In October 1993 I was laid off from my job of 22-1/2 years at a power company in Connecticut and decided to go back to Vermont where I had grown up.
In November 1993 my wife, Ruth, and I decided to try to start a club at our old country store. The store had been closed since 1972 and we had bought it in 1991. At our first meeting six interested people decided to forge ahead and organize an antique collectors club, naming it the Connecticut River Antique Collectors Klub. Through the following months we worked on a food booth and the old barn that had previously collapsed during a windstorm. We held our first show the last week of August 1994, and we had a total of 35 exhibitors attending. The club has continued to grow each year since then, with a membership of 165 families in 2001. The ladies are just as active in this club as the men are, and this factor has helped the club grow in leaps and bounds, with 172 exhibitors in place for our 2001 show.
After that first show, Gabe Machado of Albany, Vt. donated a 40 HP Bessemer oil field engine for display at the show field. It is run at all of our shows and enjoyed by many, as these types of engines were not used in this New England area.
Members have donated many pieces of equipment and we have built a 50-foot pole shed to house some of it. The old store building has been turned into a museum, housing samples of some of the many different collections of our members, including items such as milk bottles, salt and pepper shakers, coffee grinders and a turn of the century kitchen where the ladies display their collections of dishes and cookware. There is also a working print shop and a collection of over 30 washing machines and 50 or more different chamber pots and bedpans. For those interested in toys there are tractors, trucks, fire trucks and construction toys to see, too.
The original town post office in the old store has been restored, with some of the original books found on site displayed in the post office. A maple sugar house has been constructed, complete with antique sugar-making equipment, sample syrup cans, old sap spouts and pails, metal pipeline and molds for making sugar.
Out in the barn you will find a collection of milking equipment, a display of butter-making equipment and a collection of grain-grinding equipment. An ice pit is under the floor of the barn, and antique ice-harvesting tools and tools related to the use of ice are also displayed. My grandfather was a local blacksmith back in the early part of the century, so we have set up a blacksmith shop in memory of him on the side of the barn.
The club is very active throughout the year, with an antique snowmobile show and an ice cutting demonstration each February. We have an antique tractor caravan in July and again in October for a foliage run, and have had as many as 16 tractors and trailers take part in the caravan.
The club is now in the process of setting up an 1864 Lane #1 sawmill donated by the Cook family from Norwich, Vt, that we hope to have running by this fall. At our Aug. 24-25, 2002 show we will be celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Great Fuller & Johnson Rally that was held in Baraboo, Wis. in 1992. We hope to have many of the owners of these fine engines attend and display their toys. Vern Kindschi will be here to speak on the history of Fuller & Johnson and many other activities are planned for the show.
We wish to thank all of the collectors from both the U.S. and Canada who have made this club such a great success over the past nine years.
Contact engine enthusiasts Doug and Ruth Driscoll at: R.R. 1, Box 401, Ely, VT 05045 or 802-333-3243.