by Howard Hemminger
During early 1993 a small group of ag people from the Penn Yan, NY area started talking about developing an International Harvester Club. A small ad was placed in the local paper with a location and time for this first meeting and 70 new members came. With this many new members enthusiasm and ambition was high and this young club was ready to tackle any task. A local church agreed to meetings being held at the church and research was done on setting up By-Laws. The official club name would be “International Harvester Club Inc.” Tractors were not show ready as they were still being used in the fields. Restoration went into full swing at a lot of farm shops and garages in the area. Money is always an issue at every organization and this club had none. Through donations and volunteers a weight transfer sled was made with the first tractor pull scheduled for June 19, 1993. Money was now being made.
Like all volunteer organizations this tractor club has cycled during the last 20 years. The early enthusiasm and ambition gave way to burnout and frustration. The club sponsored tractor pulls were sucking energy from the members so the pulls were stopped after a few years. The club members did enjoy going to shows like Empire Farm Days, participating in plow days and the fellowship of club sponsored picnics. The club would do small raffles and sell merchandise to stay liquid. Attending Empire Farm Days is something this club has been doing for 20 years.
Now, 20 years after it started, our club is very strong, has an active membership list, a healthy treasury and we are having fun. To bring attention to ourselves and our 20th anniversary we wanted to do something different for the show that has treated us well for the last 20 years… Empire Farm Days.
Sugar beets were grown in New York for five years 1965 to 1969. When sugar beets left New York the harvesters were sold to western states, cut for scrap or left in hedgerows to rust down and then cut for scrap. During the fall of 2012 a few ads were placed indicating our club was looking for a sugar beet harvester not knowing that a sugar beet harvester had been in a barn for 40 plus years only one mile from our meeting location.
The harvester we found is an International #25 two row machine with a #22 Beet Topper under the belly of the tractor. The harvester was bought new by Ronald Long and his wife Nancy for the 1965 harvest season. Ron harvested his own beets and then did custom work putting about 200 acres a year under the machine. The scalper was under Ron’s International 706 Tractor with the harvester pulled behind. After 1969 the harvester sat outside for a few years before Nancy insisted it be put in the barn. Ron and Nancy’s son Chuck says as a kid he would go to the barn and play on the Sugar Beet Harvester not knowing what it was.
As the sugar beet harvester sat in the barn not aging the rest of us did. Nancy died during 2000, Ron remarried during 2001 to Chris and then Ron died during October 2012. Chuck was contacted during February 2013 with questions about the sugar beet harvester, removing it from the barn and taking it to a few shows. Surviving family members showed great support for giving the harvester a second life.
On April 3, 15 club members got together with Ron’s son Chuck and removed 40 years of debris from the barn to take this harvester outside. The truck loading elevator was put back on and then the machine was moved 12 miles to a location where it could be worked on during the summer. One member donated his International 706 to the project allowing us to bolt the scalper on and hook the harvester behind just as it was for the harvest of 1969.
As a reader you might be wondering the fate of this beet harvester after Empire Farm Days. Will it go back in the barn or will it give in to the acetylene torch? Our International Harvester Club is very pleased to inform you that Stew Paquette from Leesburg FL has been notified and is interested in taking the harvester to put in his Historical Farmall Museum for everyone to see ( www.stewsihstuff.com ). Part of the mission statement for our IH Club states our club is dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and exhibition of equipment manufactured by the International Harvester Company. Our club is very proud that we were able to find this beet harvester, put it back in working order, use it to help us celebrate our 20th anniversary, and then assist the Long Family in finding a location where others can look and reminisce of days when they might have used one of these machines.
To separate our club from other IH Clubs we refer to ourselves as the “Bellona International Harvester Club”. Our display along with the sugar beet harvester will be set up in section 701 on West Timesaver Ave at Empire Farm Days. Please stop in and look our Antique Iron over. You can also follow us on Facebook.
Tractor club finds 48 year old sugar beet harvester
by Howard Hemminger