This article is reprinted from the County Star Weekly News
Written and sent to us by Herb E. Beckemeyer 1123 County Road 900
E, Champaign, Illinois 61821-9623.
I don’t think it would be proper for me to talk with you
about my hobby without going back into the past for the reason I
have such a hobby. So, let me first talk about the words
‘hobby’ and ‘nostalgia.’ I think these two words go
together in my circumstances.
The word ‘nostalgia’ means (as one writer puts it)
yearning for former things or places, or a ‘homesickness.’
In short, it is a memory of the past and, the older we become, the
more noticeable it becomes. However, I was born and spent my
boyhood in the early part of this century, and I do have many
memories, and I hope many of you have a fine list of memories.
It is said: the young live for the future, the middle-aged live
for the present, but most older folks live for the past. Their
memories become their greatest possessions, and what a wonderful
thing it is that the good Lord has blessed us with this ability to
retain these memories, and even more so in our lifetime than any
other equal time in history. We have seen more changes in our
lifetime than any other people’s in past history.
There seems to be one common denominator in all this, though the
person having overcome the greatest obstacles and hardships seems
to have the richest memories. Persons having been, as the saying
goes, ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth ‘having few
hardships I feel, have few memories worthwhile, for they have not
had to join in the fight for survival, using some hidden talents,
improvising to meet the challenge of the more primitive times and
conditions. To some extent, I pity that person who has always had
plenty, for to me, he was denied the chance to fully develop his
talents and create a fine list of memories.
Many of these memories are relatively simple, especially to an
‘ole’ farm boy, such as feeding chickens, calves, slopping
pigs, walking a few miles to a one-room school house, shucking
corn, shocking oats, walking bare-foot behind a plow or down a hot
But, as with most folks, one of the greatest memories is of the
old steam threshing outfit. All the neighbors gathered to make up
threshing crews to get the harvesting done, and of course, there
were those large, fantastic tasty meals. What a wonderful time that
was for the youngsters yes but the hours were long and the work was
Of course there was the prankster to keep things alive and
everyone alert. There always seemed to be a run-away team of
horses, or someone getting dunked in the water trough. Most of us,
having a farm background, have vivid memories of that part in time.
My dad was considered a large farmer and thresherman, and I, being
the oldest of seven children, was pushed out into the world to
handle a man’s job rather early, doing custom work in the
immediate area. I fired an engine for a full season at age 14. As
that particular style of harvesting gave way to the more modern way
the combine those old machines fell into the hands of the scrap
dealer or were pushed off in a fence corner and forgotten, except
to fellows such as myself who had a real love for them and thereby
took up a hobby.
Now! Let’s talk about the word ‘hobby.’ A hobby is
something a person especially likes to work or study, apart from
his main business a favorite pastime, topic of conversation,
I feel everyone should have a hobby, especially in this day and
age with all the pressures and problems we face day to day in our
jobs and occupations. We need something APART something we can lose
oneself in a get-away sort of thing a hobby.
A hobby can be one of many things jewelry making, fancy
needlework, collecting and restoring old furniture, old automobiles
and machinery many, many things. And too, I feel I should warn you
of a few things when considering something for a hobby, and that
is, mainly, cost and time. What will it cost in dollars? Can you
comfortably afford it? Will the hobby take up too much time, to the
extent your main occupation and family will suffer because of it? I
surely don’t want Mom to become a widow to a hobby!
The steam traction engine was an important stable, and useful
phase of American agricultural life from about 1880 to 1935. The
colorful traction engine’s growth was rapid in the U.S. until
the advent of the gasoline tractors. These engines have many
refinements, though outwardly their appearance was basically the
same as when they were introduced. It is interesting to note, the
first gasoline tractors closely resembled their steam forebears,
the frame and running gear being almost identical, only the power
plant being different. The old engines served their purpose well
until something better came along. Unfortunately, sentiment can not
hold back the wheels of progress.
I started restoring in 1952. The 1923 A.D. Baker steam engine
that I have was my first. I restored three other engines which I
sold later. I tried to restore a piece of equipment every year
since. My oldest tractor is a 1918 Aultman Taylor and the newest is
a 1957 Oliver 550. My preference is the old threshing tractor built
in the 1920s and 30sthe Hubers, Keck-Gonnermans, Bakers, Hart Parr,
I.H.C.s, Olivers, AC and so on.
I belong to the Illinois-Indiana Antique Tractor Association
Show Grounds at Penfield; Blue Mound Show; American Thresherman of
Pickneyville; and Central States Threshermen of Pontiac.
My hobby has made many, many good friends and acquaintances all
over the country. The sad part of it is, there are not many of the
old steam boys left for me to argue with as to which make of steam
engine, tractor or thresher was the best!
If the shed doors are open, I’m home, stop by, as you are
welcome to see my junk. Good hobbying to all!