Remembering when a Silver King tractor raced a little Cushman scooter on a country road

MIDDLEBURGH — June 25 was a perfect morning to enjoy breakfast with the OMOTM at Mrs. K’s Kitchen in Middleburgh. By 7 a.m., the long table was filled and only two seats were left at the far end while breakfast orders were already being taken.

The rest of the room filled up quickly and was filled with laughter from funny stories and memories. I think if you could be a fly on the wall and just listen in on all the conversations from just one breakfast, you would have enough material for a year’s worth of OMOTM columns in The Altamont Enterprise.

Those conversations would run the gamut of topics from sad to funny, to pride in grandkids, to love and to concern for fellow OFs. Today’s OMOTM column will be looking at some lighthearted and funny stories heard on Tuesday morning.

Somehow, it is never clear how a particular conversation gets started. On Tuesday morning, we got talking about motor scooters. One OF mentioned he had a Vespa scooter, which prompted me to mention my Harley-Davidson motor scooter that was called a Topper.

Most people who hear the name, Harley-Davidson, will instantly think of big, loud, fast motorcycles, not a little small scooter with a top speed around 45 miles per hour! We all smiled and had a chuckle about that.

Then one OF told the story of his scooter made by Cushman that his father got for him. It seems one day that a friend of his father asked if could take the scooter out for a ride. His father said sure.

After a while, our OF looked up and saw his Cushman Motor Scooter racing neck and neck against a big farm tractor, a Silver King, the model with just one front tire, coming down that country road as fast as they could go, which was about 35 to 40 miles per hour for both of them!

He said the guy driving the Silver King tractor was standing up and steering the tractor with one hand while reaching forward with the other to the engine to disengage the governor (a device that prevents the engine from going too fast) in order to get more speed!

I just couldn’t keep myself from laughing at the visual picture I had in my mind of a great big farm tractor racing down the country road side by side against a little bitty motor scooter! At 35 to 40 miles per hour each! Probably not even the speed limit, if they even had speed limits on country roads in the mid- to late 1930s.

As he told the story, I glanced around the table and saw the other OFs nodding in agreement when the name Silver King tractor, with only one front tire, was mentioned. They all knew exactly what he was talking about.

Except me. You remember me, the shirt-and-tie office guy from the Flatlands, so I had to ask about the Silver King and they all happily explained all about the tractor. It got its name because it was painted silver. That’s reasonable.

So I Googled the name Silver King and found an article “History of the Plymouth Silver King” from the Antique Power written in 1991. Turns out the factory was in Plymouth, Ohio, thus the name Plymouth.

It also mentioned that an earlier version of the company had made fewer than 200 trucks and one car before going out of business. Long story short, Chrysler Corp. sued Plymouth Silver King over the name “Plymouth.”

Chrysler lost the suit because of that one car that was built before Chrysler was even in business. Chrysler had to buy the right to use the name “Plymouth,” which it reportedly did for one dollar.

The stuff I learn while writing this column is astounding!


Boating challenges

Keeping this week’s column lighthearted but oh-so-interesting, our conversation moved on to boating and more specifically the trials and tribulations found at any boat launch in America.

Several stories were quickly told of people who really should never be allowed to try and back up a boat trailer into the water. So many of them seem to get the boat trailer at right angles to the car.

One OF told the story of the guy who failed to remove the tie down stern straps before backing his boat into the water and couldn’t figure out why his boat would not float off the trailer.

He tried several times, each time driving further up the ramp and then going faster and faster back down trying to “launch” his boat by slamming on the brakes. Nothing worked.

Finally, the brakes got wet, and boat launches are notorious for being slippery and he wound up sliding into the water, boat trailer, car and all. The boat was  still attached to the trailer, which was now sort of floating.

The driver crawled out of the car window and tried to jump to shore, he was short by a few feet and slipped on the aforementioned slippery ramp and fell into water!

I don’t know if that story might qualify for tall-tale status, but I’ll tell you this: I was launching my boat at the Albany boat launch for about the 100th time, and went to step on the trailer with my wet, slippery sneakers, and wound up flat on my back in about one foot of water in a heartbeat!

I got up, faced the laughing crowd of onlookers on shore, and promptly gave them my very best bow. I did get a nice round of applause mixed in with the laughter. I proceeded with the launch and received another round of applause and handwaving as I left the launch area in my boat and wet clothes as quickly as I could!

The OMOTM who enjoyed their breakfast at Mrs. K’s Kitchen were: Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Ed Goff, Wm. Lichliter, Robie Ostermann, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Frank Fuss, Roger Shafer, Roland Tozer, Ken Parks, Jake Herzog, Gerry Chartier, Paul Whitbeck, Russ Pokorny, Pastor Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, John Jaz, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Gerry Cross, Dick Dexter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnely, Duncan Bellinger, John Dab, Paul Guiton, and me.