Many years ago, not long after I got into the “Rusty Iron” hobby, I began to attend the annual show put on by the Northwest Pennsylvania Steam Engine & Old Equipment Association at their grounds in Portersville, Pa.
I knew no one there, but there was one skinny guy who was always bustling around and seemed to know everyone. Although we never formally met, he always greeted me like a long lost buddy and talked to me as if he had known me for years. Eventually, I discovered the friendly and talkative man’s name was Wayne Cooper, and he did make me feel welcome at the show.
Wayne is a fixture at the Portersville Steam Show, as it is commonly known, and he can often be found around the “Tradin’ Post,” a log cabin on the show grounds in which Wayne has accumulated a wide variety of antique and collectible items that he will sell or trade.
His 1949 Studebaker truck is on exhibit, along with a shop-made hi-crop sprayer rig built around an Allis-Chalmers model C tractor. In years past, Wayne always had a wagon or a truck load of his pedal tractors on display, but has since sold his collection. (To see a photo of Wayne’s “Tradin’ Post,” go to http://portersvillesteamshow.homestead.com/ and scroll down the page)
Over the years, Wayne and I came to know each other better and became friends — it’s really pretty difficult not to be friends with the guy. I met most of his family and he invited me to take part in the spring plowing events he organized on his family’s farm, which I have done a number of times.
In 2008, Wayne invited me to ride along with him and Charlie Baird to attend the annual National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa. I’d never been there and so I went along. Wow! I’d never seen so many toys, or people, in my life. Although it was fun, and I managed to buy a few items (an old John Deere tractor and manure spreader like the ones I had as a kid), fighting the crowds got to me and I vowed never to go back.
Then, six weeks or so ago, I received a card in the mail that read: “You are invited to a reception honoring the 2010 National Farm Toy Hall of Fame Inductee, Wayne Cooper, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010.” After a week of thinking about it, I decided I had to be there to see my friend receive this honor, so hotel reservations were made and off I went at the appointed time.
Located in the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, the Hall of Fame recognizes individuals or groups who have contributed to the farm toy collecting hobby in a positive way. Since its inception in 1992, the National Farm Toy Hall of Fame has honored just over 30 other folks, so Wayne is joining a select group.
Wayne first became involved with pedal tractors when he bought a couple, one new and one used, for his sons one Christmas. Later, when his oldest son, Greg, grew into a fine mechanic, they got into hit and miss engines and full-sized antique tractors.
Then, about 1980, Wayne began restoring pedal tractors and started a kid’s pedal tractor pull. With his family’s help, Wayne took his pedal pull to many events over the next 25 years, touching the lives of the hundreds of kids who competed.
Wayne at one time had some 75 pedal tractors in his collection and displayed them at many local shows. He also has restored more than 500 pedal tractors for other collectors and has become well known in the hobby for his knowledge of pedals, as they are called.
To share that knowledge, Wayne has written columns for Toy Farmer magazine and the online publication, Toy Tractor Times. He is assisted in these endeavors by his 25-year old grandson, Brandon, who is in a motorized wheelchair due to the ravages of muscular dystrophy, but who can still operate a computer.
Brandon is, according to Wayne, “…my reference library on wheels.”
The induction ceremony was held at the Dyersville Country Club on the Thursday night before the toy show opened on Friday. It was a fitting tribute to a man who is well known in farm toy circles and who has contributed much to the hobby.
The show was much like I remembered — wall-to-wall toys and people; one would never know there’s a recession on. Again, I found some items I couldn’t live without and spent too much money, but I’m glad I went, and I’m happy for Wayne.
However, this time I mean it! I’m never going back.