Power of Yesteryear featured at Heritage Days

Wood County Heritage Days shared billing with the Power of Yesteryear’s annual Antique Tractor Show over
the weekend at the Wood County Historical Center and Museum.
Marjorie and Elwood Vanek of Pemberville sat by the two working Waterloo Boy gasoline engines they had on
display, along with two John Deere tractors from 1924 and 1930. Vanek is the third generation of his
family to live in their farmhouse on Swan Road, and he has been a member of the Power of Yesteryear
since it formed in the 1980s.
Though his family had electricity on the farm and didn’t use the gas engines for chores while he was a
boy, he has an interest in anything old and enjoys talking to people who stop to look at how they
worked.
"They’re just so simple. They can run; they don’t have a computer," Vanek explained. He said
basically they were a gasoline engine which could run on kerosene, which was cheaper, and they could be
used for pumping water, running a washing machine and other small chores on a farm.
When the company changed the engine’s design and covered the crank shaft, "they closed them up and
lost the romance. It’s romantic to me to see the crank turning."
Next to Vanek’s display were three engines owned by Herman McCreary, along with a copy of an old
McCormick-Deering ad for their engines. It listed a score of chores which the engine could do, such as
separate 4,000 pounds of milk, pump 3,000 gallons of water, shell 25 bushels of corn, grind six bushels
of feed, saw one cord of wood, churn 200 pounds of butter, bale 1/2 ton of hay or light up a house for
two hours – all for only two cents worth of fuel.
Vanek said John Deere tried for years to build a successful tractor, but the company ended up purchasing
the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in 1918 for $2,100,000. The buyout gave John Deere the Waterloo Boy
tractor.
His 1925 D John Deere "Spoker" on exhibit was the company’s first tractor under its own name.
"They had such stiff competition from International Harvester," he explained. "They
couldn’t keep up."
His second tractor on exhibit, the 1930 GP wide tread John Deere, was bequeathed to him by his friend,
the late Phil Maria, who died in his 40s. Vanek noted on the tractor’s display card it was in memory of
Maria. "He had 10 tractors and willed them all to friends."
Marjorie Vanek said it had almost gotten to the point if she wanted to see her husband, she had to join
him when he exhibited his tractors and engines – even before the Power of Yesteryear club formed.
She noted the quiet rhythm of the two Waterloo Boy engines as they were working. "I could easily go
to sleep," she said. "It’s like a lullaby. I could sit here and nap away, which I’ve
done."
The tractor show featured more than 40 tractors and engines, from one-horsepower up to an engine large
enough to work an oil derrick. Tractors included lesser-known models such as Huber, Mogul, Cockshutt
(from Canada), Montgomery Ward, Graham-Bradley, Minneapolis-Moline and Samson, to Fords, Deeres,
Farmalls, McCormick-Deering, Case, Massey-Harris and Oliver.
Carl Eschedor of rural Perrysburg is the president of the Power of Yesteryear. He had his John Deere
hooked up to a pulley which forced corn into an old-fashioned grinder.
Before demonstrating how a hand-cranked corn sheller worked, he noted corn today is different from years
ago, shorter but bigger around. Once denuded of kernels, he said cobs were used to start fires.
"It’s a hobby," he said of demonstrating his tools. "I enjoy doing it, keeping with the
past. We’re here to hang onto history and demonstrate the past, show people what it used to be like. I
supposed 40 years form now it’ll be different from today."