| May 2002

Tom Leutkemeyer of Belleville, Ill., suspects he was born with 'orange' blood. The 73-year-old retired mechanic has been collecting Allis-Chalmers toy tractors and memorabilia since he was a teen-ager, and full-sized A-C tractors since the 1960s.

Tom's A-C connection began during World War II. He was 14 at the time and working for a neighboring Belleville farmer. 'One day, he called me and said the local A-C dealership was having a tractor class. All the farmers were to bring their tractors in to have them serviced, and I was supposed to help out.' This was an effort to help keep local tractors operational during wartime, when new tractors were hard to come by.

Tom ended up 'helping out' at the dealership, called A.G. Schmidt Farm Equipment, for 44 years. At first, he worked after school and on weekends; after turning 16, he switched to full time, handling duties as a mechanic and a set-up and deliveryman. 'In those days you didn't worry about quitting school; we were busy because of the war,' he remembers. 'It worked out just fine for me though. I ended up making a career out of it.'

Soon after hiring on, he began collecting farm toys. 'When I had a few cents, I would buy a toy,' he recalls. 'I got to working full time, and I got to buying toys, and eventually the big ones, too.' His earliest toy tractors were an Allis-Chalmers C and a John Deere A; both were made in the 1940s by Fred Ertl Sr., and both are now considered rare.

Today, Tom's collection of farm toys numbers more than 100 and includes examples of Farmall and Massey-Harris tractors and implements as well as Allis-Chalmers and John Deere.

He enjoys them simply because they're farm machinery. The tractors, he says, especially have commanded his interest since boyhood. 'Even when Dad had his Fordson and McCormick, I made sure I was on the tractor with him when he went to the field.'