| May/June 1981

  • Antique Power Show'

  • Don Ruth's mannequin station
    Don Ruth's mannequin station attendant offers gasoline at the right price! (Photo courtesy of Don Oberholtzer.)
    Don Oberholtzer

  • Antique Power Show'
  • Don Ruth's mannequin station

It was Saturday afternoon, August 2, 1980, at the rolling showgrounds of Portersville, Pennsylvania. This being the third day of the 18th annual 'Antique Power Show' and one more day to go, activity was at an all time high. As you looked down from the main entrance, the festivities appeared like a colorful ant farm of 'Portersville Puffers'! Weather had been rather co-operative for 3 days now and things were going fine.

Crowds of friendly people were enjoying steam operated train rides, saw milling, threshing, baling, well drilling, etc. Many spectators smiled with the afternoon parade of antique tractors, autos, trucks, and old equipment. Others could be seen bargaining in the flea markets, admiring the 'Smithy,' petting the animals, or just browsing in the main exhibit hall.

The Ladies Auxiliary had just finished serving their delicious 'Thresherman's Dinner' in the food pavillion. Most folks were through eating.

I had returned to the old gas station which I had been managing somewhat during the show, to chat with some friends and pump gas for the exhibitors. My friend, Don Ruth, an antique car buff, mentioned the strange dark clouds not far off. He said we should cover up his Model 'T' touring just in case of rain. It sat outside in front of the pumps. With one look at the sky and feeling the wind, I knew there was no time for talking. People were running for cover in all directions. We just tied down the last tarp rope when the ensuing storm hit. Don, his wife Millie, my family and about six other people plus myself piled into the Portersville Petroleum Station. This was about 7:00 P.M.

Peering out the front windows, flea market tents were seen whipping violently, boxes flying by, trees bending over, and sheets of rain pelting down a real deluge. To the side of the station the small bridge with a 2' diameter drain was gulping muddy water. In about 10 minutes the rushing water from the hillsides overran the drain and rose about 6' over the bridge road. We later learned that the lower showgrounds area was handling about 3 to 4 feet of water under the trestle. Meanwhile inside, I wondered to myself if the roof could hold up to the wind. You see, the station construction was just finished the week before the show opened. The roof was old corrugated sheet metal and the rest of the building was other used materials. As the rain continued its deafening roar on the roof, it was also creeping under the door! The door sill is 1? above ground level and protected in front by a 12' long overshot roof that's 12' wide. Real wind velocity!

Looking out through the side windows, some 40 gas tractors were holding their own to the left and on the right were nearly 200 gas engines staying 'glued to the ground' as they're famous for doing! Through the torrents I could see one old Hercules still running fine just like nothing special was happening!


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