Blue Grass Boys Do It Again At Harrodsburg, Kentucky

Unique antique Tractor

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Joe Fahnestock

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We felt a little guilty there, sitting in our trailer with the curtains drawn, watching our astronauts walk on the Moon last August. Suddenly a knock came on our door and a hand reached in with two boxes of genuine Kentucky fried chicken.

'Here's your Sunday dinner,' smiled Frank Cornish, exhibiting that old-time southern hospitality.

'Oh thank you, Frank. How delicious this looks and smells,' we replied. 'Would you care to step in a moment and watch our astronauts walking on the Moon?'

'No--my steam engine's got those astronauts beat a mile. But thank you just the same,' replied he in his friendly southern drawl.

How true--those words uttered by Frank Cornish, we suddenly realized as we flipped off the switch to the 'boob lube', stepped outside our trailer and once again entered the exciting world of old-time engines popping and chugging. It took just a second, our trip back from the vast, cold wastelands of the Moon invaded by the grotesque, dehumanized earthlings of NASA, to the friendly crowds who had come to see the Blue Grass Steam and Gas Show at the Harrodsburg, Ky., fairgrounds. May we never again be guilty of such folly, during so great an engine show.

'Fun' is the name of the game, always, whenever the Blue Grass Boys put on their annual show at Harrodsburg. Just pure fun--the joy of running your engines, whatever you happen to bring, and the chance to hear all their exhausts without the noise pollution of loudspeakers trying to out-do them. Oh yes, they have their speakers, just for important announcements, after which they are shut off in deference to the almighty engines, for which, after all, the public comes to hear.

For, although the Italian-born, Boston-reared, 'Kentuckian', Carl Secchi, President of the Blue Grass Show, is a great organizer with a main-spring running from his head to his toes, he has that particular genius for planning his shows with just the right balance--little fanfare, no parades with emphasis on the men and their engines.

In other words, to say it more simply, there is less calling out over the tree-top speakers ordering men to leave their engines and march 'goose step' fashion thither and yon to participate in a variety of distended operations. Each man is there to exhibit and operate his engines and/or tractors--and that is what he does.

One of the most unusual and welcome customs at the Blue Grass Show is the daily siesta of the hosting engine men, indulged in immediately following the noon lunch. For 'us northerners' it afforded a better digestion of the noontime 'vittles' as well as provided a bit of leisurely rest, the better to invigorate one to attack the afternoon agenda with more zest. After all men come to the reunions to run and enjoy their engines-- not to get overcome with sun strokes and exhaustion long before the day is over.

Although the Blue Grass Engine Club never boasts of being the largest or making the most money from profits of their show, they are quite cognizant of the fact that this year's reunion was much larger and more attended than last year's, which was their first.

'We had over one-hundred and twenty-three gas engines this year, four steam engines and four antique tractors,' explains President, Carl Secchi. 'In addition, there were twenty flea market dealers--many more than last year.'

Hisle Lutes of Winchester, KY., puts finishing touches to his unique antique Tractor, powered by a 5-horsepower Hagan Gas Engine. These engines were manufactured in Winchester, Kentucky over the turn of the century.

'Just the ladies of the organization alone sold over five-hundred dollars' worth of materials pertaining to our hobby,' says Secchi, possessing the Presidential diplomacy of adequately recognizing the women's lib. 'That would include such things as watch fobs, spark plug novelties, hats, plates and educational-historical things.'

One of the most unusual exhibits at the Blue Grass Show was especially dedicated to the history of the Hagan Gas Engine,--a two-horse Hagan owned by Carl Secchi, a seven-horse owned by Raymond Doolin and a ten-horse belonging to Herbert Duncan.

A fourth (lagan Engine furnished the power plant for a very unique model gas tractor being shown by Hisle Lutes of the Lutes Electric Co., Winchester, Ky.

'These Hagan Gas Engines were made in Winchester, Ky., between 1897 and 1917,' explains Carl Secchi. 'These I lagan people were masters of pattern making and their castings are perfect. They had very good mechanical ideas, but the engines have to be in perfect mechanical condition in every detail before they'll run right. They have very clever valve arrangements.'

Another unusual piece of antique equipment was the Mud Hen, manufactured by the C. H. & E. Mfg. Co. of Milwaukee, Wis., in 1928--an unusual pump of 6,000 gallons-per-hour capacity, powered by a 2?-Horsepower Fuller and Johnson Engine.

1918 Holt built by Caterpillar Tractor Company for U. S. Ord. Dept. owned by R. J. Vincent seen at Eastern Shore Show. Picture by Dave Egan, R. D. 5, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055.

Unusual exhibit of Hagan Gas Engines, manufactured at Winchester, Ky., were made up in a handsome display at Blue Grass Show. Shown are Hagan engines, I. to r. 2 HP., 7 HP. and 10 HP. President Carl Secchi shown beside middle engine.

This unit has a total weight of seven-hundred and sixty pounds,' explained Carl Secchi. 'The manufacturer has been very cooperative in giving us all the history and data on this equipment, as well as original colors, as shipped, and so forth.

It was clearly evident that the second annual Blue Grass Show had far outgrown the previous year's in both exhibits and crowds attending. The length and breadth of the Mercer County fairgrounds, at Harrodsburg, was crowded with a diversity of internal combustion gas engines, both prototypes and models, from all over the state of Kentucky as well as Indiana, Ohio and other border states. Dotted generously throughout the sprawling reunion were the antique cars--Model-T tourings and trucks, the sleeve-valve Wyllis Knights of 1927, a LaSalle of 1925 vintage, and many others representing the transportation evolution of early American industry. And yet there was the regular steam threshing for those who liked the smell of coal smoke and the feel of chaff down the neck.

'Carl Secchi has a wonderful spirit among these people,' commented Wood-y Turner, President of the big Tri-State Gas & Tractor Show, Portland, Ind., who possesses a rare genius for sizing up an engine reunion. Turner had headed a group of visiting Tri-Staters who had fetched along their engine trailers to add to the exhibits.

Even Junior Sarver of Arcanum, Ohio, hurried down to Blue Grass Show, as fast as his trailer would roll--just to augment the exhibits with his unusual display of Deleo Light Plants and assorted equipment.

'Our show has now outgrown the fairgrounds here at Harrodsburg,' says Carl Secchi. 'Next year we plan to have our own private grounds out in the country--with adequate space for growing exhibits.'

'Our Blue Grass Association has now caught the eye of the Mercer County authorities, and they are now behind us in getting more land and cooperation,' sums up Secchi--'Next year we will have space to exhibit a first-class sawmill and will even have our own 75-horsepower Bessemer Oil Engine in operation--all twenty-two tons of it.'

'After all, we have many interested people down here that don't mind doing something--so why not,' says he.