SPARK PLUG OF THE MONTH

By Staff
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Shirley Shepherd
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390 (This too, was one of Joe's pictures he had sent us when he did an article on Elmer-I'm sure he didn't know we would 'turn the tables' and use it for his honor also.-GEM)
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390. (Joe didn't know this would be used to honor him though).
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Courtesy of Walter C. Bieritz, Route 2, Box 168, Yorkville, Illinois 60560.

‘Joe Fahnestock himself’

‘Spark plug Joe’

(Shirley is a staff writer for the Muncie Star, covering Jay
County for the Star as a Bureau writer on full-time basis. She has
had articles published in agricultural and horsemen’s
magazines-Farm Quarterly, National Future Farmer, Western Horsemen
and Hoosier Farmer. She is a junior at Ball State University and
she and her husband own a small horse farm where they raise Arabian
and Part-Arabian horses at R. R. 1, Dunkirk, Indiana 47371.

We appreciate her efforts in bringing out the highlights of the
‘Spark Plug’ of the Month–I’m sure you all enjoy
Joe’s efforts each issue–and we’re mighty proud to have
him in the Spark Plug Column this month. He won’t know about it
until he reads the magazine, so our hats are off to our ‘Joe
Dear’ as we surprise and thank you for all your
efforts-GEM.)

You might find him out in the garage, covered with a respectable
layer of grease, tinkering with his fondest creation which looks
like a John Deere garden tractor crossed with five other things. Or
he may be locked in what passes for a study, laboring over a new
chapter in one of the books he is always going to write but never
does. Or, he might be holed up in the darkroom making prints from
the latest rolls of film he shot for a ‘Sparkplug’
column.

But if he’s not busy at any of these things, chances are
pretty good hell be holding down a camp chair at the nearest
tractor and engine show, peddling subscriptions to ‘Gas Engine
Magazine’ and gathering information for the winter’s
succession of columns. His name is Joe Fahnestock.

A fine picture taken of Joe Fahnestock and our late Editor,
Elmer Ritzman. It was taken at the N. T. A. show in 1966. Elmer was
proudly showing Joe a wooden model of threshing rig which he just
bought on the grounds.

Joe, by his own admittance, is a better listener than talker and
is a past master at the journalists’ art of being a good
audience. In fact, Joe doesn’t seem to talk much. Probably
because he’s so busy thinking about so many things at the same
time. But his wife and ‘right-hand-man’, Pat, is a fountain
of information. Wearing a little sign that says, ‘Joe’s
Shadow’, Pat makes all the rounds with him to find his notes,
hold his pencils, remind him of things, caution him, scold him,
cajole him, and encourage him when things aren’t going just
right. He couldn’t get a better helper if he paid one, he
says.

The trouble is, Pat says, that Joe is so extremely talented in
so many different directions that he’s never been able to
channel all that energy into one project. And she is right. Few
people have equaled the many accomplishments Joe has made, or are
as versatile as this stocky little ex-newspaperman. In his field
(pick one), he’s a virtual one-man band.

Joe is a writer, first of all, a craft he refined during 14
years on the staff of the Dayton Daily News and honed to
near-perfection doing free-lance work for several magazines. He
quit news-papering to devote more time to that first love, writing
about engines and the people who make them. Pat’s brown eyes
will twinkle a little when she tells you that she urged him to
quit, ‘So he could spend his time doing what he really wanted
to do.’ Her steady income as a school librarian in Greenville,
Ohio, where they made their home until recently, keeps things on an
even keel between free-lance checks.

Joe Fahnestock practically IS The Gas Engine Magazine and Iron
Man Album Magazine all by himself, submitting as many as two or
three articles and columns to each publication every issue. On the
side, he sells subscriptions to both and keeps a trunk-full of past
issues on hand to peddle at shows or just for interested bystanders
to browse through. He’s been interested in engines for a long
time, and likes to talk to people who are too.

A good picture of Joe Fahnestock and the late Elmer Ritzman.
This was taken at one of the reunions a few years ago. Elmer has an
Iron-Men Album Magazine and Joe is carrying the Gas Engine
Magazines.

Joe first caught the engine ‘bug’ way back after WWII,
when his former in-laws used farm and garden machinery around the
place. He perfected his hobby a few years ago, when he finished
building a neat little 15-horse tractor out of an old Delco
light-plant engine and parts from five different cars. A friend
painted it for him, in John Deere–green-and-yellow, but afraid of
being sued, Joe dubbed the tractor the ‘Joe Dear’. He uses
it for garden work and just tinkering when the old gray matter gets
too clogged up with ideas to work right.

Luckily, most of the talents Joe has seemed to fit right in with
his interest in gas engines and people. He writes about them with
ease, but he’s just as much at home behind a camera.

After taking his own photos for all the material he submits to
Gas Engine and Iron Men, Joe develops them too. He keeps a
fully-stocked darkroom in whichever home they happen to be
occupying (‘We are originally from Union City but we’ve
been living in Greenville and are now moving to Piqua but we keep
houses both places and shift back and forth in a rather confusing
arrangement,’ says Pat in her typical breezy manner) and has
built up quite a collection of blow-ups featuring men and their
machines.

But that’s not all there is to Joe. He is also an
accomplished recording buff, another interest which he satisfies by
making tape recordings of machinery and railroad sounds. Arranged
on tape, the sounds are usually advertised for sale wherever Joe
sets up his booth at an engine show.

Another view at the Big Rock plowing match in 1922. I don’t
remember ever seeing any of these tractors around here.

I made these pictures with my Polaroid retake attachment from
the original picture that my oldest brother, Gerhardt, had made
many, many years ago. He had the foresight to buy a camera in 1917
and take a lot of pictures. The negatives however, either got lost
or were not any good any more so my Polaroid came in handy. I sure
wasn’t going to send these old jewels any place to get
duplicates made and take a chance on losing them.

‘He made his first recordings on an old wire-tape machine,
and they were pretty good. Since then, though, he’s using a
modern tape recorder,’ Pat explains with a fond look in
Joe’s direction.

‘He’s such a talented person in so many different
directions it’s been hard for him to direct his talent into any
specific field,’ Pat sighs. She alternately coaxes and hounds
him to finish work on a book, any book, which he’s been meaning
to do. He did one once, ‘ she tells, but it wasn’t received
with much enthusiasm by a publisher and Joe went into a bruised
mood which was several weeks in disappearing.

‘I try to keep his ego built up … he discourages so
easily,’ says the Shadow. Since his real interest is in
juvenile non-fiction she hopes Joe will eventually begin serious
work on a history-type book for youngsters between ages 10-15,
maybe a biography of some famous American for ‘Middle-aged’
youths who are too old for the average juvenile history biography
and too young for I adult works.

Whatever it is, Joe will eventually get around to it. He’s
already done more than most three average people, and he
doesn’t show signs of quitting yet. But | his favorite past
time still seems to be j talking to, and writing about, people |
who like gas engines. If you happen to see a pair of glasses
peering over a table-full of old magazines at the next engine show,
pencil close by and searching for a pad of notes recently jotted
down, walk up and say ‘hi’. That’s Joe Fahnestock.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines