130 Serpentine Drive, Bayville, New Jersey 08721
Visitors and exhibitors who participated in the Country Living Fair at Batsto State Park last October were witness to a most unusual phenomenon Time Travel! What follows is an actual eyewitness account.
It all started when Bill Hyers, past president of the Pinelands Gas Engine Association, pulled into the show area bright and early that Sunday morning. Bill always has something new and unusual to display each year, so we were not surprised to see a new contraption on his trailer. As we helped him unload this gizmo we could not imagine what it was. I can only describe it as big and shiny with two seats and with a lot of important looking levers, dials, bells, and whistles. Not wanting to reveal our ignorance, we kept our ponderings to ourselves, but finally curiosity got the best of us and we asked Bill what it was. He replied that it was the world's first successful time machine and that he was going to demonstrate time travel to the public.
They wheeled the First-Aid vehicles into the park about 10 minutes later, because two of our group complained about chest pains from laughing so hard. Of course, we cannot be blamed for laughing, because everyone knows that your common garden variety time machine requires a very large power source such as a lightning storm, gamma rays, or a nuclear power reactor. Bill's time machine, however, was belted up to a 2 HP 1912 Snort & Wheezer that looked to be in questionable mechanical condition. Poor Bill took a lot of ribbing for the next few minutes but insisted that it was a genuine time machine and that he had been secretly taking about one trip a week in it for the past year.
At this point opinion concerning Bill's sanity was pretty evenly split among those present. Defenders said that his time travel theory was plausible, because how else could one explain his amazing collection of antique engines and toy trucks? He must have 'gone back to get 'em'! Detractors said that all those years Bill spent running an auto body business had taken their toll and he had fallen victim to 'lacquer thinner burnout.'
By now Bill was red faced and determined to convert us all into believers, and so he set about to starting the time machine. He made a few adjustments and began to crank her over. Bill spent the next half hour with a crowd around him trying to 'raise the dead,' but no matter what he tried, that engine wouldn't start. At this point we offered our help, because there wasn't a man among us who didn't want to see Bill disappear in a puff of smoke.
About this time, one of Bill's friends removed the gas cap and took a whiff. 'There's your problem, Bill,' he gasped, 'the gas in the tank is stale.' He verified the diagnosis by inserting a stick into the tank and removing a glob about the consistency of molasses. Suddenly, Bill jumped up and exclaimed, 'There! That proves it! My time machine works!' Bill saw from the looks on our faces that further explanation was needed, so he proceeded to relate his time travel experience just a week prior.
It was a Saturday morning and as usual he had the time machine set up and ready to go. Donning his flying cap and goggles, he fired up the engine, climbed aboard, advanced to full throttle, and shifted into reverse. In an instant, the time machine threw him back to 1933 which was just about where (or should I say when) he wanted to be. He had become quite accurate from practice and landed in a farmer's back yard. When the farmer came out of the barn to see what the commotion was all about, Bill introduced himself and explained that he was looking for used gas engines, and might the farmer have any that he would be willing to sell. The farmer said that he had a side shaft Domestic that he would part with for $10.00. Now, since inventing a successful time machine, Bill rarely spends more than $5.00 for an engine, but since this one was kind of special, a deal was struck.
Bill reached for his wallet, but when he opened it he realized, much to his embarrassment, that he had forgotten to bring any extra cash. Being a '90s kind of guy, Bill asked the farmer if he would accept plastic. Since plastic would not be invented for a few more years, the farmer politely but firmly declined, and, of course, a postdated check was absolutely out of the question. Bill said that it was no problem, he would be right back with the cash. It was at this moment that Bill experienced a time traveler's worst nightmare The Snort and Wheezer sputtered and died!
Initially panic set in, but not for long because our hero soon found the cause of the problem. He was out of gas. Fortunately he did have some pocket change and asked the farmer if he could buy a gallon or so, just enough to get back home. The farmer, justifiably cautious by now, nonetheless agreed and proceeded to fill the tank for a quarter.
This did the trick and the engine was quickly up and running. Unfortunately for Bill, the farmer took too close a look at the quarter that Bill had given him. The future date didn't bother him, but doggone it, no genuine U.S. quarter would have copper in the middle of it! With the farmer now thinking that he had been swindled, Bill's common sense told him that it would-be best to beat a hasty retreat and not return. He jammed the lever forward and snapped back to the present. In the week that followed, Bill had completely forgotten about the gas that the farmer had sold him which was of course now over 60 years old, and as thick as glue.
After hearing this explanation, we held out little hope for Bill. There is often a fine line that defines the border between inventive genius and lunacy. Sad to state we could not determine on which side of that line Bill was currently standing, however we had always known him to be a rather harmless fellow so we decided to let him spend the rest of the morning tinkering with his invention.
Now it is, at this point, that events become somewhat unclear, but all we remember next was Bill running toward us pointing to his wristwatch and shouting, 'There, I told you so! I was only able to get the engine to fire twice, but look, it's now 4 p.m.!' We were absolutely stunned! With much humility we had to concede that Bill's time machine was indeed a success. It wasn't until we were nearly packed up and ready to leave that the realization set in. Hey! This happens every year at Batsto!
And that, Dear Reader, is the point of this fancy yarn time flies when you're having fun, and the Batsto Country Living Fair is the best place to prove it. So mark your calendar for Sunday, October 15, 1995 and come experience time travel with us. For more information, see the 1995 Steam and Gas Show Directory under the listings for New Jersey. If you wish to exhibit, write to me at the above address, or phone 908-269-6580.
In closing, we wish to thank Bill Hyers, the target of our verbal darts, for being such a good sport. As a charter member and the first president of the Pinelands Gas Engine Association, it was Bill's strength of character and personal commitment that inspired the rest of us lazy louts to actually form a club. We are forever in his debt.