OLDE TYME DAYS, THEY DID IT THE HARD WAY Farm fair recalls earlier methods


At 13, Oscar Streaker Jr. learned to use his father's 1923 Rumely Oilpull Tractor to power equipment on the family farm in Howard County.

Some 57 years later, he stood proudly beside that same tractor as it noisily ran a belt-driven wheat thresher on the hot and muggy opening day of the fourth annual Fawn Grove Olde Tyme Days.

The small-town fair, which started Friday, is a three-day celebration of the old-fashioned kind of farming that 70-year-old Mr. Streaker grew up with. The fair raises money for the volunteer fire company in this rural southern Pennsylvania town, just north of the Harford County border.

Exhibitors and visitors come from Maryland and Pennsylvania to enjoy the weekend activities at the Fawn Grove fairgrounds.

Juanita Breidenbaugh of Jarrettsville and other members of the Borderline Spinners bring their wheels and their wool, and give spinning demonstrations.

The fair features potato-sack races, scavenger hunts for the children, live music and square dancing as well as cross-cut sawing and tobacco-spitting contests.

"I think this is nice here," said Sue Listopad of Forest Hill. She came with her children, Emily, 8, and Christopher, 7. "It's a nice place to come and get a snowball and walk around."

Area fire companies compete in games with names such as "Midnight Alarm" and "Ball on a Wire."

A big parade streams through town with fire equipment, tractors, cars and marching bands each year on Saturday morning.

Visitors can watch demonstrations of old-time wheat harvesting as well as horse and tractor plowing. Antique equipment, much of it farm-related, fills the fairgrounds.

Mr. Streaker's prized tractor is one of the oldest in the show and is now "semiretired," he said. "It's been in my family since 1925, and I've just kept it up over the years."

He brought it from his home near Sykesville -- where he still lives on 1.3 acres of his family's original farm -- to participate in the daily binding, threshing and baling demonstrations.

In the past, farmers used separate pieces of equipment for each step of the labor-intensive process of harvesting wheat. Today, combines ease the workload by completing two of the steps: harvesting and threshing.

At the fair, the shiny green Rumely Oilpull powered the thresher with a long belt. Volunteers loaded sheaves of freshly harvested wheat into the thresher. Straw dust whirled through the air as the machinery separated the grain from the straw.

The grain blew out and was bagged and the straw slid onto a conveyor belt on its way to the baler. John Lowe, a native of Fawn Grove who now lives in Parkton in Baltimore County, stood by to hand-tie each tightly packed bale with wire. His 1954 Farmall Super M tractor provided the power for the antique machinery.

"Everybody has a good time here," Mr. Lowe said. "And you learn lots of things, like how they did things the hard way in the old days."

In a shady grove of trees nearby, exhibitors parked antique tractors bearing names like Massey-Harris, Allis-Chalmers and John Deere. Andy Glenn, 17, drove his 1940 Farmall M to the fair on Friday morning from Delta, Pa.

"I got interested in tractors a couple of years ago," Andy said. "I got this one from family friends in New Jersey. My dad and I restored it over a year."

Andy's younger brother Joe, 12, brought a 1939 Farmall B that he has just started to work on. In another exhibition area nearby, their father, David Glenn, had parked his 1927 Studebaker and three farming engines from the early 1900s.

"I think their love of antiques came to them through their dad," said Karen Bott of Baltimore, a friend of Mr. Glenn. "This is something all of them can do together."

Worth McClure's yoke, or team, of oxen has become the mascot for the Fawn Grove Olde Tyme Days. Mr. McClure, 74, grew up in North Carolina, where his family farmed with oxen. Now he lives in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, where he continues to train oxen as a hobby and take them to shows.

"I enjoy letting people see them and giving them rides," said Mr. McClure, who was assisted by his daughter, Linda Reath, and granddaughter, Michelle Reath.

For 50 cents, Mr. McClure takes

children around the fairgrounds in an ox-wagon pulled by Dan, a 4-year-old who weighs in at 1900 pounds, and Luke, who is 7 and 2,020 pounds. The two well-mannered Lineback oxen have wicked-looking horns but are smart and calmer than horses, Mrs. Reath said.

The Olde Tyme Days will end today at 6:30 p.m. Scheduled for today are a morning church service, horse- and tractor-plowing demonstrations, a cross-cut sawing contest, binding, threshing and baling demonstrations, a fairground parade and a slow tractor race.

From I-95, take Maryland Route 24 toward Bel Air and continue to Fawn Grove. Turn left on Pennsylvania Route 851, then turn right on Route 425 to reach the fairgrounds. Parking and admission are free.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad