International flywheel

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, 730 Front St., Greenville, Ohio 45331.

Joe Fahnestock

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Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

Granted every maharaja has his mahout and every well-appointed Englishman his very proper Jeeves -- but just what, when a little help is needed, does ye Spark Plug have up his sleeves?

Oh, there's always Bill or Hank standing by, whenever the big fly-wheel needs a yank. And usually there's George or Jess hangin' 'round the work-shop in winter when the engine's down and things in a mess. True, there're always plenty of guys to lend an arm when help is needed -- or give advice whether or not it's heeded. But what about those extra little niceties, above and beyond the call of duty, like oiling up the bearings and polishing the brass trim along the rod and 'round the rim? For once the big engine's put back together and doing her stuff at the reunions, it's always the spit 'n polish 'n shine in the summer sun that contributes most to a Spark Plug's fun.

When Grandpa gets bit by the gas engine bug, and the disease really 'takes a-holt,' eating away at the grand paternal wallett as more and more cast-off old hunks of junk begin piling up in the family woodshed, to be worked on, then it can well be affirmed that 'gramps' has taken off on that long and winding trail that might someday lead to those noble and vaunted chambers known as the Spark Plug Hall of Fame. But, before finally arriving at the place, well wager he'll be judged guilty of picking up a couple of Pipsqueak Spark Plugs along the way to sort of share and bask in the glory thereof.

Like, for instance, Spark Plug Harold Hirshey of Geneva, Indiana, who had plenty of fun running his big 5-horse-power International at the Tri-State Gas and Tractor reunion in Portland, last summer. But he had even more fun, not having to bother a tinker with such fussy things as oiling up or wiping grease or smudge. For Spark Plug Hirshey had fetched along his own special crew of tag-along pint-sized grease monkeys who sort of took over the more menial tasks of lubrication, engine wiping and brass polishing while all Grandpa had to do was thrust his chest out and watch the darned thing run.

Whenever Grandpa got a little tired or bored watching his own engine run, he'd shut things down a spell, take a stroll over the Tri-State grounds to munch a hot dog or take in the other exhibits and see how the other fellows were getting along. Upon returning, there was the 'crew' -- oil-can in hand pointed down at the bearings and grease rag wiping the smudge that had collected in the out-of-way cracks, and crevices inaccessible to the larger, adult hand.

Grandpa chuckled -- and rightly so -- for certainly he had discovered the ideal set-up that made him the envy of all the other Sprak Plugs on the grounds.

'They're my grandsons,' laughed Hirshey as he proudly watched his special crew of Pip-Squeak Spark Pluggers laboring tirelessly at keeping Grandpa's big engine polished and shining in the strictest tradition of Gasoline Alley. 'Dave is six;, Phil is eight,' chuckled Gramps.

'Look how it shines, Grandpa,' Dave Vorhees, the younger, wiping oil from the big red fly-wheel spokes while Phil Vorhees, the elder, reached for a bearing with his tilted oil-can spout.

'Wait, Grandpa, till I get this cleaned out,' yelled pipsqueak Dave, while from pipsqueak Phil came this, 'Grandpa, do you think I've got enough oil in here, or should I give it some more?'

'Now, Grandpa, will you help us start it up?', choroussed the twain.

But Grandpa had other ideas, discovering other places that little hands hadn't yet polished or wiped clean and giving gentle reminders that a task, once begun, should be completed before allowing little boys to take time out to play. For Grandpa Harold Hirshey, whether he's read it in books or not, knows full well that the rules 'n regulations that were good for the kids of his day are likewise good for what ails the rising generation in the social order of today. And what made Johnny a good boy then, is what makes Johnny, or Dave or Phil a good little boy in this day and age.

'I THINK I'VE GOT ALL THE GREASE OFF THE ENGINE,' says pipsqueak Spark Plugger, Dave Vorhees, putting final polish to the big International flywheel. But Grandpa, Harold Hirshey, seems to wonder whether or not that oil can young Phil is handling will hold out the rest of the afternoon at Tri-State Gas & Tractor Reunion, Portland, Indiana.

'I see a couple o' places you missed with that rag around the fly-wheel spokes,' reminded Grandpa Hirshey, pointing with his knurled knuckles toward a couple of overlooked grease spots that young Dave's oil rag hadn't wiped clean.

'Grandpa -- I thought those were shadows,' pipped piqsqueak Dave, his 'wipin' arm' slowing down noticeably with each swipe of the rag.

'I'm gettin' tired,' squeaked pip-squeak Phil, fidgeting an empty oil can and yawning a bit drowsily.

Quicker than a katydid could tune a fiddle, they were off, heading toward the tall timbers at the other end of the Tri-State reunion fairgrounds. 'Were they boys or men?' I debated as I followed their footsteps, amused at their engineers' caps, overalls and the long red bandannas hanging from their rear pockets.

But, when I looked up and saw that they were heading straight for the building with the sign that read 'MEN'-I was sort of convinced that Dave and Phil, six and eight, with a full day's work of polishin' and greasin' Grand-dad's big engine had suddenly felt like they were men, badly in need of wash-bowl and soap.

As a man -- or a boy -- thinketh, so is he. And thank you, Harold Hirshey, for helping those grand-kids to grow up in a few of the simpler virtues of working and earning their fun by way of such unsophisticated endeavors as polishing brass and oiling the gears of a big gas engine.

For that's just the way that a Spark Plug and his two pipsqueak Pluggers o' grandsons should work 'n play together -- whether it totals up to three boys or three men, the sum is always Spark Plugs -- three.

AFTER A DAY'S WORK ON GRANDPA'S BIG INTERNATIONAL ENGINE, Spark Pluggers Dave and Phil, six and eight, looked like men in engineer's caps, overalls and with the red bandannas hanging from their pockets. And, according to the sign, they were MEN! (Badly in need of wash bowl and soap.) A tired concessionaire at rear seems to have folded up the table cloth willing to call it a day too.