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Monday, May 17, 2021

WMATMA: Great beginnings part II

The early history of Frontier Village (part two)

By Don Arndt

This will be the second part of the early history story.

First, I’ll say that any business, any event, or any activity one would venture to undertake absolutely must have a plan. With a plan it will fail…always.

Ok, unless it’s a ragtag bunch of farmers, blacksmiths, mechanics, teachers, business owners etc. that had a love of history, memorabilia and old machinery. Then that hard and fast rule is disproved quickly.

Enter WMATMA Association. The show grounds we had just acquired because of the fortitude and perseverance of the president at the time, Perry Rexroad. Perry had become President, and since it was clear by having a few successful shows under our belt, that we needed more room. We needed our own grounds, because at the City Park, tearing down the show Sunday night after the event was over was getting to be a real challenge. Perry researched the old golf course turned dumping ground that had grown up in buck brush, weeds, and trees and was absolutely full of everything from pop bottles to cookstoves that had been hauled out there and dumped. As the 6 to 8 of us walked (and stumbled) around the 25 plus acres sizing up the situation. I for one thought it cannot be done. It would be a massive reclamation project I thought too big for us. 

Perry assured us all he could swing the deal and Al Tenholder, Don Hill and Perry Rexroad all were 100% for going ahead. Al said if we could clean up the grounds of most of the junk and old appliances, he would brush hog it all and the Tenholders would plow and work the whole thing down for seeding. Before we left the grounds that day, that group of guys had it all figured. More men joined into the effort and we did clean it up. Very quickly the Tenholders weren’t alone with the tilling. Calvin Feild and several others were knee deep in the venture. I don’t know how they kept from ruining several tires because the growth was 4 to 6 feet tall and thick, so they couldn’t see from the tractor seats all the junk we had missed.

At that moment, no one had any idea of a Village, building or improvements except for the anticipation of a grass showground. No thought of any structures.

We had come a long way from those meetings held only 6 or 7 years earlier in 1975 and 1976 when a 12- or 13-year-old knot head kid was at every meeting, wide eyed with big plans.

I think Bill Thurman was our youngest paid member and attended every meeting, just like the big boys. Being part of a Dairy operation near Archie, I don’t know how he got loose to be around those “old men '' and their toys. We teased him about loving Farmall tractors, and he loved it.

So, with no plans at all and with fresh sown grass just greening up, we learned of the Mt Vernon School house that we could get. Really? Already?

The vote was unanimous to get the old one-room structure and move it to our show grounds. We’d find the money somewhere! The ladies made plans to re-new the building and outfit it just like the old schools were.

Picking a location for the school and bringing it over is a whole other story for another day.

In case you missed part 1, you can find it here