Fairbanks Survives War Effort!


| August/September 1993



1610 N. West Street Carroll, Iowa 51401

I saw this Fairbanks the first time in 1934. I was 18 at the time, and my dad and I were inspecting a farm he had just taken possession of, about 10 miles from our home.

The Fairbanks had been abandoned a few years earlier. It was new to me, as it was a single cylinder with a box on the side with a stall for four telephone batteries, and a Model T Ford coil with a knife switch on the side. It had the gas cap removed, and the tank was rusted out. It was quite a find for a boy, so we took it along home.

This was in the 'dirty Thirties,' the days of lost farms; people needed money and the German and Irish mix population needed a bracer to face the realities of the times. You have to remember this was Carroll County, the home of Templeton Rye, and the entrepreneur of the times filled the need. This explains the desperate need for a reliable source of power when the wind didn't blow for the windmill. When the mash was ready they needed water right now. The steady 'Hiff, sutt, sutt, hiff!' of the hit and miss engine meant that the moon shiners were at it. The hog in the barn needed a soothing, cooling of his coil. No one complained about this arrangement, and the hog in the barn was moved frequently from place to place to break the trail for the agents. Occasionally, the raiders did catch a shiner and he was jailed, but always his friends bailed him out the same day and things were back to normal shortly.

Well, I took this discarded engine home and started to fix it up. The gas cap was gone and the tank rusted out, so a tin can set under the check valve became the gas tank. Next I' needed ignition, so instead of four dry cells I persuaded Dad to buy a Hot-Shot from the Gambles Store. They cost 98 cents, no tax. It didn't take long to get things working. I hooked it up to the well behind the grove. I found a half can of gas, and a squirt of oil in the oiler produced a stock tank of water. This worked well for the summer. (We pumped by hand in the winter.) But the next year the battery was nearly dead and Dad said, 'I just bought you one last year!' I learned fast that cranking an engine with a low battery is a burn-out sport. I knew that mags were available at the time, so I asked at Auto-Motive Electric in Carroll. He was sure they were available. Later on at a car service visit at their place they said they had the magneto, but the price was way out of my reach, so no deal. I just used old car batteries and they usually lasted through the summer.

Several years later, after I was on my own, I got to talking to the boss at the shop and he wanted to sell me the mag for $5.00.