August 16, 2010
Brockways bring past into view
11th annual truck show highlights Cortland’s manufacturing roots
An industry that was a pillar of Cortland’s economy for 55 years came back to life for one day Saturday as downtown filled with Brockway trucks and other vehicles made with the company’s chassis.
The 11th Annual National Brockway Truck Show brought owners of the massive vehicles, in a variety of colors both gaudy and low-key, from 16 states, Canada and Australia.
The day’s parade and display of trucks fell between a Friday evening fundraiser for the Central New York Living History Center and a Saturday evening dinner for 43 former Brockway Truck Co. employees.
The company manufactured trucks from 1912, after it grew from a Homer carriage manufacturer, until 1977, when it was closed by its new owner, Mack Trucks, following an employee strike. People reminisced about the company as they walked around Main Street, but mostly they photographed and admired the vehicles.
Some trucks were still being used by paving or hauling companies, while others were showpieces, rebuilt by their owners as a hobby.
“What is the attraction? I can’t answer that,” said Scott Albrecht of Berkshire, who brought Miss Sally, his green and black 1972 Brockway that was once owned by Terpening Fuel Co. of Syracuse. “It’s a fever, a sickness, a pleasure. Part of it is, you get one and then you need another one.”
Albrecht, one of the first owners to bring a truck when the truck show started, said he owns another one that is not restored yet.
“These trucks aren’t made anymore, and I like the fact that my truck was built 30 miles from where I live and it never left New York state,” he said. “It’s a shame they couldn’t keep (the company) going.”
Albrecht, one of seven people honored for bringing a truck to the show for 10 years, said that in the crowd he encountered a man who drove Miss Sally on a fuel delivery route for Terpening. He said he named the truck after his wife, because her late father had a Brockway truck named after her.
Members of the Homer-Cortland Community Agency said the Friday dinner raised between $2,000 and $3,000 for the CNY Living History Center, which is a combination of the Brockway Museum, Homeville Museum, Tractors of Yesteryear and several other collections. The center is located on Route 11, and the building is still undergoing renovation.
The HCCA, a nonprofit created in 2005 to oversee the center, launched a $2.5 million capital campaign in January.
The Homeville Museum plans a spaghetti dinner for Sept. 22 at the Homer Elks Club.
The vehicles on display included a 1941 school bus, farm vehicles, a green-and-purple cement mixer called the Green Island Giant, a 1931 black tanker truck with an asphalt distributor mounted on it and a 1925 fire truck from Westhampton Beach, Long Island.
A few trucking firms, such as Grimm Building Materials of Green Island, Baldwin Brothers of Churchville and Homer’s Tom Kile and Sons, brought several trucks. Grimm owns the Green Island Giant.
Grimm was a corporate sponsor for the parade and show, along with Suit-Kote Corp., Rick and Rich Towing and Syracusa Sand and Gravel from Victor.
Shirley Randolph, the show’s chair, said the show began as a one-time event in 2000 to celebrate Cortland’s centennial. But Brockway truck owners and enthusiasts wanted to continue the tradition.
“We were only going to do this one time, but these guys got together and wanted to do it every year,” she said. “They said they’d come if there were only five trucks, and we have a lot more than five.”
Randolph said 140 trucks had been registered with her volunteer staff as of the early afternoon, but more than 10 other truck owners were there who had not registered.
The 1925 Westhampton Beach fire truck, all shiny brass and dark red paint, made its first appearance at the show. Four firefighters brought it up on a trailer and stored it overnight at the Living History Center so nobody would steal its brass buckets and other gear.
The small truck carried buckets, which the firefighters would use to throw water on fires.
“We bring it out for parades and firefighters’ funerals, and we were at a show last week on Long Island and a guy who owns a Brockway truck told us about this,” said Bill Halsey, one of the firefighters. “It took us five hours and 39 minutes to get here.”
Larry Saccente, another of the four, said the department sold the truck and then bought it back in October 1975. The firefighters restored it for the U.S. Centennial celebration in 1976.
Many people wandering among the trucks wore New York Jets attire and had come from morning practice at the Jets training camp on the SUNY Cortland campus.
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