Battling on the Home Front

Battle on the home front. Learn how belt pulleys V-belts helped aging equipment bring in crops during World War II.


Making adjustments on an Oliver on a farm near Rockville, Md., in May 1940. Photo by Jack Delano, courtesy Library of Congress.

World War II was raging. Ration cards were a way of life, bountiful grain harvests were desperately needed and the old Dust Bowl-era farm equipment was worn out. New equipment existed only on manufacturers’ drawing boards, as steel went to the war effort. The only replacement parts disappeared quickly from dealers’ shelves and could not be replaced. The crisis was here!

Only the ingenuity, patience and fortitude of the old long-time farmer could save the harvest. He donned his best overalls, dragged his old pull-type combine onto bare ground where he could find a tool or bolt if dropped, gathered all his wrenches and tools and went to work.

First, he changed the engine oil and toilet-paper oil filter. Then he turned off the engine block water drains, if they turned, and filled the radiator with water as antifreeze was not available yet. Next, he removed the glass sediment bowl under the gas tank, washed it and cut a new gasket so it wouldn’t leak. Nearby was the bottom pan of the oil breather, which had an inch of last year’s dust caked in the bottom. Clean and shining with new oil, it was now ready to clean again.

He removed the spark plugs, brushed them with a steel brush, set the gap and reinstalled them. He tried to remember the last time he had the magneto tuned up. May have to take it to town if the engine is hard to start. Finally, he was ready. He set the choke and turned the crank. On the third turn, the old engine fired and quickly settled down into a smooth hum. That was a biggie!


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