MILLVILLE A warm yellow sun cast its rays upon a sea of RED tractors in Millville Saturday as members of Chapter 17 from the International Harvester Collectors Association hosted an open house in the former Frank Bartlow dealership.
For some time, the organization has had its eyes on the prototype building recently paying $155,000 for the store and two acres.
Designed by IH, the building is touted as being one of the last of the company's prototypes. Now modified, other similar structures in the area include the former Turbotville dealership owned by the late Sam Cooper and also the former Arthur Myers dealership located on Muncy's East Water Street.
Ed Snook, Jersey Shore; Bill Brooks, Trout Run and Paul Shultz, Millville; during Saturday’s open house at Millville’s International Harvester (IH) museum.
The senior Frank Bartlow took on this IH dealership in 1939. He'd needed a tractor to operate a pulley on his sawmill and after purchasing a McCormick Deering tractor; the salesman asked Bartlow if he would be interested in becoming a dealer.
Just as operations began, the war years interrupted production as the IH Company changed over to aid in the war effort.
When the war ended, businesses began to blossom including the agriculture field. Bartlow broke ground in 1946 and during the fall of 1947 the current building opened replacing a structure directly across the street.
According to the son of the original owner, "The lumber used in the building, the show room floor, the counters and shelving were from dad's farm in Columbia County's Maple Ridge Road in Pine Township. It was sawn at his sawmill, then dried, " said young Frank whose nickname is Tubby.
Ken Stere was an early salesman assigned to the parts department. The first mechanic was George Oman of Millertown, and later nephews Harold and Harvey Oman. As time went on, Gary Dawson and Bill McWilliams became employees.
Grace, the owner's daughter, was bookkeeper for the family business after leaving office duties at the Robbins Door and Sash Company in town. Grace was destined to meet her future spouse at the dealership. Tom Hunter, a traveling refrigeration specialist employed by the IH Company. He came to the shop and after marriage, he too became a member of the family team. Grace Bartlow Hunter passed away last year.
An accompanying business at the same site was the pouring of precast burial vaults then trucked to area cemeteries. Thomas Bartlow, the owner's brother, was in charge of the precast operation.
Just as he'd done 63 years ago also in October, Paul Shultz attended a second open house at the same spot. A youngster in 1947, Shultz of rural Millville had won the fifty dollar door prize which his parents used toward the purchase of an IH refrigerator. "It was the first refrigerator Bartlow sold, Shultz said, "Later my dad bought the last McCormick Deering binder on rubber tires sold here," he said.
Shultz had other recollections; "The school was just across the street and over noon hour, six to eight of us boys would eat lunch seated inside the dealership. As long as we didn't cause any problems, we were allowed to do that," he said.
Bill Brooks of Trout Run recalled stories of his grandfather coming to Millville for purchases while the business was in its former shop location.
Jersey Shore resident Ed Snook said other dealers often referred customers to the Millville store. "We'd find parts available here others didn't carry or didn't have in stock at the time. You can get it in Millville, they'd say."
The tractors and memorabilia collection displayed last Saturday have been gathered by Frank "Tubby" and with the aid of family members were trucked to IH machinery shows around the country.
The Chapter 17 group has hosted state and national shows at the Bloomsburg Fair Grounds providing side trips to the Bartlow complex.
The women of Chapter 17 did their bit to promote the event. Ronda Trapani of Danville watched over a machine roasting peanuts, while food and drink was offered for a donation toward the fund designated to help save the building.
Anyone interested in contacting the local IH organization can do so by going to their website: www.ihcollectors17.org.