Fort Museum opens for season

Joerg Rochlitzer, of Wellsburg, had to use some modern materials to get the Fort Museum’s 1873 Perless printing press back up and running in time for the museum’s season opening Saturday.

After all, he said, the machine had been idle for about 20 years.

“It took two bottles of WD-40, SOS pads and some rubbing compounds,” he said.

In addition, it needed a little bit of time for the various chemicals to soak in.

“After a while, the lever moved again,” he said.

Rochlitzer knows his way around old printing presses. He first learned to work on them in his native Germany where his father let him help in a print plant powered by steam.

“I helped sort type,” he said.

He also operates his own printing business in addition to teaching. He uses a 1910 vintage press to make stationary, napkins and a host of other items.

He was offering visitors a freshly printed edition of the Fort Dodge Sentinel and a wanted poster that offered $5,000 for the capture of Museum Director Alan Schaefer. If caught, there is an on-site jail.

Rochlitzer was also sharing his knowledge and history of what printing used to be like before such modern devices as copiers.

“I like to show how difficult and dirty it could be,” he said. “I will go through a lot of rags today.”

Lyle Schwendemann, of Humboldt, had a much cleaner craft to show visitors to the Museum’s town, he had set up his spinning wheel inside the general store and was busy turning wool into yarn.

He learned the craft in the 1970s after taking a class at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum from Vernon White. He said he enjoys showing people, particularly children and students, how things were done in the past.

Learning to turn wool into yarn was an important skill on the frontier.

“They had to know how to spin,” he said.

It also gave their children something to do, he said.

For Jim and Amy Seward, of Fort Dodge, attending the opening day of the Fort Museum season with their children and a family friend turned into not only a learning experience but also an enjoyable outing.

“We like to find things for the kids to do,” Amy Seward said.

In addition, she said that visiting the Fort helps enhance their enjoyment of the “Life with Lily” books.

“It’s about this period of time,” she said.

In addition to the printing, spinning and rope making demonstrations by the “Wanted” Alan Schaefer, Matt Alcazar demonstrated his blacksmithing skills.

The Fort Museum’s hours are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.