The Car That Became a Tractor

Adam and Sophie Zielinski lived on their farm on Everett Rd., Richfield, for years. But it took them awhile to get there.

Adam was raised on the family farm in Peninsula where Boston Mills Ski Resort now stands. As he grew up, Adam proved to be quite the mechanic. He really liked building things, especially if it made life on the farm easier. For one project, Adam gathered parts from around the neighborhood, removed the body of an old Model A Ford and put it all together to make his own tractor.

Having completed his high school education, he went on to become chief mechanic at Pneumatic Tool in Cleveland. There he was instrumental in designing and building the hydraulic landing gear for B17 Flying Fortress bombers used to such effect in WW2.

After the war he met and married, “the Polish girl”, Sophie. About that time (or so we have been told) the Catholic Bishop in Cleveland wanted more Catholics to move to Richfield, so a church could be organized there. Adam and Sophie already had the family connection to Peninsula so they came south out of the city and bought the land they called “The Jewel of Richfield” because the farm was just “so green”.

Soon they would be seen driving their maroon Pontiac with its wide white wall tires to go dancing at the Peninsula Night Club on a Friday night. Adam cut quite the figure in his zoot suit, pork pie hat, spats and long key chain. (The PNC still stands in the center of town. It is now called Winking Lizard. I fondly remember the elephants that once paraded around the top of the walls of the dance floor.)

When not dancing, they farmed. They raised pigs, chickens and ducks and, of course, had a large garden out back. Adam & Sophie never had children, but the young’uns of their large extended family would come spend summers with them to help on the farm. And Adam had his tractor that he had moved from his father’s farm in Peninsula.

The kids were always expected to work. One niece, Judy, recalled when she was just 5 or 6 years old, riding on the back of the converted Mod. A as Uncle Adam plowed or weeded the fields. The tractor had better traction when it had her as a counter weight.

When the tractoring was done, the eggs collected and the other chores complete, Aunt Sophie would send the children down the tree lined hill to the grocery store in the little town of Everett to get milk (“just to have a little peace and quiet”). It was a long walk that sometimes took half a day. If the kids tarried too long, Soph. would drive the Pontiac down the long winding road and thru the covered bridge, to fetch them.

When Adam retired, he brought home a number of large, line shaft driven, early 20th Cent. grinders, sanders and mills that had gone obsolete. He dug a garage into the hillside behide the house and added a work shop onto the back of the garage. There he practiced a whole new art. Adam collected, cut and polished stones. The tools that had once helped win the war were now used to create beauty. And his fine stone work ended up in a number of Ohio museums, including at Flint Ridge State Park.

Adam passed about 40 years ago. Judy and her siblings now own the farm and are currently working on remodeling the house. Unfortunately, the garage and work shop have seen better days and it’s time to replace them.

Judy came over to invite me to take a look at the tractor for possible inclusion in the museum. She also showed me the long locked work shop. Once again, there was an unknown museum. I had passed by the farm hundreds of times and never knew what was hidden by the trees along the road. I hope we might be able to move the machinery to the museum to use in the future stone masons shop.

…And Uncle Adam’s tractor? It last ran 15 years ago, about the turn of the new century. It now sits among some trees, overlooking Adam and Sophie’s house. But, once Judy talks it over with the family, the old Model A may find a new home. There it would join the museum’s Ford Company built production Mod. T tractor and the museum’s 1919 Ford Model TT truck.

Update: two days later.

When I was first exploring Adam’s workshop, I discovered a Farm & Fireside magazine dated Oct. 1929, the month of the start of the Great Depression. As I sat at the dinner table reading the news of the day just weeks before the world was over taken by depression and war, I came across an ad on page 43. I image Adam had read that ad and maybe it inspired him to build his own tractor. It read, …

“A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, while men and women toiled for their daily bread in the fields of the world, Cyrus Hall McCormick built the strange machine which did the work of several men. That machine was the McCormick Reaper. On the heals of the Reaper, both Agriculture and Industry leaped forward with great strides.

TODAY another invention is creating another far-reaching revolution in farming. This machine is the McCormick-Deering Farmall, the first all-purpose tractor. In time to come, the invention of the Farmall will take its place with the invention of the Reaper in the schoolboy’s history book.

The Reaper began man’s emancipation from hand labor in the harvest. The Farmall now frees him from dependence on slow animal power.

The harness, the curry comb, and the pitiless whip are being put in the corner where the cradles and sickles of old have gathered dust for generations. Even on the row-crop farm, where the horse makes his last stand, there is no longer any sound reason for keeping him. A thousand farmers have already joined the Horseless Farmers of America. In farming, just as in industry throughout the civilized world, the capacity of the machine and the power of the motor are taking up the burden of the human race.

The farmer with his Farmall and the equipment that goes with it is ready for every power job. He is master of time and season, broad acreage, big crop, and low-cost production. He has put the labor of many men into the hands of one, and made it far easier. He has made the farm interesting for himself  and his sons. He is using his Farmall tractor to give him leisure and profit so that he and his family may enjoy the good things of life.

–Farm & Fireside, The National Farm Magazine ~ 5 cents a copy. October 1929.  Published monthly by Crowell Publishing Co. at Springfield, Ohio. Branch Office -Chicago, Illinois.”

Indeed, I imagine Adam reading that ad and just a short while later building his own tractor, before he was to become an employed mechanic in his own right, just like Cyrus McCormick had before him.

(On a personal note: When Mr. McCormick retired from the daily workings of his factories, he established a farm in Richfield. Included in the several hundred acres of his farm were 50 acres that had originally been a part of our farm.)

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