Looking back as the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show in Indiana approaches its 50th anniversary.
The year 1974 was my first visit to this Portland, Indiana, show. During a vacation in Ohio, I had visited shows at Georgetown and Dover. I called my cousin Bill Adams to see if he would like to attend the show at Portland. He was glad for the opportunity to spend some time together. We had both served in Vietnam from 1969-1971. He was in the Navy serving on a mine sweeper, I was in the Army, 1st Infantry Division 2/33 Artillery. Bill went back for a second tour. One year was enough for this transplanted Tar Heel who had grown up as a Buckeye. I finished my two-year hitch in Uncle Sam’s Army with the 267th Aviation, 75th Field Artillery located at Fort Stewart in Georgia in 1970.
Early Friday morning we began our trip from Chesterville, Ohio. My Chevy El Camino was great for hauling small engines to shows. Upon arriving at the Jay County Fairgrounds, we were pleased to find well-kept buildings, lots of huge shade trees and ample parking. The visitor parking was located inside the horse racing track. We discovered friendly engine folks who helped us pick out a place to display my Ideal engine. This engine was an air-cooled hit-and-miss with 10-inch flywheels. In 1965, we bought this little engine at South Point, Ohio, for $10. From 1965 through 1973, this engine was a part of the M.L. Scholl and Sons collection. I had restored this engine in the summer of 1968, prior to my being drafted in September of that year.
Bill and I spent the day running the Ideal engine, visiting with my engine buddies and making new friends. My engine friends were pleased to see that I had traveled from the Blue Ridge Mountains to be with them for this, the ninth showing of the Portland show. That evening, we found a great place to put our cots over in one of the livestock buildings. For many years now those buildings have been used for antique dealers. On Saturday and Sunday, Gary Funk and his wife, Karla, drove down from Huntington, Indiana, to visit with Bill and me and to enjoy the show. Gary served with me in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
My first show at Portland led to many years of coming back to be a part of the world’s largest show of this type. I was back again in 1977, riding up with Frank Triplett and Elzie Brown. I had convinced the pair that Portland was a must-do show. Our sideshaft engines were Frank’s 6 hp hopper-cooled Mogul and my 4 hp Bulls Eye. The show had grown a lot during my two-year absence. We had Frank’s van, trailer and engines all contained in the engine display area. The Tri-State club did not have the campground, which today is adjacent to the fairgrounds.
In 1982, I was on the road again with my wife, Judy, our daughter Kristi and son Jody heading north to Portland. My wife is disabled and was permitted to tour the show with our nearly 3-year-old son riding in the rear basket of her 3-speed, 3-wheel bicycle. I did not bring a display and we parked and camped in the club’s campground. For the next 16 years there were friends and family coming along to the show, some came with me many times. The engine displayed for many of those years was the circa-1902 1 hp Type A Springfield. Kristi, Jody, Charlie Cutlip, Jeff Hutchings, Bill Triplett and Gary White all were part of this annual trek to Portland.
Then, starting in 1999, I was moved to the dealers of antique engines and parts section, row R, where I came continuously through the 2013 Tri-State annual showing. I was not able to attend the 49th show. On Memorial Day 2014, I was involved in a timber cutting accident. When I did not return home at dusk, which was my normal end of the day on this particular project, my dad, M.L. Scholl, 91 years old, came looking for his son. The area where I had been working is deep in a series of hollers. It was not accessible by car or truck due to a bridge culvert that was washed out. I had a temporary narrow bridge, which I crossed daily with my lawn tractor, a wagon loaded with chain saws and supplies in tow.
Dad was driving his lawn tractor, walking cane in hand. When he made it to where I was, a locust tree log, well over 50 feet long, had my left leg in a near death hold. I had been trapped for over seven hours, and was so relieved that God had answered my prayers. I had asked for an angel and God sent my dad to help save my life.
I was air-lifted to the trauma center in Johnson City, Tennessee. Kristi was there with me, and three days later we walked out of that hospital. I had a crush wound to my left leg, which was completely healed in five months. I finished the logging project just before the first winter snowfall
I am making plans to attend the 50th Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Portland, Indiana. I’m looking forward to the fellowship of friends and as in past shows, a great homecoming. Many thanks to the hard working, wonderful folks who make this show a reality, and have done so for going on 50 years.
In anticipation of the 50th Antique Engine & Tractor Show, to be held Aug. 26-30, 2015, by the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Association in Portland, Indiana, we took a walk through the yellowing archives of Gas Engine Magazine to see if anything was said about the first event way back in 1966, which, by the way, was also the first year for Gas Engine Magazine. The formation of the Tri-State Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association was noted in the May/June 1966 issue. Dues were $2 for engine and tractor owners and $1 for nonowners interested in joining. The issue also included a notice for the first event, to be held July 9-10, 1966, at the Ft. Recovery Fairgrounds in Ft. Recovery, Ohio, about 12 miles west of Portland, Indiana.
The first report on the Tri-State show appeared in the November/December 1967 issue, covering the second event. “It was only their second time to gather,” wrote Joe Fahnestock in his Spark Plug of the Month column, adding, “the first of which was but a two-day stand at the Fort Recovery village park, in western Ohio, the summer of ‘66. But unlike the long-standing conclaves of steam threshing brethren, who have grown steadily over the years, the Tri-Staters suddenly burst forth in a grand extravaganza this year that bodes second-fiddle to none.”
This couldn’t be truer for the club today, as it has continued to grow in numbers. In the September/October 1968 issue, Eldrew Cissel commented on just how quickly the show had grown: “A greatly enlarged display is assured this year as there are approximately 40 tractors and steam engines expected and more than 200 gas engines. The show here in 1967 brought forth 18 tractors and engines, and less than 150 gas engines.” Looking at 2015, the club anticipates at least 3,000 engines and 800 tractors on display, telling numbers that underscore how much the community and hobby – and old iron inventory – has grown since that first event 50 years ago.– GEM staff