Windmill--part of Sam Lowrey's display from Rome, Georgia, shown in Knoxville last October.
7828 Old Dixie Highway, Spring City, Tennessee 37381
It was a beautiful weekend with just a hint of fall in the air. A few brightly colored leaves were finding their way to the ground. This was Knoxville, Tennessee, on October 16, 17 and 18 of 1998. Knoxville is the home of the Vols University of Tennessee, and it lies almost in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains. Here is where the Holston and French Broad Rivers meet to form the Tennessee. From this point the Tennessee starts its 650-mile flow to the Ohio River. When at Knoxville, I was in the 'Tennessee Valley.'
After taking exit 8 off of Rt. 640, I came to the Knox County Farmers Market. I was met with an array of orange and all other colors of fall as they were gearing up for the children and the Pumpkin Festival the next day. Then I noticed still another array of colors just to the right of the pumpkin area. The bright red, green, blue and orange of tractors, and engines with spoked flywheels, met my eye. I had arrived at the fifth annual show of the Tennessee Valley Flywheelers and I was soon in a sea of spinning flywheels and tall tractor tires.
Over the aroma of new tires and engine exhaust, I kept noticing another faint aroma. This one beckoned me to follow, and I soon found the source at the 'Flywheel Cafe.' A wood-burning range with many old kitchen utensils were being used by ladies in long dresses and bonnets as they served biscuits, sausage, gravy and coffee. On the stove was a huge pot of soup simmering for the noon meal. Beans and cornbread were also slated for lunch. This took me back to the days when the thrasher went from farm to farm and the farmer's wives got together to cook a feast.
It is said that behind every successful man is a working woman. This saying is so true for a successful club also, and at this event this was very evident as the club ladies staffed the cafe, the nurse's station, registration, the gate, and many other chores, so the men could tend to their engines, tractors and other exhibits.
After fortifying myself with goodies from the cafe, I started looking at the exhibits. Molasses was being made, corn was being ground into meal, coffee beans were being turned into useable coffee, a shingle mill was turning out cedar shakes, and most were using antique power.
The Eclipse windmill (also called wind engine in earlier times) drew a lot of attention. Here in East Tennessee we just don't have many windmills and to see one working, pumping water, was quite a novelty. I overheard one man jokingly remark, 'It is a good thing there is only one windmill here, as there isn't enough wind to run two mills.'
The 1910 pattern lathe, belted to an 'A' Farmall, was turning out cedar walking sticks continually, all just like the 'twist shape' pattern.
Periodically a blast from a train whistle, or the clanging of a bell, reminded people of the large railroad exhibit on the north end. A working Delco electric system caught my eye as the little engine drank the kerosene and turned it into electrical energy to run the pump, fan and lights. This display had been put together and shown by a man from Kentucky, now deceased. I know he would have been proud that his son and grandson were continuing this in his honor. Several displays of old tools gave notice of how far our tool technology has come. Scattered throughout were small model engines running along smoothly, both gas and steam.
I would not attempt to list all of the tractors but I saw some of the best restored tractors I have ever encountered. From these to the still rusty steel wheelers gave one a good picture of what our fathers and grandfathers used as 'state of the art' in their day, to get away from the horse. In East Tennessee it would more likely have been the 'mule.'
Everywhere you looked were vendors, so you could buy about anything from coils to manuals, oilers to tractor tires, small engines to antiques to help in our quest to restore.
The walk-behind tractors made a good showing, as did the lawn mowers of days gone by. A Maytag powered can crusher of the drop hammer type, complete with a feed conveyor, made quick work of smashing drink cans, much to the delight of the crowd.
I was thrilled and amazed at the engines, from the little Briggs, Clintons and Maytags to the large 15 and 20 HP oil field giants that sounded like light artillery when they fired. A little Stover 'V' one HP was running so quietly that you just couldn't hear it. One engine was riding and running in the back of a restored Model A pickup. Trailers with two to five running engines seemed to be everywhere, and several were for sale. There were a lot of unusual and hard-to-find engines displayed. One thing for sure, the boys at this show knew how to make their engines run and they sure didn't mind letting them spin. There is something about an antique engine running that brings out the mechanic or awareness of physics in us all, a little. To know this same principle, refined and improved, is what brought us all to this place with never a thought of the power plant under the hood and with our biggest concern to adjust the air and radio just right, speaks well of our engineers and technology.
There were exhibitors from Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Texas to make up well over one hundred exhibits. There were 54 tractors and 71 engines registered. This engine number would make one smile as those engine boys came to show and run their engines. To be asked to do some paperwork, to them, is a waste of time, so many only registered one or two when they had maybe five running on their trailer. There were many more than 71 engines.
This was a time and place you could get lost in the past, whatever your interest might be, a place of friendly people willing to help, show or answer any questions you might have. This was a weekend that passed too swiftly.
On behalf of the Tennessee Valley Fly-wheelers I would like to extend a cordial invitation for you to join us in 1999 for our Spring Swap Meet, and for our Fall Show on October 15, 16, and 17. For more information, please contact Lamar Hinds (423) 966-4486 or Benny Slagle (423)-523-7477.