Tom Starling, Auburn Hills, Michigan: 'A Family Portrait'
10634 Oakford, White Lake, Michigan 48386
Okay, it's my turn!! I'm not going to write about anything that has to do with Emerson-Brantingham! Like the other 'better-halves' out there, I have been dragged to more engine shows than I care to count; to the point where I actually liked going to them. But I always felt like I was John's Wife not Phyllis. So it was time to assert myself and come up with something for ME.
We were at the Caro, Michigan engine show several years ago and doing what I used to do bestwaiting for JOHN when I wandered over to a trailer that I hadn't seen before. Yes there were iron 'thingies' on it and they were all painted up real nice, but I didn't recognize any of the names. You see I had just gotten to the point where I recognized Deere, Economy, and even Springfield, Olds and Domestic, but these were all new. Names like Hargrove, Ball, Schultz, Aldrige, and Lennox. Also, they didn't run, there was no gas, oil, or water leaking, and yet everyone was stopping to look and point.
I asked the man who owned the display what kind of engines they were and he replied, 'These aren't engines Miss, these are genuine, certified hog oilers.'
'You bet! Okay John (where are you?!) I'm ready now!'
Hmmmm, no John, I'm trapped. OK, composure time.
'All right, I give up, what is a hog oiler?'
This man looked me right in the eye and with a very serious tone said, 'Well, it is a device that farmers used at the turn of the century to put oil on their hogs. That way the bacon won't stick to the frying pan during the cooking process.'
'You bet!...John...John (where did he go) I really am ready to go now!'
Well, now I was stranded here with this man and his display and a bunch of smiling people. I started to walk away, but you know what? I couldn't. I kept going back and looking closer and the owner kept explaining more not only about how they worked, but where they originated, why they originated, and why there were so many different kinds.
Finally, John came back from the flea market with more EB stuff that he couldn't live without and I told him to look closely at these things and see if he knew what they were. He looked closely alright, but had no idea what they were.
'Hog oilers!' I proclaimed and the man winked in acknowledgement. 'And you know what, I want to start collecting them!' For the first time, John was speechless. I had the pleasure of introducing him to the man who introduced me to hog oilers, Mr. Tom Starling.
I didn't take an oiler home with me that day. In fact, it wasn't until the next spring that anything happened. John went to Waukee, Iowa, for the Swap. (I had to work!) He got home when I wasn't there, and when I arrived he had a surprise for me sitting on the hearth in the family room. Under a blanket, I found a beautiful, rusty Emerson-Brantingham hog oiler! Now before all you collectors go ballistic and start calling me, let me explain. Another pair of collectors, Bob and Louise Coats from Wisconsin, had found a nice Farm-Master double wheeler and thought that this would be a good first oiler. They brought it over to Tom Starling's spot and left it there. Tom proceeded to very carefully draw the Emerson-Brantingham logo on it with chalk and that convinced John he should buy it for me. And that is how I got my first oiler.
Are there more, you ask. As husband John said in one of his articles in GEM, 'Show me an old iron man (or WOMAN!) who has just one piece of iron, and I'll show you an old iron PERSON who is in desperate need of a rusty fix.'
Since that 'EB' hog oiler, I have acquired many different oilers, which get blasted and painted and take up prominent space in our family room. (Well, I guess now the living room too!) And as soon as John moves his engine junk out of the garage, I'll have that space as well!
Speaking of collections...the pictures show you a family portrait that is, to say the least, unique. In August of '93, several of us gathered at Tom Starling's home in Michigan, and pulled off what many collectors dream of doing. We pulled all of Tom's oilers out of the barn, the garage, the shed, and behind the trees and arranged them for one big picture. We started early on a Saturday morning and by noon had them all arranged as you see in the picture. There were a couple of showers, a little sun, and a whole lot of hog oilers. Husband John snapped the camera, then I snapped the camera, and then our son, and then our daughter, and then I don't know maybe one of the hogs took a picture! At any rate, we all had a wonderful time. There are somewhere around 100 different oilers laid out here (many, many people have counted them in the picture, and to date we still get different numbers). Suffice to say, that it was a whole bunch of iron!! After pictures and lunch and lots of 'hog talk,' came the obvious: Tom said, 'Time to put them back.'
'Wouldn't it be easier to just move to Portland up here this year,' son John pipes up.
So after several hours (actually many hours) we got 'em all back in their respective spots and headed for home. It was a great dayno, a special dayand one that I think will stay with us for a long time. What made it possible? Not the back-breakers and not the photographers. It was Tom and people like him who have the notion to hang onto a little piece of the past for the rest of us to appreciate and enjoy for many years to come. Thanks, Tom!
Finally, I need to say a special thanks to some 'old iron' people who have really helped and encouraged me with my unique hobby. So to Bob and Louise, to the Brubakers, the Barthelds, to Dick Bostick, my father-in-law Les Brantingham, and most importantly to Tom Starling and his wife Thelma: thanks so much for all your help and support.
Of course, we're now into hog holders, scrapers, T-shirts, mugs, hog waterers, and hog stuff in general and if any of you stop by our display and ask what a hog oiler doessomething about bacon sticking?