(This article which was brought to us by Bert Dado of Beecher, Illinois on a trip to our area, originally appeared in The Daily Journal, Kankakee, Illinois on November 3, 1985. The article is reprinted here with permission.)
Bert Dado is an enthusiast for the mechanically antique and unique.
On a fine fall afternoon something that seems to be gone for the year you might find him riding what looks like a homemade motorbike around the streets of Beecher.
But the bike only looks home-made. It is actually a 1943 French Solex bike. Its engine rests atop the front wheel, powering the bike by rotors that rub directly on the tire, rather than by chain drive.
The engine can be tilted back easily, converting the vehicle into a regular bicycle.
Dado is more than willing to stop and talk about his rare Solex. When he does, he's likely to hand his visitor a business card that reads 'Bert Dado Gasoline Engine Hobbyist.'
Dado is a tin kererone of many gas engine hobbyists who collect, fix, sell and swap old 'one lunger' engines so called because they have only one cylinder.
These engines were once common through the countryside, where they were used for everything from pumping water, generating electricity, separating cream from fresh milk, and even powering the first 'horseless carriages.'
Retired after being a district sales manager for Gould electrical products, Dado has been tinkering with these old one lungers for about 10 years. 'It gets in your blood,' he said. 'You get to where you can't stay away from auctions, or annual shows.
'I like to rebuild them the way they were years ago,' he said. He's got some experience at that sort of work, being a former tool maker. But, he likes more than the work. 'I like to hear them run.'
In his collection is a 1921 three-quarter horsepower 'Ideal' that came off a country club lawnmower. He has to spin the flywheel a couple of times to get this baby ignited then there's no further need for explanation. Its power cracks in the air Pow! Pow! Pow! pow-pow-powpowpowpowpowpow. Dado has to hold onto its stand with both hands to keep it from jumping off its table.
The 'Ideal' is one of many in Dado's collection. There's and old-as-the-hills Fairbanks and Morse Co. modela common name; a 1934 Stover 1 horsepower that once belonged to Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur's cousin (Dado acquired it in Algonquin, Illinois.). There's an old Maytag but it's a twin cylinder. There's a World War II Signal Corps generator he bought at an auction. It's still in its original Army green crate.
Dado belongs to the Will County Threshermen's Steam and Gas Engine Club, which holds big annual shows at Burns Woods near Deselm. He, other members of the club, and enthusiasts from other groups meet regularly to inspect each other's work and to swap parts, ideas and stories.
The palaver often has a purpose. These hobbyists have to be creative and inventive. Parts for these old machines aren't made anymore. If something breaks, you have to swap for a part or make it yourself. So the swapped stories and ideas can be invaluable, especially in winter, to a guy like Dado. You won't see him riding his Solex around Beecher until next Spring sometime. 'I'm putting it away in mothballs for the winter,' he said. But, you might find him at the Beecher High School shop, where he is allowed to fabricate parts for his one lungers.