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Antique Truck Lovers, NE Rockbusters Join for Sixth Annual Machine Show

By: Jay Adams

The Northeast Rockbusters sign adorns a 1934 McCormick Deering track tractor owned by Dave Burnham of Saunderstown, R.I., president of the group and one of the event’s chief organizers.

The Northeast Rockbusters sign adorns a 1934 McCormick Deering track tractor owned by Dave Burnham of Saunderstown, R.I., president of the group and one of the event’s chief organizers.

In trucking, cooperation is everything. The same could be said for construction work, all contracting and the running of any successful club or organization.

Cooperation in all these arenas came together as one at the Antique Truck Club of America’s Little Rhody Chapter’s Sixth Annual Antique Truck Show on Sept. 13 on the Washington County Fairgrounds in Richmond, R.I. Working in conjunction with the Historical Construction Equipment Association’s (HCEA) Northeast Rockbusters once again, more than 60 members of the local Antique Truck Club brought out their finest old equipment, to the delight and surprise of other members, guests and enthusiasts.

The Antique Truck Club and the Rockbusters hold this event every September, drawing people from every New England state. Machines that range from the unusual to the sublime fill the flat fields of the fairgrounds for passersby to admire.

“We combine our shows. We support them and they support us, even in the rain,” said Jackie Volatile, who organizes these shows with her husband, Roger, the club’s president.

What made the presidential couple so proud this year was that the event was organized to raise money and food for the Rhode Island Food Bank.

We brought in 800 pounds of canned goods. Last year, we fed 2,000 needy families for a year and we are quite proud of that,” said Jackie Volatile.

They also are very proud of the cooperation and shared interests of their members who bring any and all working antique machines to these events, as long as they are able.

“We welcome classic trucks, we welcome tractors, anything that comes in,” added Roger Volatile.


“Antique is antique to us.”

The Volatiles represent the Little Rhody Chapter at national events, usually held in the National Chapter’s home state of Pennsylvania. “There are 21 different chapters in the country,” said Jackie Volatile. “We are always on the road, getting members to represent us.”

Working Groups, Working Pumps

HCEA officer Bill Weston, working out of an information booth next to several classic earthmovers, gave much credit to the Volatiles for running such smooth events, for the easy interaction between the related groups and the many events most of them attend annually.

“We support each other,” said Weston. “We get to know one another. You’ll find, as you go to the various venues, whether they bring trucks, tractors or construction equipment, we all tend to support one another. Any one particular member goes to many events and has multiple memberships in several organizations. We’re lucky we [can still afford to] have a roof over our heads,” he added, laughing.

Beyond the classic automobiles, the giant earthmovers, the various trucks of every shape and size, were the unique machines, put together and restored in extremely unusual ways.

Consider Matthew Kent of Portsmouth, R.I., who brought a working vintage water pump, which was a 1909 Bulldozer Pump made by F.E. Meyers and Brothers, hooked up to a 1923 3 hp Jaeger engine made by Hercules. The pump demonstration drew a constant crowd.

“In the 1980s, when I grew up, my brother, my Dad and I collected engines, old steam engines, a lot of them were make and break engines,” said Kent. “I had found this pump in pieces in a field, all rusted solid. Nothing would turn on it. The guy who owned it, said to me, ‘It’s all rust. You could take it for scrap.’ I fixed up the pump, got the engine running. I just like old machines. I like taking different engines to shows with my son, Daniel. I’ve got two old engines at home to be fixed, 10 garden tractors. The yard is filled with old stuff.”

Fending off Buyers

One of the most unusual pieces of running equipment at the show was a 1930s Clete Track Tractor owned by Fred York of Dunns Corners, Westerly, R.I.

“I found it buried in the woods,” said York. “There were trees growing through it and pine needles across it. I worked on it for three years and there you see it; it runs. I knew it would run.

“All these tractors I have here work and run,” York continued. “I was raised on a chicken farm where we had old tractors all over the place. I have 86 or so machines all over my place.” He laughed. “I need more room. I only have an acre of land. Eighty percent of them run. I love to hear something run. I get them running and then I lose interest in them.”

York often has to fend off collectors who want to buy his restored tractors.

“People want to buy them. I don’t sell them. I just hoard them. I want to run a museum some day.”

He pointed to his 1918 Fordsen Tractor, a truly unusual piece.

“I run to Maine and Maryland to pick these things up. That little cat, it’s different. People have never seen anything like it,” he said proudly. “It’s a real mower, made in New York. It has an electric roll on it. The cord comes out and rolls back.” He pushed the button on it and it purred like the day it was manufactured. “A push button,” laughed York. “It starts and their mouths drop open.”

Weston showed off three beautiful pieces of classic heavy iron equipment, including a 1934 McCormick Deering tractor, owned by Dave Burnham, president of the local HCEA chapter, a 1948 Clete Track Tractor and a 1949 Bucyrus Erie Earth Mover.

“What’s really special about this Bucyrus Erie is that, except for some advances in technology, it is still produced the same way, and the basic concept hasn’t changed since the 1940s,” said Weston.

National Convention

Not to be excluded were the many classic automobiles adorning the fields, like the 1930 Model A Huckster Deep O Hack produce truck owned by Franklin Burke of Westerly, R.I. Burke had worked on restoring the truck for five years.

“It’s period correct,” said Burke proudly. “People like it. It’s different. It’s becoming harder to find restorable vehicles. If I need to, I’ll build a custom body around it. I have another one at home. I also have a 1931 two-door sedan.”

And the Volatiles could certainly relate to that. They proudly noted that this was the 100th anniversary of their own 1909 Model A “Tin Lizzie.”

The Northeast Rockbusters also noted an important date. They urge enthusiasts from all over New England to come to the HCEA’s National Convention to be held in Richmond, R.I., one year from now, Sept. 10 to 12, 2010. CEG