RR #1, Box 63, Avoca, Iowa 51521
I like so many people my age, attended a one room country school. The last two years of grade school, our teacher had a 'reward' program. If one of us got 100 in spelling for the whole month, we would get a present of some sort. The 7th and 8th grades were all boys. When we would receive a gift, it was a stick balsa and tissue paper model airplane. Because we were in the middle of World War II, all the boys were very interested in airplanes. I don't know quite how I did it but I managed to get 6 or 8 models. As I was building them, I was never quite satisfied with the plan. Since I wasn't going to fly my airplanes anyway, it didn't make any difference how heavy they got to be. I would make the cockpit more elaborate or make cowling around the engine so it would open. That way a person could see more of the engine I would build out of scraps. Very few of my models had a solid landing gear. Most all were made to fold up and snap in place with rubber bands.
Before these years, I had very few toys. I recall my mom bought a little Oliver 70 at a dime store for me. I was so happy I jumped up and down. I believe she had said she gave 25 for it. This was quite a bit of money at that time, especially when we were just getting a foothold after the depression.
I soon found out I was at a loss for farm implements to pull behind my Oliver. My mom saved lots of things and she had a 2 lb. cheese box. She suggested I make a little combine, like the neighbor across the fence had just purchased. I admired that pretty, new, bright red IHC combine. It had a 36' cut, I believe, and lots of vee belts. One day when he was cutting wheat just across the fence from our house, I waited until he shut down. Then I examined the machine from top to bottom. It had a little round grain bin, if I remember right. Also lots and lots of belts. This was very interesting to me because my dad had a Deering binder and it had all chains.
The next day, I proceeded to build my combine. I used tinker toy spools for the bull wheel and feed sack string and rubber bands for belting. The reel was mostly of wire except the paddles were some small flat sticks Mom had.
I could pull my combine behind the little green Oliver, across Mom's linoleum floor, but it didn't work very well. I had to put a wide rubber band on the bull wheel. It was slipping on the highly waxed linoleum. I noticed my machine didn't jerk back and forth, back and forth like the real one. Next day I peeked inside of the big one and decided I needed some shakers to give my toy the right feel. I later made one tin tray (with nail holes) for a shaker. I had it hanging on arms of sharp tin and an eccentric off of one tinker toy spool, with a pitman arm.
Now many years have gone by. When our boy became big enough to have a HO gauge train set, I built a 5' square board with a river from one corner to the other. I told him to buy trains and track, and I'd build mountains, houses and other buildings. He grew so fast, he outgrew the train layout before we could get all the houses, elevators, etc. placed on it. We have all sorts of buildings stored away. Each model house has a story behind it. There is a house like where I was born, a flour mill where my uncle worked, a railroad water tower that I helped take down for salvage, etc.
My buildings were built from Post Toasties boxes or card stock obtained from the local newspaper. We used plastic screen on the windows and flat toothpick pieces for window and door trim. Old worn-out sand paper makes wonderful shingles.
Later, when we became interested in old gas engines and tractors, I started to build those for him. I like to build models out of odds and ends discarded around the house.
One summer, when we went to visit friends and relatives in Kansas, we met a man by the name of Donald Prather. We had been told he was a gas engine collector. A friend of ours introduced David and I to him and we began feasting our eyes on his gas engines. There was one that I took a particular fancy to. It was a 1 HP McCormick Deering model M. I thought it was the prettiest engine I had ever seen. It was filled and painted to a 'fare-thee-well'. The fellow who had painted it for Donald put on a glazed finish with red pin striping.
When I had time that winter, I proceeded to make a model of that beautiful engine. I started with a discarded toilet tissue tube. I coated it with Elmer's glue and let it dry to a hard finish. I cut circles of plywood to fit each end so it wouldn't collapse. Then I built it up with rock hard water putty to the shape of a McCormick Deering engine. The flywheels are made of plastic mud flaps from a semi trailer. I used a no. 9 wire for an axle to mount the flywheels on. The cylinder head is a circle of ' pine board. I used 7d nails for valves and valve springs are from a Weiser door knob lock. As the flywheels are gently turned, the brass rocker arm (made from a pottie float rod) will open and close the exhaust valve. For glass oiler, I used a hypodermic syringe. (I had taken allergy shots several years before and just knew they would be good for something.) The main bearing grease cups are a brass tube from a ball point pen with a 5/16 piece of hardwood dowel glued on top.
I've built several models of gas engines from time to time. I also built the Rumely Oil Pull tractor in a previous issue of GEM. Some of the models are a Mod. 82 Maytag; the 7 HP New Way, 2 cylinder; single cylinder New Way and, of course, the McCormick Deering.
Some may say 'What good are they they don't run.' I suppose this is true, but if I or my boy ever should want to sell one, I don't believe we would have any trouble. However, I usually make them just for my son David.
Another hobby I had as a kid was whittling. My oldest sister and her husband lived in Climax, Colorado. He would bring home empty DuPont dynamite boxes from the mine where he worked. They were very nice soft pine wood. I spent many happy hours with Mom's paring knife and a side from one of those boxes. I made two 'Cowboy' pistols with a coping saw and that nice sharp paring knife. Mom helped me secure two snap closepins to the back of my wooden guns. Then we would cut rubber bands from one of my older brother's discarded red rubber inner tubes. I found bits of paint around the farm and could paint my gun stalks red as well as the cheese box IHC combine.
I have many scars on my fingers, and especially on my thumbs, from the trusty paring knife. I would slip and stick myself. Mom would dab turpentine on the wound as an antiseptic , wrap me up and I would be out of commission for a week or so. It wouldn't be long until I was back at it again. Kids seem to heal fast. I recall Dad had a big book on all sorts of medicines. He would mix up some paste of sulphur and an oil of some sort. If we got hurt we would sometimes apply this to the wound. It made things heal real fast. I recall him putting some on my foot when I stud a pitch fork tine clear through one time. However, that's another story