History As I Remember It – National Dairy Shrine

Miles McCarry

Original National Dairy Shrine House

Editors Note: Originally produced in the National Dairy Shrine’s The Chronicle and reproduced with permission.

Two breed secretaries, Karl Musser of Guernsey and H.W. Norton, Jr. of Holstein, were “hung” at the first Dairy Shrine Club meeting I attended. That was in 1955. The “Club” was six years old. Hangings, as in portraits of Guests of Honor, were the main pitch.

Scholarships and banquets had yet to break into the act. Business and awards were folded into maybe two hours at the National Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa. The “Old Breed,” as some of us juveniles called the founding father group, was there in force.

Karl Musser and“Hod” Norton were two of their own. Karl had hatched the Dairy Shrine idea. Hod, with Joe Eves, Fred Idtse, Floyd Johnston, Les Wilson and a few more, had helped get it off the ground. And there were other reasons for Guest-of-Honoring Hod and Karl.

 

 

They had helped lead purebred breeders into testing whole herds, not just a select few cows. They had pioneered type classification. They had scrimped the “registered idea” through the Great (as in “great big”, not as in George Washington) Depression.

Hod, once assistant dean of agriculture at Michigan State, had key-manned the cleanup of bovine TB. Karl had been extension dairyman in both Connecticut and Washington in pre-Guernsey days. The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association had been his idea, too. The old breed: Hod was two years older than the Holstein Association. Karl had gone homesteading in Idaho instead of going to high school. He breezed through Kansas State anyhow and-WOW!-went on to graduate school at Missouri on a Holstein Association scholarship!

Dean H.H. Kildee hit on some of this at that meeting. He had been among the “few more” founding fathers I lightly skipped over a few lines back. His track record as dairy educator and show ring judge had made him a shoo-in natural as 1949-and first-Guest of Honor. Joe Eves, one of his former students at Iowa State, was Dairy Shrine’s first secretary. And, if he wasn’t the biggest booster we ever had, he came closer than wet paint. He never went anywhere without a pocketful of membership forms and pins!

One example … A guy driving a charter bus laughingly noted that taking us from a Holstein convention in Washington, D.C. to a farm in Maryland was the closest he’d ever been to a cow. Joe was out of his seat like a human cannonball. He borrowed a hat, took up a collection and bought the driver a Dairy Shrine membership. Somebody asked if we needed city boys that desperately. “Beats me,” said Joe, “but Dairy Shrine needs the money. And you’ll never miss the buck you dropped in the hat.”

Vintage Eves! Like all of the Old Breed, he was a great guy as well as a trail blazer. And he never let us forget that the organization now called National Dairy Shrine needed new members to stay alive. He kept hammering away at it in the years of growth and change that lay ahead.

In its early years, Dairy Shrine ran a restaurant of sorts in Waterloo, Iowa. We served lunch, cheap but filling in the unofficial National Dairy Cattle Congress (NDCC) offices during show week. And “we” is the word. I worked for a breed association, which meant being “pitchforked” into KP by Secretary Joe Eves.

NDS’s office building was an ex-house across the street from the show. Our annual meetings were held there. Portraits of Guests of Honor and Pioneers were displayed on the walls year-round. KP’s saving grace lay in getting better acquainted with the “Old Breed,” Dairy Shrine founders like Fred Idtse and Les Wilson.

Fred was Brown Swiss secretary and was among the first to “think protein?’ The Swiss Parade of Champions was his idea, too. And he was a genius at turning all those yodelers and bell-ringers loose while the Holstein Aged Cow class was tense-momenting in the other end of the Hippodrome’s big ring.

Les Wilson was a great all-around livestock man; a species we had yet to realize was endangered. As manager of Boulder Bridge Farm in Minnesota, he had built sensationally-prominent registered herds of both Guernsey cattle and Belgian horses.

Draft horses! Les seemed to have lingering doubts as to the wisdom of replacing them with tractors. But neither he nor any of the rest of us ever dreamed that tractors would plow down Dairy Shrine’s Waterloo connection. And that, in a manner of speaking, is what happened in 1965. Let’s take it from the top.

NDCC (National Dairy Cattle Congress), unlike most shows, operated without taxpayer support. Manager Ed Estel, our Guest of Honor in 1953, kept things in high gear with gate receipts and commercial exhibitor fees. Manufacturers of farm machinery were the heavy end of the commercial exhibitor’s list.

Ed and his successors billed their machinery show as the worlds largest. They weren’t far wrong either. Then manufacturers discovered that farmers second placed tire kicking at cattle shows behind seeing tractors and such in action at farm field days.

NDCC income from machinery exhibits went the way of an anvil down a silo. The show’s board of directors elected to compensate by centering on country music and horse shows, eliminating classes and otherwise bobtailing the dairy show in the process. All this was scheduled to happen in 1966.

Dairy breed associations said no. They pulled their shows and their prize money out of Waterloo. NDCC’s reign as the annual “old home week” of the dairy cattle industry came to a screeching halt almost overnight. And just as suddenly, Waterloo was no longer a “natural” as Dairy Shrine’s home port.

The situation, to phrase things mildly, was unpleasant. Almost bitter. There was pressure to move Dairy Shrine’s portraits and artifacts. But where? Dean Pound of the University of Wisconsin made the Old Breed jump for joy by saying, “Why not here?”

Joe Eves wasn’t much on crying. But he must have come close when he went to Waterloo to get things packed and shipped. He had judged all breeds and “invented” the National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest at Waterloo. He had helped save the show from bankruptcy during the Depression. But, coming out of Waterloo that day, he wasn’t thinking of the past. He was, instead, dreaming of a Permanent Home for Dairy Shrine. The dream became a fixation. But it didn’t bear fruit for 15 years.

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