PITZER-Lawrence "Slim" - Fountain County INGenWeb Project

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PITZER-Lawrence "Slim"

LAWRENCE (Slim) PITZER

NATIONAL CORN HUSKER FROM HOOSIERLAND :)
It seems that when Lawrence Pitzer was out in the Lawrence, Kansas field, shucking corn right and left, there was a jack rabbit running around. Oddly, Lawrence had never seen a jack rabbit before, but he took just enough time to throw an ear at it. This was, of course, an ear that didn't count for him. Thus, the jack rabbit was a bit of the theme that year. Galva, outside of Peoria, Illinois, made Catepillar, so Illinois always used that, and of course, when Peru, Indiana hosted competition, there were circus horses featured. Slim knew immediately that he would not win there, as the ground was hard and dry.

The other photo above is Slim showing his son, Reid, how to use the thumb hook - this was used to rip open the husk so that the ear could be broken-off the shank. Then the ear was tossed into the wagon. It was a much cleaner way to cultivate the corn than a mechanical picker that left so much husk on the ear and more corn in the field. If anyone has ever bailed hay, double the exhaustion and you have corn shucking!


Article written by: Karen Bazzani Zach 9-4-2015 after a wonderful afternoon with Sally Pitzer Remaklus (Slim's granddaughter) and her dad (Slim's son), Reid Pitzer :) Great guy and Sally is awesome !!

In 1935, there was a multitude of folks watching an amazing event in the little place called Newtown, in Fountain County, Indiana. It was especially exciting as one of the home boys was featured and projected as a likely winner of the competition. Lots of the national winners came from their home state, but it wasn't meant to be in 1935 as Lawrence, "Slim" Pitzer from Attica, Fountain County had the outside row so that his neighbors and friends could watch. Great, huh? Not so for Slim, as 109,109 (or so - giggle) of the 110,000 there watching, nabbed ears of corn off of his "outside" row. Even at that, Slim tallied 3rd that year. Local merchant, Monroe Haas charged 10 cents an ear for one from the same field the husking took place. Well, win or lose, it was an extremely exciting time for the little place of Newtown to host such an event.

This did not deter Lawrence Pitzer, however. Other than working on his own farm, he was out of competition until four years later in 1939 when Slim became Indiana's Champion for the 5th time. His son Reid had been in a local contest that got, "My gpa' sparked to do it again," remarked Sally Pitzer Remaklaus.

The 1939 state competition was especially an exciting one. Three state champions locked horns at the Spence Stevens farm near Liberty in Union County. Floyd Jessie Porter was deducted 10 and a half ears; the other one, too but Slim did well with no deductions whatsoever. Next step, Lawrence was off to Lawrence (Kansas) in pursuit of the national prize. Son Reid was home, doing the farm work.

Ted Balko from Redwood Falls, Minnesota had won his second National Championship the year before. Ted was competition more than once for Slim, but in November, 1939, it was not Balko from Minnesota, but our own Indiana boy, Lawrence Pitzer, who took home the trophy and became the only National Winner from our state during the Corn Husking era of the 1924-1941 run of the contest.

Although occasionally areas have corn husking competitions even today, once the tractor became readily available to farmers it ceased as an overall national contest.

Now, let's think about this for a minute. Lawrence Pitzer from Indiana in a town with his name, Lawrence. It was meant to be. Of course, having extremely large hands and being quick as could be, in good health and having great determination aided in Lawrence's wow performance! John Strohm of Prarie Farmer announced that "Slim's" tally was 28.39 bushels, winning by more than a bushel with 21 huskers competing. It was said that he was on a "quest of corn and glory!" He got both! Slim said that the Kansas corn broke dirty, that it was much harder work to get it clean. The National win was the most exciting, "but followed close by the state 1932 win of $100 during the Depression." In the five Nationals Slim attended, he was never below 7th place. The little ones named him "Smilin' Slim!"

An unbelievably quick husker, Slim was picking, husking and throwing up to 88 ears per minute into the wagon. That pace lasted 90 minutes. Stopping to rest meant being beaten. The Boss Thumb hook was his choice. On top of all the above, he was the oldest man to ever win the national title - age 41 at 6'2" and 175 #.

Corn husking in the almost 20-year-span was the biggest sports event, even bringing in more people than were at the Speedway some years of the competition.

Slim was said to be the most easy-going of them all. Win or lose, he'd be the first in line to congratulate the winner. Lawrence Edgar "L.E." Pitzer was actually born in Warren County, the son of Walker and Eva Cole Pitzer. He was one of their eight childrenLittle did that area know on September 6, 1899, a champion was born. Farming was always his life. He grew up on a 300 acres farm in Shawnee Township in Fountain County, where he attended school at Rob Roy. He was on the Advisory Board and Board of Directors for Peoples Building and Loan in Attica. On September 7, 1920 in Covington, he took for his beloved wife, Sarah "Sadie" Auter, and they were married 54 years before her passing in November 1974. Their son, Reid, is built much like his father and is a kind soul as well. Slim remarried December 22, 1976 to Ruth Stucker Parish who survived him. Slim is buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Attica.

When Lawrence came "back home again to Indiana," he was quite a famous man. Letters and pictures poured in from all over the country and world. L.S. Canter of International Harvester in Terre Haute wrote: "All of Indiana is proud of you and wish you sincere congrats!"

An article in ? newspaper was titled, "Rulers of Farmdom's Grain World." At the International Livestock Exposition, three from Indiana made quite a hit. Lawrence of Attica was as we know, the National Cornhusking Champion; Russell Ogden of North Manchester was the Bean King and Clark Dellinger of Jeffersonville yielded the most corn. Prarie Farmer (and WLS - "The Voice of Agriculture" were sponsors for the husking contest and the nice picture/write up in the Indiana Edition of PF featured Lawrence in the middle of his corn rows. They sent Lawrence a check for $25.50 for expenses at National. Can you imagine a trip to Iowa today in 2015 that cost $25.50 - might get you to Chicago to the train station but you'd be stuck there :) Pictures, articles, and even sponsorships came Lawrence's way after his championship. The Union Leader tobacco advertisement he posed for was rather humorous in the fact that he didn't smoke, but he looked quite handsome, nonetheless. McNess and a Sewing Machine Company were others for which Pitzer advertised. (Furst-) McNess is still in business today, with lots more goodies to help the farmer. Slim advertised their muscle liniment, perfect for a man who used his muscles to their ultimate. In fact, Slim's time was throwing up to 88 ears per minute into the wagon and that pace lasted 90 minutes. He averaged about 55 ears/minute. His grand-daughter's husband, Neil, stated that the huskers were considered human machines. How about that for the oldest National Winner who had taken off four years of competition?

Even beforehand, he received encouragement letters and notes. Fountain County farmer, Glenn E. McKinney, wrote: "Everyone in Fountain County is rooting for you. Bring home the Bacon, Old Boy. We know you can do it. Lots of luck!"

It was Glenn who was the Master of Ceremonies at a large banquet at Attica HS called "The Pitzer Jubilee" on November 14th. The Pitzers were given three tickets to the affair, one for the winner, wife Sadie and son, Reid. Reid sat next to Governor Maurice Clifford Townsend, himself born and raised on a farm in Blackford County, Indiana.

It was just a fun get-together and a type of roast, but a sincere thank you for making the area and state famous. Several prominent area and Indianians were there and everyone had a good time. When interviewing Lawrence's son, Reid, I could tell that it was still a fond family memory !! And, well it should be !!

Slim Pitzer, although I didn't know you personally, I'm sure happy to tell your story and make you one of my Who's Who folks from Fountain County

:) kbz
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