3251 S. Pine Barren Road, McDavid, Florida 32568
A few years ago there just wasn't much interest in old engines around here. 'Here' is the piney woods region of Northwest Florida and Southwest Alabama, 50 miles inland from Pensacola, where the state lines are just a formality. There were still a fair number of engines hiding in the weeds, but they were just junk to most folks. This began to change with the displays at Brewton, Alabama's Blueberry Festival, then the first Sawmill Day, in Century, Florida, in 1990, and interest is beginning to grow. In 1992, we had the third Sawmill Day and several other shows featuring engines. We even had one show exclusively devoted to rusty iron.
Sawmill Day is a town heritage festival sponsored by the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society in Century. The town was built by the sawmill, which was the primary industry for about 70 years. This year it featured such diverse activities as a War of Yankee Aggression battle re-enactment (locally, we won some, lost some, and heck no, we ain't forgot!), a parade, a softball tournament, police dog demonstrations, live music, arts and crafts, a logging demonstration, and an engine show. Our museum was open, featuring artifacts and photos of the logging industry, including a circa 1948 Mercury-powered Disston two-man chainsaw. The Civil War encampment was in the gardens, and there was such variety of foods that no one should have gone away hungry. We used the occasion to debut our 'Sawmill Scrapbook, Volume Two' book of local history.
This time the engine show was held in the ball field, just around the corner from the main course of events. If you ever plan a festival, you must place all events into a compact area, or at least, in a straight line. No matter how big you make the signs, people just won't see them! Consequently, most of the public missed the engines. However, the ones who did see us wanted to, and we were not trampled by the masses! The exhibitors decided to move here after the '91 show and seemed to enjoy the extra space afforded. We had more than three times the number of engines this year, and some fine displays. One fellow had traveled a great distance after reading in GEM of the team of oxen we had in '91. They were not here in '92 and we just never know too far in advance just what we'll come up with!
The Historical Society had a Boxcar Barbecue Thanksgiving weekend to raise funds to turn an ancient wooden boxcar into a railroad annex to our museum. Somebody raised the question of featuring engines at this, and so, at the last minute, we rounded up three trailer loads of engines and equipment. The ATV video included detailed shots of David Blackwell's beautiful wooden Invincible corn sheller and the Fairbanks that pulls it. By the way, we sold enough barbecue to buy the lumber, and additional donations should carry the boxcar through completion. And if anyone ever gives you anything as big as a boxcar, ask them to deliver it!
In McDavid, Florida, a group is trying to restore the county's oldest school house and use it as a community center. This year they have had two cookout fundraisers that have met with great success. The group invited some local engine collectors and ended up with some nice displays which really helped draw passersby on U.S. 29.
The same day as the spring show in McDavid, Brewton, Alabama held its annual Blueberry Festival. This is quite a show and they have a good location on the campus of Jeff Davis College. Every year it seems the engines get squeezed a little more by the huge turnout of antiques and custom cars. But, the shade trees make it comfortable on a warm spring day and there are usually some good leads from the public on finding another engine.
In Jay, Florida, Gene Gabbert puts on a spring threshing show and a fall peanut festival. This is out in the country at Gene's farm, and features his huge collection of John Deere tractors and equipment. Others display their engines and tractors and enjoy the tractor pull and the food. The event grows a little each year and now provides good browsing for old tools, antiques, and country collectibles.
The Greater Phillipsville/High Pine, Alabama community is so far out in the woods that you wonder if they have seen anything as modern as the stuff on your trailer! But they have electricity and indoor plumbing (mostly) and put on a great Community Day. Engine collectors have been invited for several years now and are rewarded with a good home cooked, more-than-you-could-hope-to-eat meal.
A new star on the local circuit is at the Godwin Family's Chinquapin Plantation near Wawbeek, Alabama. Gary Godwin went all out to make engine collectors feel at home at his place. Tall pines and brushy windrows lend some character to the show grounds while water and electrical hookups add a touch of luxury. There was a real good turnout for this first time event, in spite of the cold and rain of early December. Many an hour was spent telling lies and trading goodies while warming backsides at the bonfire. Gary will be in charge of the engine show at Sawmill Day '93 so we expect bigger and better things there, too.
We begin to range a bit far afield from our base to mention Norvin Bauer's get together in Fairhope, Alabama and Anthony Goodrum's affair at Coden, Alabama. Both noteworthy, however, and deserving of attention.
By the time you read this, 1993 will be here and the new season underway. Sawmill Day is already in the works for the first Saturday in May. You can come Friday evening, take the time to see the museum, and join us at the cookout. Contact Gary Godwin at Rt. 4, Box 397-B, Atmore, Alabama 36502 for more information.