1940 John Deere B

1940 John Deere B, before restoration. Harry Greenleaf is at left; Harry Willis at right.

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516 East Third St., Bloomsburg, PA 17815

It was my mistake so I really shouldn't complain. I saw an ad in our local paper for anyone who was interested in antique engines. Little did I know, when I pointed out the ad to my father, that this 'hobby club' would turn into a lifetime obsession.

My father answered the ad and went to a couple of meetings. In December of 1979, the North Jersey Antique Engine and Machine Club was born.

My father, John Willis, Jr., and my brother, Harry, now 17, decided that to be members of such a club they should have something to donate. They found a 1917 Ideal Model R, 11/2 HP engine and completely restored it.

Silly me. I thought this would be their only engine, but it wasn't. I was seriously mistaken.

The club's first show was held in July of 1980, and my grandfather, Harry Greenleaf, a dairy farmer in southern New York, decided to 'join the act.' He only used John Deere tractors on the farm and decided to invest in older models of 'Mean Green Machines.' 

He purchased a 1940 John Deere B for my brother in December of 1981. My father and brother completely restored it over that winter and it was ready for the club's second show in July of 1982.

More and more, our Sunday dinner conversations consisted of nothing but comments about engines and tractors. 'Where can we buy one?' 'Where did so-and-so buy his?' 'Who did the pinstriping?' 'How much will it cost?' 'How long will it take for that part to come in?' 'Is he selling his tractor?' (I was always tempted to say, 'Who cares?')

That was all my grandmother, mom and I ever heard. It got pretty monotonous after a while.

Now and then, I would get extremely bored with the reruns of conversations and I would say something like, 'Engines and tractors! Is that all there is to talk about?!' 

I would want to talk about other things-anything except this same old BORING subject. (Needless to say, the three guys in our family didn't think this subject would ever be worn out.)

My mother would always tell me to be quiet and let them talk, which was very contradictory of her. When they weren't around, she would complain of them never being with us and when they were, they never paid any attention to us. Most of their spare time was spent in our garage restoring engines and tractors.

As time passed, their 'addiction' grew. 'New' tractors, scrap iron, I thought, were looked at, bought and restored. Area shows came and went.

Finally, my mother and grandmother gave in and decided they should follow the old adage, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!'

Mom, Grandma, and yes, even I sometimes, accompanied the enthusiasts to shows. My mother, a cafeteria manager, was convinced to take charge of the 1984 show's food stand.

She made me help her out, too.

Together, the three of us found out there were a lot more to shows and auctions than just smelly old gas engines and grimy steam engines. Flea markets and antique sales were often included. Such attractions just happen to be major interests of Mom, Grandma, and I.

We slowly came to realize that this hobby truly held something for the whole family.

I went off to college in the fall of 1984, leaving my mom and grandmother to fend for themselves against the relentless hobbyists.

While in college, I found, much to my surprise, that many parents were avid hobbyists and collectors. Some of my acquaintances even thought 'all-consuming' was a better term to use when describing their fathers' golf outings, their moms' quilting clubs and their brothers' stamp collections. Almost everyone has something to do that they enjoy tremendously.

Now, when I return home on vacations, I admit it's a great feeling to see a 1950 John Deere G pull out of our garage for the first time after being restored. Pride wells up inside when you see your 16 year-old 'little' brother driving a 'Big Green' at a show.

Engine collection and restoration gives immense satisfaction to the owners. A job well done is a thrill to see in the finished product.

Even though much time and effort is put into it, like Mom says, 'It's better than a barstool.' She's right.