Gas Engine Magazine

The Good Old Bays

By Staff

12271 Barrs Rd., SW, Massillon, Ohio 44646

The following article is taken from a cassette tape sent to us
by Jack Pratt. Jack thought we should again let our readers know
they can send us cassettes to be transcribed and used as

I was born in Massillon, Ohio, October 1937, so that obviously
makes me nearly 50 years of age. My earliest recollection of
equipment was with my dad who was a trucker. And when houses were
dug with power shovels, he hauled the dirt away and also hauled the
sand and gravel for driveways, etc. He worked for some independent
contractors and he also used to haul coal. That was the highlight
of my day, to go with Dad to get a load of coal out in the country.
I was fascinated by the machinery that was used to produce coal.
There were many trucks of the thirties, forties, fifties, of
course, hauling coal with us. Dad knew the fellows and I got to
look over their trucks and they looked over our truck. We saw the
machinery that was used to process the coal and it was all quite

We moved out into the country when I was 13 years of age. Mom
and Dad had split up and I had to help support the family by
working for farmers in the area. Of course, I didn’t enjoy all
of this but I did enjoy a lot of the work and I loved being around
machinery. I remember quite well John Deere B’s, John Deere
A’s, Farmall M’s and I was just fascinated by this farm
equipment. Of course, we had all the 1947, 1948 Ford trucks and the
GMC’s, Chevies and so on. I can remember one time there was a
tractor and plow parked next door to our home and on a Sunday
afternoon I must have spent four, five, six hours over there just
looking over the tractor, just sitting on the tractor. I just
wanted to be near that farm tractor. To me the tractor was much
more impressive than any big Cadillac, sports car or what have you,
because cars last about five years if you’re lucky and
they’re done. We know of tractors that could be forty, fifty
years old, maybe older, some rebuilt, some not rebuilt, but
they’re still capable of working. That impresses me. Of course,
we know that if our entertainers stopped entertaining us, our
comedians, our ball players and our music makers, we would still go
right along. We would still eat. But, if our farmers ever stopped
farming, (and his main tool, I think, is the tractor), I’m
afraid we would all go hungry. Then it wouldn’t take long to
get our sense of values back on the straight and level and to
figure out that the farmer is a very important person.

I have since moved from the area I grew up in as it became
crowded with suburbanites and when I married I decided I would move
out into the ‘boonies’ and collect old iron, which I have
done. I now own a John Deere B, a John Deere A and a GW (which I
guess is quite rare)… the W meaning wide front end, and I have a
’46 dump truck, ’47 Ford flatbed, ’51 GMC flatbed dump
and a couple of Army trucks, and a few antique automobiles. I’m
building a building to put the cars in.

The old John Deere’s are antiques but they’re working
antiques. I’ve mounted a buzz saw on the front of my John Deere
B which makes the saw a quick portable. A friend of mine keeps his
18 wheeler here and he will from time to time go down and get me a
15 bundle load on an old trailer I have. Then we simply unhook his
truck and I have 15 bundles on the trailer. My son and I use the
John Deere B to cut the slab wood we burn to heat the house.

We use the John Deere B to cut the firewood to feed the
woodburning stove. Of course the woodburner was just a pile of
steel plate until I got hold of it and made it into something
I’m rather proud of. We heat the house with it, we cook on it,
we have a clothes drying rack above it, and we’ll shortly have
a circulating pump hooked up too, so we can turn off the burners on
the hot water heater whenever the woodburner is operating. We save
electricity by not running the hot water heater, we save by not
running the electric stove, and we save more money by not having a
clothes dryer.

I have a repair shop, off back, which I could not afford to heat
with oil or gas. What little money I make out there I would
probably spend just in heating. My son has a repair shop also and
he heats his with wood. So the John Deere B, in addition to being
an antique, is a working antique and we really enjoy it. And of
course, I enjoy very much going to the steam shows to rub shoulders
with other people who like antiques just as I do. Sometimes a guy
feels that in our modern society maybe it’s sort of out in left
field if he likes old cars and old trucks, like I do. But when we
go to the steam shows we see there are a lot of people who are of
the same opinion!

There are a couple of things I would like to find. Back in 19521
had an Oliver tractor calendar, probably distributed by the Oliver
tractor dealers. There was a picture on each month and then a
little poem at the bottom. And I remember the one said something
about the fact that it’s great to get up in the morning and to
go out and put forth a genuine effort, to see the result of that
effort, and then to return in the evening. And I remember the last
two words were: it’s great. I would like to find that poem, and
there is another I would also like to find. It said something like:
‘I do not wish to be a KEPT person. I would like to make my own
decisions, make my own mistakes, either profit or lose by what I
do. I’m not a puppet on a string. I don’t need a dictator
over me telling me what to do.’ If any of you people out there
have any information it would be appreciated. Also, I have some
calendars from different dealers.

I really do enjoy steam shows. We usually try to take in three,
four, five of them every year, as time and money permit. This year
we’re building up a Chevy Suburban, a very simple
straightforward, rugged machine so that we can sleep in the back of
it if the shows are a good distance from home. We like things like
that. It’s 100% American made. It’s a six cylinder, four
speed, and the only computer we need is that one that sits on top
of my shoulders and if that one works, I don’t think we need
any other ones.

I wish that things were as simple as they used to be. I wish we
still had available to us the simple, rugged John Deere tractors,
the simple and rugged International tractors-I don’t like to
see any war between the red and green tractors. I enjoy lifting the
hood on the old 6 cylinder Chevy, Ford or whatever, and seeing the
simplicity. The only thing that’s under the hood is what’s
needed. Everything that’s needed is there and there’s
nothing there that isn’t needed. It’s nice to see this
equipment at the steam shows.

I own a Franklin oil-fueled engine and I enjoy it. I also own a
Ball oil-fueled engine which is called a ‘half breed’
because the cylinder can be removed to run it either on natural gas
or on steam. I have a Hercules hit-and-miss and also a Fairbanks
throttling governor.

I’ll tell you a little story: a woman came down to look at
one of my antique cars-I really don’t want to sell it, but I
sure could use the money-and she said ‘I see you’re
interested in flywheel engines.’ I said ‘Yes. I am.’
She said ‘Well, we got lost, and we just got down here in time
to go home but we’ll be back down tomorrow. I will bring you my
grandfather’s flywheel engine.’

As she promised, the next day she returned and she did have a
Fairbanks throttling governor in original condition, covered with
sawdust and grease. As you know, sometimes you get a new
possession, possibly a new-to-you old tractor, or whatever, and it
may sit for days, weeks or even months until you get to go out and
enjoy it. Fortunately, that Sunday evening and the next day, I did
have time to enjoy this engine. We filled the cylinder with light
oil and lubricated the whole engine and turned it over by hand a
few times, and hooked a large electric motor to it and just let it
sit there and turn and loosen up-it ran for quite some time.

Her grandfather apparently purchased this engine in the
1910’s or 1920’s, somewhere around there, and we let it
free up. I went over the mag, checked out the carburetor and a few
things. When I thought it was ready to start, we put gas in the
carburetor and believe it or not the first spin of the flywheel it
was running. It smoked quite a bit, but later it cleared up and ran
like a sewing machine. Now, the engine needs to be rebuilt, it has
been used quite a bit, and it could stand to be painted. But,
I’m going to leave it in its original condition just to show
anyone what an original looks like.

When her grandfather bought this engine he got the papers with
it and she brought those down to me. He bought it to power a Sears
Roebuck woodworking shop. He made chairs, tables, lamps, etc. She
also brought the papers for the Sears Roebuck woodworking shop.
Anybody who’d like to copy or see these, the original papers,
the original owners manual is here for the throttling governor
Fairbanks 3 HP, and the original papers are here for the Sears
Roebuck woodworking shop. I’m glad to share them with anyone
and I encourage you readers to share any interesting papers you
might have with the rest of us.

I have read that our steam engines are threatened by some boiler
inspections. I hope and pray that these steam shows can go on
forever. I’ve exhibited the Franklin engine down at the Dover
Steam Show. I run it on a Chevy carburetor and I have an ignition
of my own design since the magneto wasn’t running. But, as I
say, these are simple, rugged, straightforward engines and it’s
not hard to adapt or make changes as necessary. Being oil fueled
engines they ran on natural gas. Of course that isn’t available
everywhere, so we use a carburetor.

There are many things in my 50 years that I certainly could have
done better. It’s nice to be free to make your own decisions.
When I graduated from high school I had great expectations and I
haven’t fulfilled one-tenth of those expectations. I’ve had
a good marriage, raised two good kids. No problems so far.
They’re pretty well grown now. I’ve paid for the house,
paid for the property, and have a collection of old iron which I
hope and pray no local restrictions will make me get rid of. I
think that one of the things that keeps a fellow on the straight
and narrow is the old machinery, the steam shows and the basic good
American values that we had in this country in times past.

Out here in the country my son (he’s twenty years old now)
has built three front wheel drive pickups. And when he starts a
project he has pieces and parts lying all over the place. But the
kids have to have a release for their creativity and this has been
a release for his creativity and to some extent it’s kept him
out of trouble. These kids who have nothing to do I don’t think
they’re bad kids but they hang out at the gas station or the
corner store and they do get into trouble because they’re not
permitted to do anything, unless it’s under the guidance of
some higher authority that sets up a program for them and some of
the kids don’t care for that. They’d rather do something on
their own spontaneously. I guess this is all part of the problems
we face in the modern day. And this is the wonderful thing about
farms and farming. When I was a kid we were kept so busy we
didn’t have time to get in trouble.

These are my thoughts on the ‘good old days.’

  • Published on Sep 1, 1987
© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved - Ogden Publications, Inc.