Eastern Lebanon County High School 180 Elco Drive, Myerstown, PA 17067
I still remember that famous house visit Josiah Leinbach made last spring on a sunny Sunday afternoon. My church attire was just retired to the closet hanger when the doorbell rang.
'Who can be ringing the bell at this time?,' I wondered.
'Mr. Centonze, come quickly. We found an old engine for you in a small shed near the high school.' Josiah recently graduated from Eastern Lebanon County High School. I was his gas engine technology instructor in our Agriculture Department. Josiah, like me, shared a similar passion: fixing engines.
Within five minutes we pulled into the driveway of an older home. Junk was scattered everywhere. Walking through that yard was like going through a maze. Two younger fellows emerged from the rear of the house, apparently on work break. 'My grandmother lived here for a long time. I guess I am the only one in the family willing to help clean this darn place up,' defended the taller guy. The other person stood only a few feet away, too busy drinking from a beer can to be involved in the conversation.
Josiah interrupted, 'Show us that engine you dragged out of the shed earlier.' Around the corner we trotted and practically stumbled over it as it sat dormant in the middle of the walkway, a small engine with faded red paint and remnants of a decal. I knelt down and immediately played with the flywheels.
'This hasn't been run in a long time,' I mentioned as I read the half deteriorated 'Maynard' engine emblem on the water hopper. 'Looks like about one and a half horse.' 'Are you selling it?' I glanced up to the 'in charge' person, only to notice he, too, was now clinching tight to a beer can.
'Yeah, I'll sell it.' Out came my wallet in nervous fashion, not knowing if it would contain enough bills for the job. I yanked out all that was tucked in there--about fifty dollars. Upon seeing this, the kid burped. 'That's good enough,' took the cash and celebrated by downing the rest of the brew. Never being too comfortable around someone drinking, I made a point of getting the engine to the back of the pickup as quickly as possible. Next destination: high school shop.
The following week at school several students inquired about the engine. Since a unit on gas engine history is part of my teaching curriculum, it made sense to integrate its use into a show-and-tell lesson. In a matter of days it was tucked away in the back storage room awaiting a trip to my residence.
Four weeks of class remained in the school year, and all eyes were on summer vacation. Students started getting restless and less motivated. But not so for Justin Yeiser, Glenn Zimmerman and Adam Hibshman. While doing engine repair in class one day, Justin approached to convince me that he would be interested in working on the engine. I obliged, and the next day Glenn and Adam followed suit. Fortunately the engine needed only basic cleaning of the critical parts to make it run. It had great compression.
The dismantling process was initiated and occasional snapshots taken for the record (a good way to show where all the small parts are returned during assembly!) Once in a while a part would get lost, and we would have a 'fight' over whose fault it was. Even the piston was temporarily misplaced; however, the recipient of all the blame in this case never even handled this part!
And then there's Glenn, a big guy from the football team, who sandblasted the flywheels. The original red paint was so thick and tough that it took three class periods to do the job. The glass window on the sandblaster was so obscure that the poor fellow had to press his nose tight to the glass just to see through the window.
Justin and Adam were soccer stars. This worried me because if the job ever got too frustrating they may 'kick' the engine and learn the lesson that it doesn't take off like a soccer ball. There were even some days when I had to 'order' Justin to quit working on the engine because he was missing his lunch period. Just think, he may turn out like me--addicted to the old engine hobby. That's a scary thought.
It's true that time flies when you are having fun. The last day of school arrived and the priming was just completed. I ended up painting the engine over the summer and building a cart for it. Brown's Signs in Richland used a computer to 'see' what was left of the deteriorating Maynard emblem and recreate a new one. Wendel's Gas Engine Book also helped with the duplication process. I requested some pinstriping to add zest to its appearance. Gosh, that came out sharp! Justin even stopped out at the house a few times to check on the progress that summer.
When classes resumed this past August, I couldn't wait to show the engine to the boys. They were really pleased with the final outcome. And I continue to drive past that house every day where Josiah found that engine. I'm not really sure if anyone lives there now. Junk still litters the corner of the yard. And there sits an innocent looking shed that surrendered a relic from the past; a special engine to me that will always serve as a reminder of the enjoyment my three students and I had restoring it.