Iron Man of the Month: Harold Fleisch


| July/August 1971

  • Harold Fleisch
    The “High Priest” at old Pence Machine Shop, Harold Fleisch does a job at the huge lathe — largest in the shop. They can make anything from tooth-pick holders to full-sized engines — but they can't make a wedding ring.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Rumely Oil-Pull engine
    Harold Fleisch jumped up on this huge 15-30, one-cylinder Rumely Oil-Pull, like a squirrel climbing a tree — to show me the size of it. The engine was so good he didn't have to do a thing to it, just clean and paint the monster. It’s the largest hunk of machinery in Pence Machine Shop, towering almost to the ceiling. (I know it's a GEM picture, but it goes with the story of the machine shop. — Anna Mae)
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Pence Machine Shop
    Time out for noon-time lunch at Pence Machine Shop. Maurice Miller and Phil Price, the younger generation of captains of industry at the old machine shop, had their factory lunch pails propped up on the old Banting Company Engine. It looked like an old “Out Our Way” cartoon of factory life in the old days, and I like it. (Possibly they get some milk for lunch from some of those milk weeds visible in the picture.)
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Firebox ring
    No generation gap at Pence Machine Shop. Rising Captains of Industry, Phil Price and Maurice Miller, have just cut out a new firebox ring for the old Frick Engine at other end of the shop. They are measuring the accuracy of their cut.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Bull Dog steam engine
    Harold Fleisch shows off his half-size model of a Bull Dog under-mounted double steam engine, back behind old Pence Machine Shop. It’s an expert job, runs like Harold runs — fast and smooth wherever he goes through the shop. He's had it at some of the reunions in Indiana and Ohio.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Flue-sheet
    Harold Fleisch examines repairs to flue-sheet of old 22 horsepower Frick at Pence Machine Shop in West Alexandria, Ohio. Note the expert welding job which unites new metal to old. Also the some twenty-five new flues which he had just flanged and the new riveting to right of the boiler. Fleisch used to do this kind of job out in the wheat fields, taking three days of hand labor.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Frick Engine
    Harold Fleisch jumped up on this old Frick engine to inspect it, like a rabbit hops through a carrot patch. This is the engine on which he repaired the rusted-out flue sheet and made it like new.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Cliff Neff
    Shop secretary at Pence, Cliff Neff (not mini-skirted) checks over some of the tools in well-laden and over-crowded storage room, marked “Private — for employees only.” Note weight of tools has made some shelves droop like hammocks — the mark of a well-stocked tool room.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • Shop books
    No place for mini-skirted female secretaries — no women’s lib at Pence Machine Shop. Cliff Neff is the “female secretary” around Pence. Shown here, he is laboring over the shop books before the ancient roll-top desk. The old upright desk in background is even older. Everthing is “antique-y” around Pence Shop.
    Joe Fahnestock
  • International Engine
    Maurice Miller, a rising young Captain of Industry at Pence Machine Shop, ponders starting the big 15 horse International engine. This old engine was installed in 1912 and ran all the shop’s line-shafts till only a year ago. The younger generation get lazy at whirling the huge flywheels.
    Joe Fahnestock

  • Harold Fleisch
  • Rumely Oil-Pull engine
  • Pence Machine Shop
  • Firebox ring
  • Bull Dog steam engine
  • Flue-sheet
  • Frick Engine
  • Cliff Neff
  • Shop books
  • International Engine

If the Almighty ever needed any repair work done on this old world, He might well have to wind up down at the old Pence Machine Shop in West Alexandria, Ohio, to get the job done.

For, though there may well be shade-tree mechanics, strip-shed machine shops, back-alley garages and village smithies still a-plenty throughout the length and breadth of this land of ours, there is only one last place you wind up at to get that certain piece fabricated for your old steam engine or gas tractor. Yes, it’s the old Pence Machine Shop where Harold Fleisch presides as high priest, supreme authority and final judge at the vortex of the manifold mechanical problems that daily wind up at his doors.

You’ve tried everywhere else, and failed. So you go to Harold Fleisch with your problem. He makes a few quick measurements, rushes into the office and has a huddle over the pencil-scrawled time-and-order book beneath a low-hanging shade with his male secretary, tells you to leave the piece and call back in a couple of months. You feel lucky you got in, and go away with that satisfied confidence the piece will be made. Fortunate for you the Lord didn’t beat you to Harold Fleisch with some of His big problems or you’d never get that blamed steam engine or tractor fixed for the summer reunions.

There’s always been a legend about the old Pence Machine Shop that’s lingered throughout the Great Miami Valley in Buckeye-land — a legend that’s gathered moss over the years, instilling fear and trembling to lesser mechanics who’ve only wished they could do what is done within its vaunted portals. Merely mentioning the name Harold Fleisch to an engine man conjures the kind of respect usually accorded only the Deity. Whenever you and I have problems that nobody else can solve, we take them to God. When engineers have engines that no other shop can fix, they take them to Harold Fleisch.

So strongly has this legend gripped me that, for a long time, I kept putting off the challenging burdens of attempting to even evaluate it in story and picture. For years I have been haunted by the illusion that the dedicated shop man and mechanic is a hard guy to penetrate. It was with fear and trembling that I approached the portals of the Pence Machine Shop, unlatched the imposing wood door and walked in with my camera and tape recorder to see what might happen.

But, instead of having a wrench thrown at me, I found the busy little Harold Fleisch one of the most affable and genial of men with an out-going personality that belied former impressions of crusty old machinists and shop men. Instead of grunting or growling as if I was a nuisance, he spoke fluently and explained graciously anything I would ask.



If my question pertained to an old Frick engine on which he was repairing the flue-sheet and flanging the flues at the smoke-box end, he even hooked up his air-hammer to show me how the job was done.

If I asked him about the giant shop lathe, he immediately assumed the typical shop-man’s pose for his picture.



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