The Engine That Saved My Life
John M. Fleming
One horsepower International and 1921 T Ford.
Box 404 Rock Hollow Road R.R.1 Birdsboro, Pennsylvania 19508
My dad bought this engine for two dollars in 1928 from a butcher
shop. The igniter was worn out then. This was one of my toys. I
played with it until I was about ten years old.
At this time, my dad showed me the book that came with the 3 HP
and the 15 HP International. From this book he taught me the four
cycles of the gas engine.
These were the Depression years, and there would be no money
spent on an unnecessary project like this new parts were out of the
My dad showed me how to adapt a T Ford coil and spark plug to
make the engine run. I was about 10 or 12 years old by this time,
and wanted to bring the engine to life. The only tools that were
available were hand tools. I used a hand operated breast drill and
a hacksaw. From a ' steel plate I sawed out the shape of the
worn-out igniter and drilled the holes. To install the plug I put
it through the plate and forced a T Ford SAE fine thread nut over
the 18 mm thread spark plug. Timing for the ignition was with two
tapped holes and button head bolts on the outer edge of the butter
churn pulley. The ratio of the pulley is 4 to 1. The contact was a
piece of fiber fastened to the lower bolt of the gear guard, and I
used a piece of brass spring wire for the contact.
With the battery from the 3 HP IHC and a T coil and a little gas
and used oil, I was ready for the big event. Can you imagine the
charge I got when it came to life?
The engine ran my mother's wooden washing machine when I was
available, but my mother preferred the more reliable 3 HP IHC
I had a Model T Ford running gear I bought from a neighbor. Dad
showed me how to make motor repairs and install bands in the
transmission. I built a wooden truck bed and seat to haul the
neighbor kids up a lane to our farm neighbor and wood from the
Some years later I started my apprenticeship to be a machinist
at Birdsboro Steel Foundry and Machine Company. My starting wages
were 35 cents per hour.
In 1942 I bought my 1937 Willys car. This car's motor had
heavy connecting rods and pistons. The brass bushings in the rods
would hammer out about every 15,000 miles and I would have to make
Then in 1943 I was drafted. Here is where the 1 HP IHC and T
Ford and Dad's training comes in. When I took the tests given
by the Army and Navy I wanted to try the test for a machinist in
the Navy, but as I only had 14 months training as a machinist I
failed the test. I also took the test for auto mechanic and
I was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to Company D 271 69th
Division, a heavy weapons company. This company called for a T4
sergeant and a corporal mechanic. While I was taking basic
training, the T4 sergeant was hit on the side of his head and his
ear drum was ruptured. This put him on limited service. The 1st
sergeant checked the records and picked me out to replace the
I was now part of the cadre and helped train men for combat.
After their training they were shipped overseas to take part in the
invasion of Sicily, France and Pacific. I was not sent out because
I was part of the cadre.
The division was called to combat duty in 1945. In January we
were in Winchester, England. When the Battle of the Bulge took
place they took men by the thousands from our division to replace
While this took place we were transporting our equipment from a
port above London to Winchester where it was loaded onto ships to
cross the Channel. Here again I was saved by not being sent out
with the men shipped over earlier. We arrived near Liege, Belgium,
where we went in combat late in January with new replacements, and
in February we started to advance east.
We lost six jeeps the first week. Leo, my helper, and I had
plenty of spare parts from the damaged jeeps. These jeeps were
replaced with the Studebaker Weasel, a small track vehicle, because
of the mud. These Weasels were a new issue. We had no training how
to use them and maintain them. The mud would freeze at night and
tear the seals out of the track wheels and they would ruin the
bearings and come off. Then they would lose the track. The mud
would freeze in the brake drums of the jeeps and ruin the lining
and brake shoes and the rear drive shaft on the jeeps.
When we would have a rest stop it was no rest for Leo and me, as
we had to get the jeeps and Weasels fixed. Most of the drivers
The big events for Leo and me were the Seigfried line, crossing
the Rhine, Kasel, Leipzig, and the League of Nations Monument near
Leipzig. Finally, we met the Russians at Torgau.
After the war was over, my dad told me about the Rough &
Tumble Show. On my first visit I met Dick Seibert. When I told him
I had a 1 HP International he took me to the office and they gave
me a free GEM magazine. Dick and I were in constant contact as long
as he lived.
The little IHC was on display in 1997 running a pump at the
Rough and Tumble Show. I only missed displaying one year since
1954, because of an operation.
My interest in old iron is much greater than the average. From
the time I was able to walk my dad operated a shingle mill,
sawmill, cider press and a wheelwright shop. He used a 3 HP upright
IHC and later the 1917 10-20 Titan tractor, replacing the 15
Hope to see you this year. I will display for Blue Mountain,
Rough & Tumble, Wilhelms, and Hay Creek Valley Historical