It was the last days of summer 2000, the time of year when the
air turns crisp and the breeze has a slight chill in it. It was
also time for the annual Susquehanna Old-Fashioned Field Days, a
community show that among other things features old gas engines and
Stored in our trailer were four New Way engines, clean and
polished with flywheels gleaming not a speck of rust to be seen.
Eddie had tied them down, and they were ready to move to
Bain-bridge, Pennsylvania. On Friday, the 16th of September, he
hauled the engines north from Mount Joy along Route 441 (River
Road) to the northwestern tip of Lancaster County. It took less
than one half hour to get to the manicured Conoy Township Park
which was beginning to show signs of life. The Boy Scouts were on
the job early, directing traffic in an efficient manner. You could
see they were experienced at their assignment. Bainbridge is
located a few miles south of the infamous Three Mile Island, where
a partial melt down occurred in 1979. Interestingly enough, I
discovered on the Web that nearby there is a tiny resort area along
the Susquehanna River called the Bainbridge Scuba Diving Club.
Susquehanna Old Fashioned Field Days is definitely a family
affair. There are the three generations of the Williams family and
its well known apple press. Darl Williams is the owner of the
press. His brothers and sons, Jeff, Mike and Ben take turns manning
the operation powered by a 2 HP Witte gas engine. His three
grandsons, Ty, Ted and Cole were present, but much too young to be
interested in the operation. The brave sons never seem to notice
the very determined bees thirsty for the sweet apple juice, but you
better believe I keep a safe distance from them.
Next to the cider press a young man, Jay Williams, who set his l
HP Hercules gas engine up to operate an ice cream maker. I did not
keep my distance from the chocolate ice cream. It was so good.
Darl is one of the men instrumental in getting the field days
started. He usually has breakfast at the cozy Homestead Village
Restaurant next to the park. One day he and Alma Zeigler, the owner
of the restaurant, had a short conversation which grew to what is
now one of the area’s big events, maybe equal only to the Goat
Races at nearby Falmouth.
Alma is very interested in the local history and its people.
This is evident by the interesting pictures hanging on the walls of
the restaurant. They take you back to the heydays of the canal and
the commerce that went on there as pioneers whose hearts were
filled with dreams of a new start in the west began their
Darl, on the other hand has a desire to save the old farming and
historical items once used to build this busy, thriving community
along the Susquehanna River. During the field days, the horse drawn
wagon tours take you through the area where you can imagine the
‘good old days.’ A most willing tour guide is available on
Saturday from morning to dusk to share her knowledge with you.
There is a family of three generations that help to coordinate
the show. First there is Ron Bernhard Sr., who told me the reason
why he helps with the show. Ron said ‘I am a motor head, and my
life is in what I have done with my hands.’
A few years ago Ron bought a threshing machine from Robert
McKinney, a tall rugged individual with snow-white hair. He came
from his farm in Huntingdon County to see his wonderful old Shaffer
Merkel grain separator in operation again. Robert grew up on this
farm with his twin sister. Thelma carved out a place in history as
a good thresher woman. Her name is etched on the elevator along
with notches she carved out as she counted the bags filled with the
Robert’s sentimental attachment to this old, well-kept
machine is evident as he watches it run. He remembers the many
years the family worked together from dawn until dark for eight
weeks during harvest time. In the old days the family used a Model
A Ford with a pulley assembly off the back end of the transmission
to accomplish this work. The pulley assembly was sold from a Sears
& Roebuck catalog that had almost everything a farmer needed.
This threshing machine was used on the family farm from the 1930s
to the 1990s when he sold it to Ron.
Saturday, a 6 HP Gray engine was the threshing machine. It is a
local engine from nearby Elizabethtown. In years gone by the engine
was used on a planning mill. It powered a Columbia winch. The winch
was connected to a wooden elevator and rope to hoist building
materials in old manufacturing plants that still stand. Today these
buildings have been made into attractive apartments or useful
Come Sunday, an interesting Associated gas engine that belongs
to Ron Bernhard was the power unit that made the thresher work. The
8 HP Associated was made in Waterloo, Iowa. It is a horse-drawn
type of engine with a riding box and a footrest. This interesting
engine with the roll top water hopper is named ‘The 8 Mule Team
Ron and his dad really put a lot of time and effort into making
the engine display area orderly and viewer-friendly. Ron’s son,
Mitchell, 10 years old, is the official greeter and hospitality
committee all rolled into one. Mitchell always has a bright smile
and cheery hello. He sometimes has a riddle or joke to tell. At the
show he told me he has a pig that blows smoke out his snout and a
horse that blows smoke out his ears. I think he said they were
angry. I discovered these iron critters were very attached to the
Maytag engines. How’s that, Mitchell? I can hear him say,
His mom, Tonya Bernhard, is the coordinator of the engine area
of the Old Fashioned Field Days. Tonya and her helper, Sandy Baker,
checks us all in and gives us great display identification
material. They are very organized.
This year in memory of Ed Grimsey, Tonya had the 6 HP Vertical
New Way he restored pictured on both the tee shirts and
sweatshirts. She kept that a surprise, and it touched my heart.
That’s an example of the heartbeat of a gas engine person.
Tonya has her own business making great engine carts. Listen up you
menbuy a sturdy cart from Tonya. Get a grip don’t be
The Hunts of Columbia, Pennsylvania, displayed an interesting
old Conestoga wagon. This wagon surely looked like it would produce
a rough ride. It was, however, strong and well built by good
craftsmen of that era. I’ll take my Ford diesel over them,
although on any given wet day it gets wimpy and needs a tractor to
Cameron Reigle and his wife Billy-Jo have a great collection of
pedal tractors. They are transported in a classy enclosed trailer
with colorful pedal cars painted on it. I mention Billy-Jo because
I watched her help Cameron unload these heavy toys. I can see she
is a very good wife. In his youth, Cameron never had a pedal
tractor and worked hard on his dad’s farm. He has restored some
of these tractors and says restoration parts are readily available,
except the body parts that have a waiting period of six months.
Cameron also likes to obtain old, clean tractors in original
This interesting family has expanded their interest as
proprietors of Bill’s Toy Shop, Down on the Farm, Central
Pennsylvania’s newest farm toy store. The store is housed in a
restored-to-original section of his father’s old barn located
at 405 South Deodate Road, Middletown, Pennsylvania. E-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org. I talked to Harold Seibert. Like his father
before him, Harold likes to build gas engine models. He has very
pretty (sorry men) engines, a Domestic, Red Wing, Meyers and Olds,
and one Flamelicker model that he made from scratch from plans out
of an old Popular Science magazine article. His son, Randy, also
carries on the tradition. Models always make a bright and shiny
addition to an engine show. I say ‘pretty’ because I think
they would look nice as part of the decor in a family room. Many of
you will remember Harold’s father, Dick Seibert, who displayed
engines and helped with the Rough and Tumble Show at Kinzers,
Eddie and Donny Grove set up next to each other. Donny is a
perfectionist and his engines show it. Among his many well restored
engines he brought his new unrestored Handy Andy. It once belonged
to me, but I couldn’t stand that look of longing on his face
one day, so I sold it to him. The engine needed a coil. He found
one, and my (oops) I meanhis engine ran like a champ that day.
Once again the faithful old winch noisily cranked up and
Eddie’s four New Ways rolled down the ramps. Many commented on
the shiny flywheels that were loaded with that Gibbs stuff. The
engine people and the crowd remembered them from last year and
stopped by to watch them run and visit with us as they ran all day
long for two days.
A few of us invited Jack Alleman from Halifax to bring his 15 HP
Reid oil field engine down to the show. It recently was rescued out
of an oil field ten miles north of Oil City, well head #15 at
Cenpenco. The engine dates back from 1902 to 1910. Bob has it
running very smoothly on propane. This large engine parked next to
the threshing machine drew a crowd, as the local people had never
seen one like it before.
The show had a big variety of tractors, some trucked in on large
rigs. They were all very well restored, and the people enjoyed
seeing them in the daily parade.
Adjacent to our spot was the Lee Singer family from Columbia.
They seemed to adopt Eddie’s lively puppy, Tabby, for the
afternoon. Their family circle included her as she sat proudly in
the center enjoying their love and attention. Lee and Millie are
the proud owners of a nice tractor that I like very much. It’s
pictured here, at right.
The Oliver HG-43 Cletrac was rescued from the scrap yard by Lee
when his neighbor agreed to sell it to him. Lee had never been to
an engine or tractor show, so he took his time doing the
restoration. He completed it on September 5, 1998, in time to bring
it to the Old Fashioned Field Day Show that year. It is a single
row tractor. Though smaller than many tractors, it is an eye
catching piece of equipment, and it holds its own in any tractor
parade as an outstanding old piece of machinery. It has a pressed
paper pulley on it. It is a wonder to me that the pulley is still
in great condition. This family is enjoying the fruits of Lee’s
labor as they find a home in the friendly atmosphere of the show.
It was good being neighbors with them. Their son, like mine, is
interested in auto racing, but one day we are sure they will both
Perhaps from spectator view the most important facet of the Old
Fashioned Days is the talent folks display as they show their
crafts, and the variety of activities that take place during this
show. There is always something going on for the children, mostly
without cost. They are old fashioned games, face painting, singers,
dancers and storytellers, and flea market vendors.
Among all the activities we are blessed with are the young
children, our most precious possessions. For two days they take
unlimited turns riding free of charge in the barrel train
throughout the show grounds. Their smiling faces are the payment
for our efforts, as we smile and wave back to them. The
children’s delight is made possible by the Bernhard and the
Williams family who put the barrel train together, and Paul and
Verna Brubaker who brought their model Oil Pull to give relief to
the John Deere tractor that pulls the train.
Many area residents attend the Sunday morning church service.
After the service, the large crowd fans out from the bandstand to
the many food concessions run by local organizations. Also
available are delicious meals served at the restaurant.
Their Mission Statement says it all, and I quote:
‘To provide a weekend of fun, education, and promoting pride
in the community. With this is mind, we will encourage family
participation, keeping the costs affordable, along with including a
touch of history, religion and hands-on learning in our
programming. We will strive to have enough money left each year,
from the celebration, to promote Susquehanna Old Fashioned Field
Days the following year.’
The folks to thank for it are Barb Alleman, Kim Alleman, Ron
Bernhard II, Jill Bartles, Earl Fuhrman, Randy Keck, John Lokey,
Cindy Smith, David Stapler, Nancy Sweigart, Darl Williams and Anna
Zeager, Greg Good, Harold Gerber, and Pam Kern-Clouser.
The sponsors of the food are the willing workers of the local
churches, the Conoy Lions, and the Bainbridge Fire Company.
Each year, we look back to a job well done!
A Show with a heart that features life in the quiet communities
along the Susquehanna River. A celebration that has room to expand
as the years go by.