3 Washington Street Brattleboro, Vermont, 05301
The lovely upper Hudson River Valley area of New York State is rich in history-both factual and fictional. You might expect to find Rip Van Winkle asleep under a tree, a Dutch patroon gazing over the river from the door of his hilltop manor, or Ichabod Crane rushing off to the local schoolhouse. There is that air of the historic that seems to pervade this part of New York State.
The first weekend in August each year another sort of history comes alive in the Hudson Valley with the annual show of the Hudson Valley Old Time Power Association. The club held its 12th annual show July 31-August 2, 1987. Despite a bit of showers on the last day, the show was a big success with about 200 exhibitors and the public alike enjoying a fine time.
Club President, Frank Pflegl's business card reads: 'Restoration and Preservation of Rural America's Power and Machinery of Yesteryear.' 'Yesteryear' was certainly alive and well at Hudson Valley last summer in the form of a pole barn museum filled with old time tools and hand machinery, an operating blacksmith shop, old time tractors, antique cars, and hundreds of gas engines putt-putting away. The show provided something for everyone-crafts display in the main building, beautiful team of oxen on display, a cross cut contest, slow race, horse and wagon rides, the starting and running of the club's 'Big Engine,' and even a parade of tractors, old cars and oxen through the grounds.
A main feature of the 20 acre showgrounds at Hudson Valley is the club's 'Big Engine' with its own protective building. Pictured in this article, the engine is a 110HP Ingersoll-Rand diesel air compressor donated to the Hudson Valley Club in 1979 by David Rion of Prattsville, New York. This piece of machinery has its own unique history. It was originally built in Painted Post, New York and used in the construction of the Holland Tunnel 1920-1926. Later moved to Windham, New York, it was used solely for making snow at the Windham Ski Area, the privte ski slope of the Kennedy's when JFK was president. Since all the engines specs were lost in a flood in Painted Post, the club restored it to running order 'by guess and by gosh!'
Frank Pflegl and his brother George tell of how the club began 12 years ago with 12 to 14 charter members each 'throwing some money in the kitty as an interest free loan.' They bought the 20 acres of showgrounds and in January 1987 were able to pay back the charter members and pay off the mortgage! Besides the separate buildings that house the Big Engine, the blacksmith shop, the pole barn museum, and the main building, there is a large refreshment stand and rest rooms. The club has future plans for a craft barn for the women.
What is the secret of success of this obviously successful club? 'We are fortunate, 'say Frank Pflegl, 'that we have a group of five to six retired members who are the backbone of the work detail. They work at the grounds every Tuesday and without them we wouldn't have what we've got.
'Also, our club is a family affair. Our membership cards even read 'and family'. We looked at other clubs, picked apart what they do that we like and what they do that we don't like. We've tried to learn from their mistakes.'
The Hudson Valley Old Time Power Association has nearly 200 members. Their monthly meeting- the third Wednesday of each month-brings out 35 to 40 for each meeting. Often members will bring to the meeting an old machine, knowing that someone will know what to do to get it running.
'One year,' say Pflegl, 'near Christmas time we tried to cancel our monthly meeting, but no go!'
In addition to the annual show, this club also hosts a commission auction each year in May. The 1988 date is May 14th. The auction has grown bigger each year, now running from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with two auctioneers and five computers to handle the paper work. In 1987 the auction brought $43,000 into the club's treasury and drew auction-goers from all over this country and Canada.
Frank Pflegl sums it all up: 'We started out to have a good time with this club. Once we lose sight of that, we're out of the game.' At last August's show Pflegl grinned and surveyed the 20 acres of bustling history: 'You know, we just come here to play with our toys and invite the public to 'watch.'
In 1988 Hudson Valley show is scheduled for August 6 & 7, with the 5th as a set-up day. Don't miss it!