If you went into the white tent across from the Village of Yesteryear expecting to see a petting zoo, you were in for a big surprise. That area now supports a display from the Eastern Carolina Vintage Farm Equipment Club, which marks 2005 as its first year at the fair. Dozens of old tractors as well as old industrial engines are placed throughout the tent, tires covered with a nice layer of good old fashioned North Carolina clay.
I wondered about that, especially since a lot of these tractors were over 50 years old. "How many of these items actually run?" I asked Jerry McGinnis, president of the ECVFEC.
"All of 'em," was his reply. "All the engines start up and all the tractors were driven in here." That's pretty amazing, more amazing to consider that the contents of the tent make up only about 10% of the membership's actual collection of vintage farm equipment.
"Want us to start up an engine?" Jerry asked. He and Mac Kornegay went to fire up "Old Bessie," an engine from around 1919, one from Mac's collection. After working with it for a minute, they stood on either side of the engine's wheels and gave a good pull. The engine fired up -- it's a single-cylinder engine, that periodically would fire off with a loud, "POW!" setting the wheels spinning faster. The wheels would go on momentum until they slowed down past a certain point and then -- "POW!" -- the engine would catch again. That engine could be used for a variety of things, from pulling to mills to whatever needed to be done at that time with an engine.
Bessie wound down after a few moments and I kept exploring the tent. Some of the tractors looked almost modern, while others, like a converted 1928 Model A -- "Doodlebug" -- looked very very old. (But it's cool to think that someone was tinkering and converting a car to something as extreme as this back in the 20s. You can see the Doodlebug in the first picture of this entry.) A small collection of engines, on a smaller scale than Old Bessie, dotted the back left corner of the tent.
You wouldn't know it by the impressive collection, but the ECVFEC has only been in existence about five years. They have 68 members and do exhibitions, shows, and carnivals all over North Carolina. They go to rest homes and schools and make ice cream with engines like Old Bessie.
If you're interested in learning more about the Eastern Carolina Vintage Farm Equipment Club, either to join or to have them at your event, contact Jerry McGinnis. They don't have a Web site -- YET -- but you can reach him at the address below.
Eastern Carolina Vintage Farm Equipment Club
156 Rita Lane
Goldsboro, NC 27530