by Jim Bulls
Let’s step back into fantasy land, to the hypothetical Farm Show of 1910, when farmers traveled from Bakersfield, Fresno, Coaling Station A, Stone Corral, and Reedley. Back then, just as it is today, there is the threat of rain in the air. That is not going to stop the contingent from Reedley though; they have some of the newest farm and commercial equipment, plus skills, to exhibit.
Teamsters Bert Belknap and Seth Grey are entered in the “Mule Skinner’s Rodeo.” They will be driving their 12-mule-teams and heavy-duty freight wagons through a series of obstacles. The mule skinner or teamster was a professional driver whose sole purpose was to keep his wagon under control and moving. Some mule skinners actually rode one of the mules and guided the entire team with a single rein called a jerk line. An experienced mule skinner knew the personality of every one of his mules and could make them into a perfect pulling machine, belying their reputation to be obstinate and stubborn.
Smith’s Tool & Die Company will most likely have a large display of tools marketed under the name S. Smith Tool Company, Reedley, California. Smith manufactured valve grinding and seat installation tools for the JADSON valves. He also made brake drum lathes and line boring equipment for the mechanical trade. Smith built the City’s first street sweeper and lift that was used to assemble and install the new street lights. As Reedley evolved from being “King of Wheat” to the “World’s Fruit Basket” Smith designed and built a casing machine to box raisins. All of these items would have been “hot” sellers at the Farm Show.
The freight wagons used by Belknap and Grey were built in Reedley by Manuel Enos and Sons, and by Drake and Sons Manufacturing Company. These heavy-duty wagons were mostly used for hauling freight, agriculture or logging. They will most likely be purchased for use in the southern San Joaquin Valley’s newest industry, oil, ending up in places like Bakersfield and Oildale.
Enos is also the local Studebaker wagon dealer. He will have several of their new wagons and buggies, along with some custom designs of his own. Instead of wagons, J.A. Drake, also the owner of the JADSON Valve Company (JADSON=J.A. Drake & Sons), will be showing the newest designs in automotive, industrial, marine and aircraft valves.
Drake was fascinated by the thrill of speed. He was involved in a barn storming and aerobatic circus at one time, and was always interested in aircraft. The Drakes built a glider and started the Reedley Glider Club.
Smith was also a member of the club and you would often see the glider sitting in his machine shop. The Drakes also built a race car that ran on the streets of Visalia, Parlier and on the big wood track at the Fresno Fair Grounds. Drake’s love of racing evolved into building a two-cylinder midget race car that used a Harley Davidson bottom case and a cylinder and head designed by Drake that was water cooled. These “Drake Midgets” were very successful. Fresno’s Eli and Billy Vukovich raced Drake Midgets to fame and both got rides at the “Indy 500.”
The Drakes eventually relocated to southern California and set a glider-towing record that wasn’t broken until World War II. If you are familiar with Indy racing, you will remember when the “Offy” was king. The full name was the Meyer-Drake-Offenhauser engine.
“Tib” Smith was a onetime Reedley City Manager. Manuel Enos was to become Reedley’s first Fire Chief after the foundry at the Drake & Sons Manufacturing caught fire and burned down a block of downtown Reedley. But that’s another story.
Next week, people from all over the world and throughout the United States will make the pilgrimage to the World Ag Expo—the world’s largest annual agricultural exposition. For three days every February, Tulare, California is the place to be and the place to see how technology is changing agriculture the world over. Check out our event page for the World Ag Expo here on KRL for details.