Joe Fahnestock visits Gas Engine Magazine's Spark Plug of the Month and gas engine expert Sam Schnur on his own turf and learns why Sam is so good at what he does.
Photo courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana.
Meet Spark Plug of the Month Sam Schnur, known as the gas engine expert.
Daily News and Radio's "Joe's Journal."
Sam "Snore" Schnur proudly displays his beautiful model of an "Economy" Gas Engine which runs tiny pump-jack. Note pee-wee bucket and pump spout. No wonder Sam's smiling, ear-to-ear. He even made pea-sized tin cup to drink from. His sign "No More Repair Work" must mean Sam's retired into model-making.
That Spark Plug of the Month and gas engine expert, always so friendly and long on the handshake at the annual reunions man of the big smile and oily overalls bending over that prototype or scale model of some early-vintage gas engine along Gasoline Alley just what kind of a "critter" be he should one drop by his native lair, someday unannounced and uninvited?
It was with much trembling and foreboding that I rapped my knuckles on the door of one Sam Schnur (Snore), Doctor of Spark Plugs, Piston Rings and Connecting Rods, living in the very shadows of N.T.A. President, LeRoy Blaker up Alvordton-way.
"'Sam Snore'? Yes, I know where he lives," answered the only rural mail carrier at the Alvordton, Ohio, post office. "Turn right at the next street, b'ar to the left at the dead end and keep going he lives up the road about a mile."
After trying every door at the house, there was but one door left to knock on the entrance to his little shop, hard by the family residence. Someone was mumbling "shop talk" to himself the instant my knuckles came into contact with the hard pine door. The latch flew open and in the narrow gap of the doorway stood Sam "Snore", grinning from ear to ear.
"Well, of all things look who's here. Come on in," exclaimed the jovial Sam.
It was one of the neatest, most orderly little backyard workshops I had ever seen. And right in the thick of things was my friend, Sam "Snore", bending laboriously over a beautiful scale model of a two-cylinder Detroit gas engine, vintage of the early 1900's.
"I don't believe I'll have this running by the time of the Wauseon Reunion, but I'll take it along for display anyway," smiled Sam, bending like a workshop genius over his beautiful model gas engine. "However. I should have it running by the time I go to Jim Whitby's Reunion at Fort Wayne, Indiana."
"What beautiful bronze castings," I remarked to Sam, noting the cylinder jackets to his little Detroit model.
"Those aren't castings," interrupted Sam, picking up the remaining sheet from an old Stanley Steamer boiler. ''They're made from pieces I cut from this sheet of 40-thousandths copper and silver-soldered together,"quoth he, chuckling proudly as he defied me to find any flaws therein (which I couldn't).
"She's a four-cycle, two-cylinder engine and ready to run, but for finishing out the radiator and cooling system," mused "Snore" as he turned the fly-wheel a time or two.
"And where's the little one-cylinder model of the Sears Roebuck 'Economy' Gas Engine you've been showing and the little pump-jack that goes with it?" queried Sam's inquisitive visitor.
"Right in this case," replied Sam, lifting the lid and exposing to my view one of the finest working models of an internal combustion engine that eye ever beheld at any Gasoline Alley conclave.
Sam "Snore" Schnur looks a little happy as he anticipates completion of beautiful model of 2 cylinder Detroit engine. Note beautiful cylinder jackets which he, fashioned from pieces of old Stanley Stamer boiler plate. If we know Sam, it will work like a watch.
"Let's see if she'll start," said Sam. "I haven't turned it over for a spell."
A couple of routine turns with the choke on, Sam "Snore" gave the flywheels a flip and the tiny model his pride and joy began popping away, just like the old farm engines that used to pump water for the thirsty cows and horses back on Uncle John's farm.
Fetching his tiny pump-jack, and diminutive tin-cup, Sam "Snore" soon had fresh well water coming up and a drink for everyone that is, if a teaspoon of water from the tiny cup could be called a drink.
"This is my lathe and drill press," pointed out Sam as we toured his well-appointed workshop. "And here's a little steam traction engine my wife bought for me many years ago."
"Used to thresh in the ring around Alvordton," said Sam. "But when the ring broke up, I up and built my own thresher, a 22 by 36 separator, and did my own threshing for nine years."
A visit in his little garage, adjoining his workshop, revealed prototypes of many old and historic gas engines, single and double flywheel, one and two-cylinder, two and four-cycle types. And there was that old "Excelsior" Motorcycle that Sam used to ride in his younger days and still does, not to mention his faithful little Studebaker "Lark" which fetches both Sam and his models to all the reunions he attends either alone or in the company of Carlton Wiesel, the team of which always heads the fine model display at the National Threshermen's Reunion each year.
"Nice little lathe here," quoth I, bending bug-eyed over a neat package of machinery atop one of Sam "Snore's" benches.
"I made that lathe years ago for turning out small parts," reminisced the ingenious Sam.
"When I get a little tired I just curl up over there", mused Sam, pointing to an old sofa in the corner of his garage where, like Edison, "Snore" catches up on snores between jobs.
A knock on the shop door brought the queries of a young farm neighbor who wanted Sam to "tune up" a two-wheeled garden plow.
Bronson brothers' (Otsego, Michigan) Rumely Oil Pull 16-30 at Galesburg, Michigan, Steam Rodeo several years ago.
"Leave it here for a few days and I'll see what I can do," said Sam, ignoring the sign on his door which read, "No More Repair Work."
"Be see in' you at the reunions, Sam," we said as we waved goodbye.
"So glad you dropped by," replied Sam, grinning from ear to ear.
And away we drove, satisfied that the Spark Plug of the Month was no more vicious or frightening in his native lair than at the Gasoline Alley reunions and quite as friendly.
Let's keep it that way, Sam. (Do I hear a resounding, "Amen", from Brother Elmer?)