets are $8 and students 16 and under are free. Time to relive the Days of Yesteryear August 8-9 at the History Center of Olmsted County on the west side of West Circle Drive and off Salem Road Southwest.

Next week... VJ Day is coming mid-August — remembering 70 years ago.

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Ted Kueker and grandson Joseph Wick on a 1951 Oliver 77 they restored.

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