Tracking Kitten Owners

Family Finds their Kitten’s Roots


| July / August 2006



Kitten engine no. 191

Kitten engine no. 191 in 1961 with Floyd Humbles (left) and Al New, co-owners

My dad, Alfred New, saw his first Kitten engine in the late 1940s in a stone quarry in the north part of Indianapolis, driving a pump for a gravel washer. Dad looked at it but couldn’t quite afford it. He was also warned off of it by friends who told him that Kittens were weak, flimsy engines. The number of that engine and its fate is unknown.

The story of my family’s involvement with Kitten equipment really began in 1958. We went on a trip to southern Indiana to visit a man named Lawrence Troesch. Lawrence was a farmer and thresherman who had Kitten and Keck-Gonnerman engines and equipment. Dad was looking to buy a Keck, and Lawrence had some for sale.

Lawrence had three Kecks in his barn lot that day and fired up all three when we arrived. I still have a beautiful picture of the three engines sitting in a row right after the fires were lit – I was 4 years old at the time.

Sometime while they were firing the engines, I wandered off. I wandered into a weed patch near the engines, and when Lawrence noticed me he hollered at Dad to get me out of there because there was a copperhead nest in there. Dad and Lawrence both ran to get me. Dad got to me first and pulled me out. We didn’t see any snakes, but Lawrence said that a hired hand had been bitten by one just the week before, right where I was playing.

Dad bought an 18 HP Keck that day, and we went home. What does this have to do with Kittens you ask? The connection will come later.

An indirect connection came a couple of years later. Dad had a good friend Searil Sunday of Modoc, Ind. Searil had several engines; he at one time had an undermount Avery and he ran his sawmill with a 65 HP Frick portable. He also had two Kitten engines. Around 1961, Dad, my uncle Floyd Humbles and Searil got together. Searil wound up with the 18 HP Keck-Gonnerman, Dad bought the Kitten engine, no. 215, and Dad and Uncle Floyd together owned Kitten no. 191. After a time, Uncle Floyd sold his interest in engine no. 191 to Dad, as his interest was mainly in gas engines.