The New York Jets of the NFL may hold their training camp in the small Upstate New York city of Cortland straight south of Syracuse on I-81, but this weekend it was all about the Huskies.
One hundred and eighteen vintage Brockway trucks with their sturdy Huskie hood ornaments made the annual trek back to the company’s hometown. The four-day National Brockway Truck Show, which has the flavor of an extended family reunion, started Thursday with a drive through the countryside and wrapped up Sunday with a farewell pancake breakfast.
Saturday’s parade and all-day show on Main Street were the highlights of the 15th annual event, which drew trucks and owners from Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and across the border in Ontario, Canada. But, most of these broad-shouldered work trucks are owned by folks here in the heart of New York’s dairy farming country. And, they lined up on Main Street just around the corner from where Brockways were made.
What started out as part of the city’s centennial celebration in 2000 has turned into an annual event. Shirley Randolph was one of the organizers of that original event and now is president emeritus of the show.
“These are the greatest bunch of people,” said Randolph, who oversees the tent selling all things Brockway. “They are exceptional people. They are kind. They are generous. Just delightful.”
Peter Grimm (at left) is one of the people Randolph singled out as helping make possible this Huskie-fest and the local living history museum that houses a Brockway exhibit. He was in Cortland with several Brockways including a 1931 hearse (yes, the Grimm Reaper) and a restored 1941 school bus (which he said a college student parked and lived in while earning his degree).
Grimm, who lives in Key West, Fla. and Troy, NY said his attachment to Brockways began as a youngster with a book, Toughy and His Trailer Truck by Edith Thatcher Hurd. The truck on the cover of that story of how Toughy drove his truck over a mountain one night in a storm was a Brockway.
“I’ve always been interested in anything with wheels and a motor,” said Grimm. “With Brockways being made in New York, I took a special interest. They were a very heavy-duty, very substantial truck. They did a great job and they looked great and were well designed.”
Of the several Brockways Grimm owns, he said he has two favorites: the 1931 Hearse he repatriated from Argentina and a purple and yellow 1976 Brockway with an 850+ hp, 12-cylinder Detroit Diesel and an Allison automatic he takes to shows and truck pulls.
Tom Millard, Sr., who retired after 30 years of driving for Roadway and Fowler and Williams of Scranton, Penn., shares Grimm’s appreciation for the way Brockways were built.
“They used the best of everything they put into them,” said Millard.
He had two trucks at the show: a 1955 155W with a gas 427 c.i. Continental flathead engine, and a 1970 E361 with a 238 Detroit Diesel.
Like Millard’s two restoration projects, Jim Tinkham’s “Wanderlust” (a red and blue 1958 258W with a Continental 572) was a family affair. Jim and sons Jim, Jeff, Jamie (all of whom were at the show) and Matt all had a hand in the rebuild, which took five years to complete.
“We just wanted to do something we could do together, said Jim.
Wayne Shaline’s sons helped him restore the 1969 Brockway 361 (238 Detroit Diesel, RT915 transmission). It was a seven-year project played out in the backyard of his Wellsburg, NY home southwest of Cortland on the Pennsylvania border.
His son Michael was one of his helpers on the project. The 20-year-old Mike drove the orange and black 361 on the road for the first time July 1, 2011. He died following complications from open-heart surgery a day after turning 21 just six months later. Mike is memorialized on the door of the truck his father said he loved.
That sort of family connection runs deep for John D. Potter, a Cortland man who owns four Huskies. His father worked on the company’s assembly line for more than 30 years. Potter recalls that as soon as the company closed in 1977, his dad bought one of his own.
Potter’s team of Huskies at the show include: a 1969 361, a 1974 360, a 1960 257 and a 1968 361.
Next year’s Brockway “family reunion” is scheduled for Aug. 6-9. Peter Grimm said it will feature a gathering of Brockways with the Buzzin’ Dozen, Detroit Diesel Series 71 12-cylinder engines.