When one thinks of a Maryland antique tractor show, one envisions rolling farmland with wooded hills in the background -not a suburban mall. But that is exactly where the Washington County, Md., Antique Tractor Club has been holding its spring shows for the past three years. The Valley Mall in Hagerstown is in a fast-growing area less than 100 miles from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, right next to the 1-70 and 1-81 highway intersection. It's definitely not a rural scene.
'Originally, the Washington County Extension Service invited us to bring our tractors to their show,' said Dave Lowry, the club's vice president. 'But there wasn't room so we decided to go out on our own. We did our first show at the mall from a Wednesday to a Saturday. The second year they invited us to come for the week.' This year's show was March 11-16.
The 120-member club started a decade ago and continues to grow. A second 2002 show will be held Aug. 23-25, at the Washington County Agricultural Center in Hagerstown. The club also has created a special parade float to help promote itself.
Displayed at the mall show, it was topped with a 1936 McCormick-Deering Farmall F-12 tractor, owned and restored by Robert Stoner of Hagerstown.
For Dave Lowry, encouraging recognition of the area's farming heritage is as important as the preservation of his own family's rural history.
'When Dad went to high school, he farmed a farm right where we're standing,' he said as he looked over the family's tractor exhibits. 'We have photos of the farm where the mall parking lot is now.'
Dave's parents, Leonard and Dorothy Lowry of Hagerstown, displayed their 1940 Ford 9N, identical to the one they started with in farming. 'I restored it,' Dave said. Dave also displayed his 1950 Ford model 8N tractor on the back of his parents' 1949 Ford F-5 flatbed truck.
The truck was purchased four years ago at an estate sale in Red Lion, Pa. At the time, it had one owner, 65,000 actual miles, was in good condition and painted green. Dave painted it red when he did the restoration.
'We have other trucks and cars,' he said. 'Everything from a 9N to a 6,000-pound diesel that Ford came out with in 1961. We collect Fords. We try to buy them in good condition with all the parts. You may have to pay more, but you come out ahead. I like to work with this stuff.'
The show featured four dozen large tractors and a selection of garden and pedal models.
The oldest tractor represented was Gerald Poffenberger's 1918 International model 8-16, which was loaded on a fully rebuilt 1919 White flatbed truck owned by Gerald and his brother, Dale. They operate their family farm in the Hagerstown area.
'The tractor is chain-driven, probably one of the first ones made,'
Gerald said. 'It's all original. I bought it in New Windsor, Md., and had it restored. Now we do our own restoring. We have about 25 tractors of all kinds.'
Clair Martin of Maugansville, Md., is proud of his 1937 John Deere BO, Serial No. 326829. He bought it in 1990 for $1,000. His son, Dale, and his son-in-law, Keith Long, helped him with the four-year restoration.
'It hadn't been run for 16 years,' Clair said. 'It was built to run on kerosene because of the Depression. It started on gasoline to heat up, then switched to kerosene. Before turning it off you had to switch back to gasoline. They started building them in 1936.
Paul Summers of the Washington County, Md., Antique Tractor Club likes the idea of teaching today's children how things were done in the old days.
He also likes to reward them for their patience. By giving rope-making demonstrations, he accomplishes both.
Paul sets up his rope-making machine at tractor shows, including the recent show at the Valley Mall in Hagerstown, Md., and at state and national parks in Maryland.
He says he always draws a crowd.
'My dad bought the rope maker for $100 at a flea market at a tractor show about 15 years ago,' he said. 'It's a Wonder rope maker made in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, sometime in the 1920s.
'I thought it was a fun thing to demonstrate. People can see an old piece of farm equipment used and have something to take home.'
Paul makes rope by threading eight strands of baler twine, then turning the handle, which twists the twine into finished rope.
Children who take part in his demonstration get a 6-foot jump rope to take home.
You won't find one fixed up like this in this area. I won't sell it.'
For Doug Diehl, the club's president, tractor restoration also is a family affair. His grandfather sold tractors in the 1950s in Smithsburg, Md., and his father joined the Washington County Antique Tractor Club in the early 1990s.
As the president now, Doug says he is committed to moving the club forward.
'I've made changes in the past 18 months to motivate the club,' he said. 'I've always liked tractors and favored Fords. We're getting bigger and better, and we've got people working together. I try to run the club like I run my business.'
Julie Simmons, Valley Mall's marketing director, said she was enthusiastic about the tractor club bringing its antique machines to the mall setting. 'It seems to be a very strong, positive experience,' she said. 'It draws a lot of interest. People can see the history and heritage of the farming community. We encourage the club to come every year.' FC
-For more information on the Washington County Antique Tractor Club, contact Doug Diehl,12906 Bradbury Ave., Smithsburg, MD 21783; (301)824-3511. - fill Teunis, a frequent contributor to Farm Collector magazine, is a freelance writer who lives in Damascus, Md.