Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'
That old-time American custom of grabbing your spouse, staking your claim and making good in the world in the tender years of youth hasn't altogether vanished from the land.
For Spark Plug Joe King of 1121 Central Ave., Greenville, Ohio, the Horatio Alger version of yankee enterprise severing family ties and getting out on your own early in life is the true pay off in both marital bliss and success in whatever one lays a hand to.
Learning to do those boyhood chores on the farm without grumbling-rising at the crowing of the cock and the crack o' dawn to lug in the kitchen kindling, milk the family cows and put a youthful hand to the plow to turn a straight furrow-these are the priceless lessons that still pay off in an otherwise mad, mad, riot-torn world.
'I was married when I was sixteen,' says, Spark Plug, Joe King, defying any modern court of marital relations to say it hasn't worked. 'Back on Dad's farm we milked sixty-five cows every day, did custom baling and combining, repaired all our own equipment, and did all our own welding. '
'When I got married, I cut all family ties, started out on my own, been working at two jobs every day since and at thirty-four I feel I've earned the right to begin slowing down, taking things a little easier and enjoying life,' sums up Joe at an age when many young family men are still looking forward to a day when they can begin making payments on a home of their own or depositing their first hundred dollars in the banks.
'Nobody has given me anything. All we've got we've accumulated over the years by my worldly working' says King, who owns his own lovely modern home, workshop and garage, besides another workshop in a neighboring village and his own thriving business.
But in owning his own 'business' Spark Plug Joe King is not boasting of any modern, computerized sales service or financial scheme, the life of which so many present-day junior executives may lay claim to.
For Joe King, his work-a-day world and his hobby consist of a strange ad-mixture of rebuilding and rehabilitating spark plugs, both old and young-the ingredients of which consist of both horse flesh and rusty iron.
Our Spark Plug restores old spark plugs in both flesh and rusty iron--Son, Rodney King (left) helps Dad, Spark Plug Joe King, shoe family horse - Fire Cracker Vick.
In his early days of being on his own, Joe hired out to Copp Excavating Co., and later with Kramer Brothers of Eaton, Ohio. Here it was that he learned how to drive and repair the heavy equipment, such as bull-dozers, graders and the like. While with the Kramers, who had some old steam thresh engines standing around he not only learned to know more about heavy equipment, but also acquired a 'first love' for the older engines.
As time went on, Joe King learned the ancient art of the blacksmithy to a degree of perfection that made him much in demand around the area county fair race-ways.
'For five years I shoed race horses at the Eaton, Ohio, race tracks. Later I went to the race tracks near Columbus, Ohio, but now am doing blacksmithing for the horse barns at the Darke County Fairgrounds here at Greenville,' says he. 'I built me a combination trailer with living quarters and space for transport-tin my blacksmith equipment-an vil, forge and all the tools that go with it. Every Friday I go to Celine, Ohio, fair grounds where I live in my trailer and shoe the horses right on location'.
In way of passing the patriarchal knowledge down to the next generation, Joe King is seeing to it that some of his 'horse knowledge' rubs off onto sonny boy-seventeen year old Rodney King. Besides helping Dad with the shoeing of the horses 'round county fairgrounds raceways, young Rod trains and helps care for five horses at the Darke County barns. And, when it comes to shoeing and caring for one of the family-owned equines, such as Fire Cracker Vick, well that truly is a father-son deal with co-op proportions.
But over and above the family income that's realized from practicing the ancient art of blacksmithing in a modern world, there has been emerging a new sort of hobby parelleling that of shoeing flesh-and-blood spark plugs - that of getting old spark plugs to firing once again in rusty old gas engines and tractors that Dad and son have been laboring over the past few years.
'Altogether I guess I've got about twenty-seven old gas engines,' says Joe King, taking note of the various nameplates and vintages around his workshop, while counting on his fingers, 'Mogul, Titan, Tom Thumb, Witte, Fairbanks-Morse Cushmans, Ottawa, an International 6 Hp. to name some of them that I have here and down at my other shop in the old popcorn mill I bought out at Jaysville.'
Two of Joe King's rare old engines, a one-horse Mogul and a beautifully- reconstructed Tom Thumb single-horse which he has on display in his shop window, had been sold five years ago to Pennsylvania Railroad engineer, Herman Cull of Richmond, Ind. But then, in the intervening years, the gas-engine bug began biting into the King flesh, and Joe bought 'em back from Cull.
Spark Plug Joe King looks over one of his prized and rare gas engines-a Tom Thumb one-lunger. It had a 'busted' piston, and Joe replaced it with one from another engine. Note it's already on wood runners and handles, ready for the summer shows.
'That old Tom Thumb was frozen and had a 'busted' piston,' says King. 'But I worked it over and replaced the piston with one from another engine that fit, then I painted her up to look real nice.'
'You can see it's mounted on a wooden carrying platform with handles,' pointed out Spark Plug King. 'She's all ready for this Summer's shows.'
'Here's another of my rarest engines,' explained King, stooping down to fidget with the carburetor and throttle of an old maynard Engine, likewise mounted on wood, ready for moving trucks.
'This old one-horse Maynard, made for the Charles William Stores Industry of New York, number 5940 -- probably an old mail-order firm, -was given to me by a fellow for installing a new set of points in his truck,' muses Spark Plug Joe. 'It also had a 'busted' piston in it, but I've replaced that, cleaned it up and painted it and now it's ready for for the reunions.'
One of the more heftier projects in the King workshop, however, looms over the lesser old gas engines in the form of a half-sized Rumely Oil-Pull model which our busy Spark Plug is right in the thick of getting ready for the summer gasoline alley reunions.
'I got me an old six horse, governor-controlled International, serial number M 450, from Emory Thompson of Versailles at last year's Darke County Threshers. Thought it would be just right to power my Rumely Oil-Pull model,' explains Spark Plug Joe King who figures it will lend sufficient power to pull the hat off your head.
'For a model, that's going to be a big one, Joe,' said Joe to Joe.
'Yep-she'll be a big one all right, and have some pull, Joe,' replied Joe to Joe.
Looking the Oil-Pull model over, I felt there were some pretty nice pieces of workmanship attached thereto, sufficient to require a few explanations.
'This main-drive chain sprocket wheel, I salvaged from some junked farm machinery, and cut out the large center hole on a lathe at Harold Fleisch's machine shop at West Alexandria, Ohio,' pointed out Spark Plug Joe King.
'The whole thing's made out of parts from old tractors and junk yards,' said King. 'It has a 10-20 International front end, an F-12 International rear-end and transmission, Allis-Chalmers fenders, Allis-Chalmers reduction gear box, GP John Deer rear wheels, New Idea Manure Spreader front wheels and a Studebaker truck gear-box for steering.'
One of the neatest jobs I noticed, exhibiting Spark Plug King's skill as both blacksmith and machinist, was the way he'd cut down the front wheels from manure spreader size, and reformed and welded the outer rims to a fit of perfection.
'A fellow can do about anything in metal if he's a mind to,' says Joe.
'Worked long and steady over the years - never had a vacation,' pines Spark Plug Joe King, looking back over his thirty-four years. 'Guess I've earned it to slow down a bit and enjoy going to the gas engine reunions with my family. My wife, Doris, who runs the local Welcome Wagon for new babies, my daughter, Bonnie (15), a sophomore in high school, and Rodney - they all enjoy these engines and the reunions as much as I.'
'So -- guess this summer well be shoving off for our first vacation around the Reunions,' says our Spark Plug. 'Woody Turner, President of Tri-State, keeps dropping in now and then to see how things are shaping up with me for the summer.'
Hop up to your niche in our Spark Plug Hall of Fame, Joe King. We render our eternal thanks not only for your labors at restoring old gas engines and building your half-size Rumely Oil-Pull for others to see, but for your efforts at preserving the fine and ancient art of blacksmithing to a stage of perfection.
To you we award a fresh and sparkling pouch of 'Red Man' to fill up your jowls to ease your burdens whether beating out a rythm on Old Dobbin's hooves or beating out an iron bracket for 01' Rumely on the blacksmith anvil.
May you, Spark Plug Joe King, in your ripe old age of thirty-four, begin taking life easy by chugging up gasoline alley's straight-ways on your one-lung Oil-Pull jitney-towing all your old engines behind you-(like the tail of Mary's li'l lamb wagging behind it).
Spark Plug Joe King works at finishing his half-size Rumely Oil-Pull for summer's shows. It will be powered by a six-horse International engine he swapped for at last summer's Darke County Threshers. View shows skill at cutting down and reworking rims of old manure spreader wheels at the front.
A Silver King Tractor, S/N4272, made by Fate Root Heath at Plymouth, Ohio. It has a Hercules model IXB motor. All these engines and tractor are in fine running condition and were among the 80 gas engines shown at Georgian Bay District Steam Auto, Gas and Antique display at Collingwood, Ontario, Canada on Civic Holiday weekend. I can just remember when gas engines were in general use and now I enjoy fixing them up.
Spark Plug Joe King looks over a rare Maynard one-horse engine. Some fellow gave him this one for installing a new set of points in a truck. A nice swap, we'll say, eh Joe.