As chairperson for the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association Hall of Fame I am proud to announce Bill Wallner, from Yankton, South Dakota for Hall Of Fame 2003. Bill was selected from an extensive list of nominees and selected for his contributions to our hobby.
Jerry Mac Martin
I first met Bill when he came into my dealership and asked if I would allow him to display his antique engines at the Josephine County Fair. At first I didn’t understand why he needed my permission. Apparently, the Fair Board turned him down because I was already showing engines in my John Deere booth and they considered it a conflict. I was excited to learn that another collector was in the area and Bill and I began displaying our engines together. Bill and I now have a long-standing friendship.
When Bill sets up a display, he not only runs his engines he has them belted up to various antique machines like water pumps, feed grinders, corn shellers or fodder choppers. This is a real crowd pleaser for both young and old. It is a true example of how life was in gone days.
In 1983, Bill came to me with the names of several other enthusiasts of gasoline engines that were living the area and interested in starting a new branch of EDGE&TA. The National President, Jack Versteeg came to Grants Pass in 1984 for Branch 9’s charter meeting which was held at my dealership. Bill was honored by being unanimously elected as the Charter President, a position he held for three years. He is known today as the Founding Father of Branch 9. After meeting in several homes for a few months, Branch 9 found a permanent home at “Pottsville”. Pottsville is a replica of a small Oregon town of early 1900’s created in 1959 by Oregon State Senator, Debbs Potts, in celebration of the Oregon Centennial. We initially met in the Church but soon outgrew it. Branch 9’s annual engine show is held there each year on Father’s Day weekend. In 1989 at our fourth annual show, Branch 9 hosted the EDGE&TA national meeting at Pottsville.
Bill was born on April 30, 1916 and raised on a farm in South Dakota. He left South Dakota in 1941. During World War II he was stationed in Alaska and upon his discharge he remained in Anchorage working as a diesel truck mechanic for 35 years. While in Alaska he began collecting and restoring antique engines. He also built a tractor which is now in the Alaska State Wasella museum in Fairbanks. He retired and moved to Cave Junction, Oregon in 1976 and brought his extensive collection with him. Today he has in his collection over 75 engines and several tractors. Many of which are rare. Bill has restored over one hundred engines.
Bill loves and serves the Lord. His Christian attitude and life style touched the lives of many and changed the lives of some fellow enthusiasts. Bill is a member of the VFW and serves as chaplain of the Illinois Valley American Legion. While planning for our first show, Bill insisted that we have a worship service on Sunday morning in the church. This has now become an annual tradition for Branch 9 shows. We no longer meet in the church building, however because we’ve outgrown it. The service is held in the bleachers by the parade route. Occasionally, Bill led the service and at times gave his own personal testimony.
Bill loves his hobby as well. He has helped many fellow collectors. He restored a Vaughn drag saw engine and a 6hp Economy engine for the Kerbyville Museum. Bill has a wealth of knowledge and willingly shares that knowledge with others. He has written articles for “Gas Engine Magazine” and Engines and Engineers”. He has answered questions from inquiries in these magazines and often would send a part from one of his engines to be copied. Bill has received national recognition for his expertise in antique engines. He has a reputation of being one of the few who thoroughly knew, understood and was able to start the Hvid Thermoil diesel engine. His dad had an 8hp Thermoil and Bill copied and sent product information of it to many collectors across the country. Bill has in his collection three models of the Thermoil, a 3, 6, and a 9hp.
Bill has corresponded with many enthusiasts internationally as well. He has been in contact with people from Sweden, Finland, Japan, Mexico, Germany and Canada. While visiting the Kerbyville Museum, a man from Germany met Bill. They became good friends.
When Bill can’t find a particular part he makes his own. He made a sand cast and borrowed a part from another collector to cast one. He has also cast parts for others. He has demonstrated various techniques at Branch 9’s meetings, such as sand casting and making babbitt bearings.
In the early 1990’s, Bill was selected as a Distinguished Senior Member of Branch 9 giving him life membership in our organization. Bill has shared his knowledge with many individuals without asking for much in return.
Respectfully submitted Dan Collins for Branch 9 EDGE&TA
Bill passed away on November 16, 2012. He was living with his daughter, Ruth, in North Carolina. He was 96, outlived four wives, and by all accounts had a great life.