Jaye C. McKee’s dad purchased an Allis Chalmers WC, Serial No. WCIT4727, in March 1944 from the Harry Fair dealership in Indiana, Pa. The tractor was on order for 10 to 12 months because of World War II, for at that time, a farmer had to wait until a machine became available and until the local rationing board OK’d the purchase.
When the new tractor arrived by rail in Indiana, the McKees, who lived in Rossiter, Pa., were notified and asked to pick it up. Few trucks were available for custom hauling back then, and Harry Fair’s delivery truck was in for engine repairs. Jaye, now 77, remembers Harry saying, ‘It’s only 30 miles from Indiana to Rossiter. Why not let the boy drive it home, and that will break in the engine?’
‘What a joy for me, at 19 years of age, to drive that brand new tractor through all the towns, including Punxsutawney, the groundhog town of Pennsylvania (home of ‘Punxsutawney Phil’) to get to Rossiter,’ Jaye says. ‘I think my top speed was less than 15 miles an hour; it took me from about noon to 4 p.m. to go 40 miles.’
The price of the tractor, including freight and servicing, was $855. Jaye’s dad also got front and rear two-row cultivators, which added another $150 to the bill.
In just a few days, they began to plant oats, and from then on, the WC was either farming or powering the father’s sawmill. He sawed mine timbers, which were used for roof supports in the region’s deep underground coal mines. ‘Even with that WC, we couldn’t keep up with the demand,’ Jaye recalls.
When it was still early spring, Clara Ray, a widow whose husband had died in an underground mine accident, asked
Jaye if he would plow her 1/2-acre truck garden. She lived 6-1/2 miles north of the McKees and had a daughter who also was 19.
‘I said, ‘Oh, yes. Gladly,” Jaye recalls. ‘It was late afternoon when I got there, and after I finished the plowing, Mrs. Ray said, ‘Come in and eat supper with Marilyn and me.’ Not only did I plow the garden and get a great meal, but I got my beautiful Marilyn, too. We were married three years later, Sept. 27,1947.’
Farm kids with little money, the young McKees moved to Jamestown, N.Y., and Jaye took jobs first with a firm called American Manufacturing Co., making wooden toys, and then with the Art Metal Manufacturing Co., which made office furniture.
‘But being a farm boy,’ he says, ‘I found I didn’t like the inside work and wanted to get back to the farm.’
So, Jaye and Marilyn moved back home, and in the fall of 1949, purchased a 98-acre farm at Sykesville, Pa., from a retired couple named Harry and Delia Haag. The farm was in Bell Township, Clearfleld County – only 13 miles from his dad’s place.
‘Marilyn and I loved it at first sight, and the community people were great to help us get started.
‘When we started farming, I would get Dad’s WC to help out, but soon I purchased a like-new Farmall H.’
When Jaye’s brother, Carl, who was 8 years older, returned from World War II duty overseas, he took over their dad’s farm. ‘Dad gave the WC to him,’ Jaye says. ‘Carl bought two more tractors, a WD and a Farmall M, but the old WC was the one he used most of the time. In 1994, Carl quit farming and the WC sat in the shed. In 1998, he said to me, ‘If you want that WC tractor, take it to your farm.’ Well, I did.’
Jaye cleaned and sanded the tractor and gave it a new paint job. ‘It really looked nice. I wouldn’t know how many hours it has run, but in all the years since Dad bought it, the tractor has only had one complete engine overhaul and three valve jobs, and it runs perfectly.’
In time, Jaye’s grandson, Charles Styers, who lives near Jamestown, N.Y., needed a tractor to haul firewood, so Jaye told him that if he would like to have his great-granddad’s tractor, he was welcome to it, on condition that he never sell it.
Today, Charles hauls his firewood with the WC, and just drives it around Panama, N.Y., for fun. For being 58 years old, he says, it’s still a real eye catcher.
As for Jaye, he says he hasn’t ever figured out if it was the tractor or him that his wife fell in love with that day, but he guesses it’s just as well that tractor is still in the family.