HC 32, Box 319 Bath, Maine 04530
This is a 'short' story about a Maytag washing machine restoration project that I began in late November 1994, to be completed by Christmas Day 1994 as a gift to my grandparents. I found out that, as in all restoration projects, it turned out to be much more work than I had anticipated. My father, mother and my VERY understanding wife, Carolyn, came to my rescue in order to help my dream become a reality. I'll begin with a little history on how we became interested in gas engines in the first place.
In 1962 Russell Meixell found a Witte hit-and-miss kerosene (walking beam headless style) engine with the original shipping tag still attached. It had been used a little, but was almost new. He bought it and thus a series of things began that got his son, his grand sons, and his great-grandsons all hooked on gas engines. Katherine, his wife of 65 years, is just as well known at engine shows as he is. At the time I began writing this story, Russell ('Pappy') was 84 and Katherine ('Grammy') was 82. Now, 33 years later, Russell has a very respectable collection of over 100 engines, many of which my father Robert, my brother Bob, and I found for him all over the country. My father has about the same number, and Bob and I have a few interesting machines. Russell is an active member of Blue Mountain Antique Gas and Steam Engine Association and a member of Maine Antique Power Association. My father is one of the founders of MAPA, which participates annually at the Owls Head Transportation Museum Rally in August. Russell, Katherine and Robert have displayed engines at every one of these rallies. 1994 was the twentieth one!
That is a very brief history. You all know how much time, effort and fun go into 30-plus years of collecting. Now on to the actual project:
While visiting my sister in New Jersey, I noticed an old Maytag wringer washing machine sitting outside of an antique shop near her home. I stopped and bought it for a very reasonable price. Much to my wife's dismay, my prize ended up in the back of the van all the way to Florida and then back to my home in Maine! Two years ago I had brought home a Maytag twin cylinder engine from my grandfather's to repair for him. It occurred to me on the way home from Florida that I might install the Maytag twin on the washing machine, and give them to Pappy as a unit. The washing machine was currently equipped with the original electric motor.
I decided that I should try to deter mine which engine was the correct one for the washing machine I had purchased, so I looked in the Gas Engine Magazine classified ads and contacted Mr. L. G. Simpson of Simpson Motors, 3306 Amherst Pike, Madison Heights, Virginia 24572. Mr. Simpson through out my entire project turned out to be a wealth of information and a very patient supplier of parts and advice to a novice Maytag restorer. Many thanks to him for his help
Mr. Simpson led me to Schaffer's Appliances, 1054 North Hampton Street, Easton, Pennsylvania. Ron Schaffer was able to date my washing machine between 1927 and 1930 and also told me that the engine that really belonged on this machine was a long frame base, single cylinder engine and not the twin that Pappy had given me to fix. Now what do I do?
I remembered that on one of my visits to Pappy's when I was a teenager that we had fooled around with a one cylinder Maytag and had it running, but it wouldn't start hot. This was twenty years ago! My father happened to be visiting Pappy while I was restoring this washing machine, so I asked him to locate this single cylinder Maytag and bring it back to Maine with him on the premise that I needed to look at it to fix an engine of my own. It turned out that the engine my father brought up for me to 'look at' was a long frame single of the correct era.
With the correct engine on hand the restoration process began with taking everything apart on both the washing machine and the engine. Parts were cleaned with a parts washer and for the rusted cast iron parts of the washing machine I used as fine grade of Black Beauty sandblasting grit to prepare for painting. On the engine Mr. Simpson recommended walnut shell as the abrasive, because it does no damage to the machined surfaces of the engine. I had a hard time locating crushed walnut shell abrasive, but after some phone calls to industrial companies in my area, I was able to locate jet engine grade walnut shell blast media. I constructed a homemade blast booth for the walnut shell, which consisted of a large wooden box with holes cut in it for my arms to fit through and two Plexiglas windows to look through and shine light through. This homemade box worked very well to clean the entire engine although, if the engine had been rusty, the walnut shell would have had a hard time removing the rust.
All of the engine parts, paint, decals were obtained from Simpson Motors. The original type muffler was purchased from Bob's Small Engine Repair, 505 5th Avenue, Marion, Iowa 52302. Paint for the washing machine was purchased from Unique Wood and Metal Products, 114 Roy Avenue, Rochelle, Illinois 61068. After a very painstaking process, washing machine decals were found, and purchased from Dave Davis at Davis Advertising Company, P.O. Box 865, Newton, Iowa 50208. Davis Advertising has the original decal cards from, the Maytag Company and was able to supply me with' the absolute correct decals for this washer. I would recommend them to anyone wishing to accomplish a correct restoration of their washer.
We actually managed to finish the whole machine in time for me to take it to Pennsylvania and present it to my grandparents on the day after Christmas. I went to the local Maytag appliance dealer and managed to get a box from a new washing machine. I then mounted the machine on a homemade wooden base to make it more stable for transport and fastened the box on top of it. It looked as if there was just a new Maytag washer in the trailer, but weren't they surprised when we took the box off! They really liked the machine and my parents and I are very proud of the results of our efforts.
I must say here that my grandparents are the most wonderful people that I have ever known. They grew up in the era when ice boxes were just that. I have spent many an hour as a young adult listening to them tell about the times when canning vegetables and salting away meats were the only methods people had for preserving food. These are becoming lost arts, and it is humbling for me to think about how we lived before the modern conveniences that we have grown so accustomed to. My father was in the Navy for much of my younger years and ended up stationed in Maine for much of my life. He also decided to settle here after his retirement. Throughout all this time, when-ever we headed for Pennsylvania, it was referred to as 'going home,' and I still feel that way to this day, and I'm 38 years old. Russell and Katherine are the finest, most loving, caring, knowledge-able people I would ever hope to know. I think you older folks know what I'm trying to say. I have the greatest respect for my family and the trials and tribulations that they have endured.
Some of my fondest memories are of the days in the 1960s when my grandfather was visiting us in Maine and we'd go for a ride with Dad and Pappy in the '57 Chevy pickup and brother Bob and me in the back. Bob and I could seemingly 'smell' engines. We'd bang on the roof and yell 'Engine!' Dad would stop and we'd inquire. On one day we spotted 20 engines and bought nine of them. I'm sad to say that I think those days are gone forever. There are still engines out there, but not in the quantities I remember as a kid! Happy hunting!
Writing this story began in early 1995 and has taken some time for me to finally complete it. Since I started, we lost my grandmother. Katherine passed away on July 28, 1995. She will be greatly missed by all of us.