Those Were the Days

Reader Contribution by Sam Moore
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An IHC high-wheeled Auto-Buggy. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Elmer J. Baker, Jr., (1889-1964) was once editor of Farm Implement News, a publication for farm implement dealers, Even though retired as editor he continued to write a regular column called “Reflections” for Implement & Tractor, which FIN had become, almost up until the time of his death. In the Oct. 7, 1963 issue of I & T, he responded to a letter he’d just received from a 2nd generation IHC dealer, Ralph Chalenburg, owner of Chalenburg Implement in Starbuck, Minnesota, who had written:

“My Dad once sold a Big Bull tractor. One was enough. Then it got to be Heider and later Huber. He also once sold a 45 hp Mogul and a Buffalo Pitts thresher for a custom operation.

He often told of going out every morning in an IHC high-wheeler auto-buggy. My first auto ride was in one, before I was born, when Dad took Mom to the hospital in it. Then there was getting the thing going for the day’s threshing. It was sometimes more work getting the little engine started than the big one.

(The Reflector vividly recalls watching C.W. Marsh, FIN’s first editor, cranking and cranking his IHC auto-buggy. The crank was at the side of the body below the front seat. But when it started, it got you through sand or mud, just so there was gravel deep down for those narrow hard-rubber tires on the high wheels to bite into. Where the IHC auto-buggy couldn’t go, only one thing could: A buckboard with a span of mules.)

‘My Dad later,’ continues our correspondent, ‘became an IHC dealer, retiring in 1947 when it looked as if IHC would be anything except farm implements. The white-goods did not appeal to my Dad, or to me, and when the blockman remarked that they were going to take the icebox business away from Frigidaire, Dad said that IHC had as much business making such units as Frigidaire had building corn binders, and that in 10 years IHC would be out of the white-goods field. He missed the timing by about 6 weeks.

My first personal new tractor was with the old Farmall with the open steering gear. Don’t ever hold that wheel in anything but the firmest possible grip with those straight-cut gears.

I got quite an education on the traded-in Fordsons and later the 10-20s and 15-30s. The F-12 was the rage for a while. How Dad could ever convince a farmer that it would do more than an Allis WC, I still don’t understand, but he did. (Some folk call it salesmanship.—Ex-Ed. FIN)

My Dad wouldn’t sell an F-12 for $650 unless he could net out $100 over the invoice. That’s all they’re now getting on $6,000 units!

The old A-6 combine was not only our bread-and-butter but also gravy for many years. Up to 30 new ones a year; never less than 15! Even farmers who had either green or yellow or Technicolor-red blood in their veins would come in here, almost total strangers to us as far as machinery sales were concerned and buy A-6’s. (Sam here, I don’t understand this statement. As far as I know, IHC never made an A-6 combine, although Case did. I know that because I worked with a Case A-6 back in my youth. Well, there’s no one around in 2015 to ask for clarification. Did any reader ever hear of an IHC A-6 combine?)

Dad learned about burning kerosene from one of the old Heiders he sold. The farmer was plowing in cool fall weather, and he had to continuously drain his crankcase because the oil level kept rising. They began to think they had an oil well on wheels. They changed the oil every 30 hours, which was the only thing that saved the engine. It seemed the trouble was all caused by dilution of kerosene in the oil from a cool running engine with no temperature control. The old Oil Pull really had something, with their exhaust-draft cooling. More load, more draft, more cooling—and vice-versa.”

We can no longer hear first-hand reminiscences from the old-timers who were there at the beginning—they’re all gone—however I enjoy these 2nd-hand accounts.

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