April 9, 2015 by randberg
Sometimes a blog subject just falls in your lap!
A few weeks back, I took a phone call from David Brainard who stated that he was writing a book on the construction of the Ohio Turnpike. Mr. Brainard wanted to know what the collections of the Peninsula Library might contain that would help him with his research. Actually, the groundbreaking for the Ohio Turnpike took place in our community on October 27, 1952, just a few miles north of the library. The Cuyahoga River bridge (the longest and highest bridge on the entire turnpike) is now located at the site of the dedication ceremony. In addition to photographs of the construction, our collection includes newspaper accounts of local officials suing the construction companies and the turnpike commission for damage to the township and village roads. Also, there are accounts of citizens balking at the prospect of losing their homes and farms to the new highway. Sheriff’s deputies would show up, cart the family’s belongings out of the house and then stand guard as the house was demolished.
After hearing what we had to offer, Mr. Brainard made a date to come to our library and do some research on his book. During the course of our work on this subject, I discovered from Mr. Brainard that he is affiliated with the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) located in Bowling Green, Ohio. I had never heard of HCEA and I would venture to bet that most of the members of the Subject and Special Collections Division have not heard of them either. Before I delve deeply into the HCEA organization, a little back-story is in order.
Typical for boys of my generation, I started my play-time years with a slew of Matchbox cars. In our family we were paid a “dime a week” allowance for keeping our rooms clean, taking dishes to the kitchen after meals, and other incidental kid-sized household tasks. Upon saving up five weeks’ worth of allowance, Mom would drive us to the Toy Box, a cornucopia of childhood joy located in the Fairlawn Plaza. Much time was spent and huge internal debates were had as to which Matchbox vehicle would be exchanged for my fifty cents. But Matchbox cars were only a “gateway toy” to the real magilla, Tonka trucks. Hours upon hours were spent in the backyard sandbox, reshaping the earth and moving tons of dirt. It is no wonder, then, that I instantly became enraptured with Mr. Brainard’s Historical Construction Equipment Association!
The HCEA is a 501c3 non-profit organization “dedicated to preserving the history of construction, surface mining, and dredging equipment.” In other words, they have “real” Tonka trucks and they get to “play” with them as part of their mission statement! Founded in 1986, HCEA has set up a home base in Bowling Green where they restore and display equipment and maintain an archives and museum. The museum houses over 100 machines, some of which are fully restored and operable. They also maintain an archives of manufacturers’ catalogs, photographs, and advertising memorabilia. In addition to an annual convention (In 2015 they will be congregating over Labor Day weekend southwest of Milwaukee), HCEA also publishes a high-quality quarterly magazine, Equipment Echoes. Mr. Brainard gave me a copy which, coincidentally, featured him on the cover driving an Allis-Chalmers bulldozer!
Much to the delight of that Matchbox- and Tonka-loving kid inside of me, HCEA also maintains a collection of vintage die-cast vehicles and sandbox-sized earthmoving equipment. I have not yet made a pilgrimage to Bowling Green to see all the great stuff that HCEA is doing, but I plan to put that on my list of trips for this summer. I thank Mr. Brainard for allowing me to use his visit as a starting-off point for this post. With a little pre-planning, perhaps I can arrange to meet him at the HCEA museum for a guided tour! For more information on the Historical Construction Equipment Association, visit their website at http://www.hcea.net .