Everything I Need to Know About My Old Iron Hobby I Learned from Kindergarten

| June/July 1998

914 Johnson Creek Walton, West Virginia 25286

Having Madison, my six year old engine buddy, attending kindergarten, and reading the article on 'Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten' by Robert Fulghum, I thought how following the kindergarten rules would improve our gas engine hobby enjoyment and help involve others.

'Show and Tell'

Madison regularly takes pictures, toys or other interesting items to classes to 'Show and Tell.' The key lesson is, take something interesting to see and something to talk about. Our club shows and our individual displays should 'show and tell.'

We must remember that not all attendees are old iron nuts or have any knowledge of our hobby and its place in history.

We should 'show' our items to their best advantage.

1. Have your power plaything operating if possible, because many people have never seen an old tractor, engine or steam engine operate and will be fascinated by its parts and motions and can learn by watching.

2. Have your power plaything 'do something.' I have, at shows, seen power pumping water, washing clothes, sawing lumber and shingles, grinding corn meal, wheat threshing, producing electric, compressed air, fans, and pop can crushers. A crowd will gather around a power unit doing something, even if it is only turning a machine with a best. Remember, many onlookers have never seen anything other than a lawn mower do work, and that any other machine is a new experience. Your 'do something' can be as simple as a belt driven generator powering lights, fans, etc. water pump pumping water from a dishpan into a fountain, model power toys driven by a string off an engine crankshaft. Let your imagination go wild, be creative.

We should 'tell' at our show.

1. Explaining your exhibit's use, features, age will help others learn and appreciate our ancestors' ingenuity and resourcefulness.

2. Use posters, sales ads, photos reprints etc. to show your exhibit at work if it is not possible to operate your exhibit at the show, or to further explain its history, use, etc. Before and after pictures add to your exhibit, and show your efforts and work. Consider a sign, handout or pamphlet for your show or exhibit. After years of operating portable grist mills at an art and craft fair and hearing parents explain the process to their children that 'corn goes in here and meal comes out there,' we developed a one page pamphlet that simply explains the milling process that cannot be seen while operating. Remember, you may be the only one in the crowd who knows what is happening and why, so 'tell others.'

'Listen When Someone Else Is Talking'

One of my father's favorite lessons is, 'You can't learn when you are doing the talking.' Like kindergartners, we should listen when someone is talking.

Many times others have valuable information about our hobby or your particular engine or its use in their remembrance, if you first take time to listen and then record or write down what you hear.

One time an elderly gentleman approached me and reminisced about cutting timber to produce wooden barrel staves. He had valuable information that I listened to, but it went in one ear and out the other. Later, I could not remember the specifics. What a difference a note pad and pen would make now! Carry paper and pen, video camera or tape recorder with you at shows. So listen and learn for yourself, and for others as well. Who knows when you may learn something of value, local history, farming or engine tales, paint colors, repair tips, etc., to preserve and pass on.


In school we learn to share, because we have to. In our hobby we should share because we want to.

1. Share your knowledge and skills with others! Remember, once you were starting out and how hard it was to learn without others' help. Help young people get started in our hobby. A friend of mine at engine shows spends more time helping tinker on others' troublesome engines than petting his own smooth running stock. But he gets much satisfaction by helping others.

2. Share your information, sources, photos with others. Get double prints of your show photos and share. Tell others where you got your decal, parts, paint, literature etc. to help them.

3. Share your bits, pieces and extra play toys so others can enjoy our hobby. Is it really true that the person with the most parts and exhibits wins? A late friend always seemed to have a 'starter' engine for a new engineer at a fair price and always enjoyed helping another engine person get a start. Food for thought!

Yes, lessons learned in our youth will serve our hobby and ourselves well. The general public would benefit if we would act like a kid. But always remember, PLAY SAFE! Use fences, plexiglass guards, signs to protect others who don't know gears pinch and belts grab fingers, sleeves, etc. Always have a first aid kit and fire extinguisher handy, just in case!


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