Antique Trucks, Tractors and a Famous Saddle Reel in Hundreds

10/29/2011 10:00 AM
By Jennifer Hetrick Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

PENNSBURG, Pa. — Drawing in people who enjoy the lure of old wheels on the road and along stretches of farmland, John Haines hosted the sixth annual Hoppenville Antique Truck, Tractor and Car Show on a recent windy but warm day, Oct. 15.

Haines is the regionally famed name behind the construction materials and contracting company known as the H&K Group, based in Skippack, Pa., in Montgomery County.

He began his excavating endeavors back in 1957, so it’s understandable that someone like Haines might have two museums of antique trucks and tractors on his home property, spanning 16 acres.

The show originated under the care of Whitey Lower of Kulpsville, Pa., about a half-hour drive from Haines’ property.

Five years ago, Haines asked Lower permission to take over the event, expanding the show considerably. Today, he invites more than 200 antique vehicle owners, some from several hundred miles away, to display their motored collectibles.

“The trucks are never judged at shows,” Haines said about his varied fleet.

A few skips away from each other, his museums together house around 40 antique trucks, some old racecars and several tractors. About 40 to 50 more are awaiting restoration from Arthur Cooper, who also works for Haines at Windsor Service in Reading, Pa., in Berks County.

“Cooper is the man who’s responsible for all the restoration,” Haines said, “while I’m responsible for all of the property and the cans, and that’s our partnership.”

He is referring to the collection of antique cans in the first museum, which were used in the past to hold oil and antifreeze. A few of the rustic but well-kept cans there held grease also. The first museum houses only a few work trucks.

“I had been around equipment all of my life, and I like old stuff, preserved,” Haines said about his collecting efforts, which blossomed 14 years ago.

Initially headed to study forestry after high school, Haines didn’t want to go to college.

“We had a backhoe on the farm which we used to drain ditches,” Haines said, referring to his family’s land in Gwynedd Valley where his father, Anthony B. Haines, grew corn, wheat and soybeans on 500 acres. “I just wanted to move dirt.”

“When I was 15, I bought my first chainsaw,” Haines said, noting that the second one he bought when he was 18, a yellow two-man saw, is perched in the more expansive museum — not far from another important antique item, cowboy actor Roy Rogers’ original saddle.

Besides collecting Rogers’ saddle, in July 2010, while at Christie’s auction house in New York, Haines and his fiancée, Pam Weidel, purchased the famous Rogers’ grey 1947 Willys CJ-2A Jeep, named NellyBelle.

Weidel, who trains endurance riding horses at Weidel’s Boxwood Farms in Pennington, N.J., soon also plans to open a small saddle museum outside of their late-1700’s home in one of the historic buildings close to the house.

Back in the larger museum is parked the oldest vehicle Haines owns, a 1908 Economy Motor Buggy which his father bought from a blacksmith who went blind. As the second car in North Wales, Montgomery County, it still runs. Only 64 of them were made.

Because of a chance meeting, Haines flies the Canadian flag near the museum, thoughtfully sending it up years ago after becoming great friends with the most prolific antique truck collector in Canada, George Tackaberry, who also happens to be in the quarry and road-building business and began his operation the very same year as Haines, more than five decades ago.

The two met under a tree at a truck show in Lititz, Pa., in Lancaster County, when Haines had just started collecting. Unfortunately, Tackaberry couldn’t attend this year’s show.

Still, many enthusiasts drove out from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Delaware, Virginia, Ohio and even Canada to showcase their cherished classics on wheels.

The annual show is free, and provides shuttle service to all visitors. The hundreds of antique vehicle afficionados who attended seemed to enjoy the complementary food that Haines and his helpful organizers offered as well. The audience includes those who have appreciated motorized antiques for decades, young children excitedly admiring the gleaming old vehicles for the first time, and all ages of visitors in between. The rich history of this mode of transportation deserves this worthy attention.

Haines opens the museums to the public on Saturdays, if those who are interested call ahead to schedule a visit through Arthur Cooper at 484-576-3952.

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