August 15, 2011
Brockways roll into town
134 trucks along Main St. pay tribute to former company
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Visitors to the 2011 Brockway truck show view the trucks on display Saturday on Main Street in Cortland. The 12th Annual Brockway National Truck Show included social events for truck owners and those who worked for the company.
Those who admire and love Brockway trucks gathered Saturday for the 12th consecutive year in downtown Cortland, remembering the Brockway Truck Co. and the vehicles it made here for 65 years.
The company went out of business in 1977 after manufacturing trucks since 1912 for hauling, farming and firefighting, but its distinctive logo with the husky dog and “BrockwaY” style of writing the company name live on.
The 12th Annual Brockway National Truck Show featured social events for truck owners and those who worked for the company. But the stars were the massive trucks themselves.
Horns sounded in the morning as drivers paraded their vehicles from the Central New York Living History Center on Route 11 in Cortlandville, the future home of the Brockway Museum, up Church Street and around to Main Street, where they were parked for the afternoon.
The hundreds of people who had stood on the sidewalk to watch then strolled among the trucks, talking to their owners and reminiscing while a bluegrass band played and vendors sold Brockway truck parts and souvenirs.
Karman Harrington of Greene and three friends admired a 1972 truck from Castle Creek, similar to the one her grandfather, Dick Watts, sold for the Brockway Truck Co. decades ago. She said her grandfather came to the first several shows before he died five years ago.
Harrington said the four of them rode motorcycles from Greene. She had a Brockway huskie stuffed toy mounted on the front of hers.
Truck owners came from 14 states, many from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Many were from the Cortland area, such as Potter Trucking, Tom Kile and Sons of Homer, Suit-Kote and the town of Homer, and from upstate New York.
Shirley Randolph, president of the Brockway Truck Association, said that despite high fuel prices, 134 trucks were driven to Cortland and put on display, just under last year’s record of 140.
The company began in the 19th century as Brockway Carriage Works in Homer. The founder’s son, George Brockway, moved it to Cortland in 1912 and manufactured trucks.
But there were three carriages on display as well, one of them brought from North Carolina by dentist Emery Johnston, whose grandfather worked for Brockway from 1904 until 1959, when he retired as assistant plant superintendent.
“My grandfather, also named Emery, left a carriage and wagon maker in Athens, Pa., to work
Chester Grodack of Arrowhead Lake, Pa., said his 1975 truck came from a jun for Brockway,” Johnston said. “We moved to Moravia, where I went to school. My grandfather was the first Brockway employee to draw a pension — the company kept him on as a night watchman for a few years so he could qualify.”
Johnston said his carriage, which he bought on ebay three years ago, led last year’s parade. This year, one of the horses was skittish as the parade started, so he drove at the parade’s end instead.
Johnston said a carriage similar to his sold for $150 in 1894. He bought his for $2,000 and went to Texas to pick it up.
Keith Cole and his father, John, brought three trucks from Binghamton, where they own hauling and dumping businesses. The vehicles were made in 1968, 1970 and 1977.
“I didn’t even have my truck parked before a man came up and said he’d driven one of these trucks for 20 years,” Keith Cole said. “When we drove past the nursing home (senior center on Church Street), I wondered if some people in there used to work for the company.”
Cole said he and his father and brother exhibit the trucks in a few Brockway gatherings each year.
“We change our vacations to be here,” he said.
Some trucks were not being used regularly but were salvaged and restored.kyard. He and several friends from their chapter of Antique Truck Club of America had come to Cortland; it was his first time.
He said the higher fuel prices this summer were a problem but he decided to come.
“This is my only vice,” Grodack said.
People told stories about driving the trucks and meeting people who love Brockways. One man said he was wearing a shirt in Florida with the Brockway logo stitched above his heart and a stranger said he had worked there, telling him stories for 20 minutes.
“This really is a fraternity, and I just love to sit and listen to these guys talk,” said Randolph, who owns a truck once used by Unadilla Silo Co.
The weekend included a Finger Lakes tour on Thursday, a barbecue and fireworks Friday, and the annual dinner for former Brockway employees on Saturday evening. Randolph said more than 40 former employees planned to come.
Corporate sponsors were Suit-Kote, Rick and Rich Towing, Cortland Ramada, Grimm Building Materials from the Troy area, and Syracusa Sand and Gravel of Victor.
The sponsor is the Brockway Museum, which is housed in the Central New York Living History Center and managed by a board of directors, along with the Homer-Cortland Community Agency, a nonprofit that owns and oversees the museum.
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