Another installation of my memoirs - Son of a Sharecropper
My dad and I spent many hours operating the farm equipment. When you spend money for the equipment, you need to keep it busy to pay for it. The self-propelled combine was a workhorse. My dad purchased a Massey-Ferguson combine with 13 foot grain head and a corn picker head.
The combine was running through the whole harvest season. First there was winter wheat and oats. New came soy beans. Finally, corn. In those days, corn varieties required longer growing season – so Beans were mostly done before corn was ready for harvest.
Most of the combining was done by my dad. The operator's platform was open. It was a dusty job, particularly with the soy beans. The fine “hairs” of the bean stalk would swirl as a dust cloud. The dust was having an adverse effect on my dad's health. The answer was installing a cab on the combine.
As I recall, there was a fan and filter to circulate the air. No problems in Fall beans and corn harvesting. Engine heat and the sun (lots of glass in the cab) kept the cab comfortable. The problem was wheat and oats harvesting. Hot days in the fields.
During the summer, we were very busy. Once I was old enough, my dad taught me how to run the combine. I am sure I was in high school (or summer break from college). This makes it in the mid 60s.
I was running the combine. It was a hot, sunny day. Had the roof and door of the cab open in an effort to keep the cab temperature bearable. My mom came out to bring me lunch. Back in the cab, the heat became unbearable. Trying to cool down, I was trying standing up on the seat, partially out of the roof of the cab. Suddenly, I felt cool, almost chilly.
I recognized the condition as being overheated and nothing to fool around with.. Drove the combine to the truck and then home. My mom was surprised to see me home. When I told here what happened, she got me cold water, started up a fan, and had me lay down.
When my dad got home, he said something has to be done. Can't afford missing the harvest days, but can't have heat stroke as a common occurrence. His solution was air-conditioning the combine cab. The implement dealer said they had not heard to anyone doing this, but were interested in the concept.
Montgomery Wards had aftermarket automobile air-conditioners. They were willing to work with the implement dealer to design the application.
The combine had a Chrysler slant 6 engine – no problem powering the AC pump. The evaporation unit was mounted top inside of the cab for fan blowing at the operator's face. Wish I had a photograph of the installation.
As I recall, other farmers and implement dealers came to look at the installation. The local newspaper published an article and photo about the installation. According to Massey-Ferguson, my dad had the first air-conditioned combine.
I have asked for a copy or the original item in the newspaper. A copy is shown here that my mom had copied for her autobiography. The newspaper photo incorrectly identified me as the in the cab - it is my dad.