They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. If that's the case, I've got lots of treasure.'
Retired steel mill worker Frank Grooms grinned as he looked up from his cluttered workbench. He was cleaning the magneto from one of the 15 or 20 old internal combustion engines he has rescued from trash heaps.
In his compact little barn on a farm just west of Essex, O., Frank spends hours rebuilding machinery of the Pre-electrification Age an age that's gone but not entirely forgotten on our farms.
Prominent in the collection is a 32-volt Delco Light plant. Frank uncovered it and showed it to Roger Morley, member services director of his Co-op, Union Rural Electric. 'It did a lot for farmers in its day, but it sure can't hold a candle to the juice Union gives us today,' Frank said.
Roger scratched a few figures on his note pad. 'That Delco would light about a dozen 100-watt lightbulbs, or run an iron, or heat a hotplate but not all at once. It surely wouldn't satisfy farmers today. They're using about 775 kilowatt hours a month in the state now.'
A glance around Frank's barn reveals a wide range of things. The oldest, no doubt, is a wooden Groundhog thresher forerunner of the grain separator which was introduced by the Quakers in the 1840's. Then there's a 35-hp Worthington vertical stroke engine that stands six feet high. It once operated a 42-inch sawmill from one pulley and a cider press from another. In one corner is an old draught beer pump, a beautiful mechanism; and in another is a box of old auto parts Frank's trading material. 'I seldom buy or sell stuff, just trade, mainly,' he said. 'And if some part is missing, I get out my hammer, file and electric drill and make what I need.'
Out back of the barn is Frank's biggest treasure, however a 1920 Huber steam engine, drawbar horsepower 16.
'My Dad worked for Edgar Huber in Marion years ago,' Frank recalled. 'And I threshed with one of these many a summer vacation period.' Every once in a while Frank gets the urge to hear his Huber huff-and-wheeze, so he stokes it up. He is proud that he can 'set its valves,' a delicate operation, without using gauges. On occasion he has taken it to the Steam Threshers Festival in Urbana.
There are seven annual steam festivals in Ohio and Frank goes to many of them. 'Seems like a lot of younger fellows are getting interested,' he said. 'These festivals are growing, especially in the Midwest.'
Frank's hobby is satisfying and absorbing. 'And,' he winked, 'it keeps me out of Mom's kitchen.'
This article and pictures were sent to us by William B. Green, Route 1, Rushshylvania, Ohio 43347, and with many thanks to Country Living Magazine, 4302 Indianola Aye., Columbus, Ohio 43214 for their permission to use same.