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Treasure hunting

August 20, 2011
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

WILNO - Antique auctions in the area seem to draw people for a number of reasons, including those who are looking to make a business profit and others who merely consider it a favorite summer pastime. But ultimately, it can end up being a history lesson for anyone.

"If you want to learn history, this is the place to be," Franklin Hobart said about a recent antique auction just outside of Wilno, a village with a population of approximately 20 residents.

"There is a lot of neat stuff here. I like trying to figure out what stuff is."

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk

The antique auction for the late Paul Kulla drew a large crowd Aug. 13 near Wilno, including those interested in 28 Allis Chalmers collector tractors.

An abundance of cast iron tractor seats and various radiators were available to bid on in addition to one-of-a-kind items like a small garden planter, an old water well and an ice saw, which was designed to chop through ice as it was pulled behind a horse.

"A lot of this old stuff works," Hobart said. "They were made back when men were men. They had to be tough."

Bachelor Paul Kulla was a collector from age 15 until his death two months ago at the age of 82.

Included in his estate sale were 28 Allis Chalmers collector tractors, a handful of collector vehicles, a few buggies and a massive amount of other antique items to be auctioned off.

Rumors floated around that Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz from "American Pickers" would be present. While the treasure-seeking duo from the television show didn't make an appearance, more than 400 bidders did.

For many, it was a step back in time, as they walked along, trying to identify parts or remembering time frames of when items were used.

"I collect a few old tractors," said Dale Biever of Ruthton. "I have 15 different ones. I'm looking for some wheels."

Like many others, Biever thoroughly looked over a gray-colored homemade tractor with an Essex motor with belt-driven steering and a side mount 6-foot belly mower.

"I've never seen anything like that," he said.

Hobart, who lives in Tyler, was also fascinated with the homemade tractor.

"I have my own 1928 Ford tractor with a Montgomery Ward 'build your own tractor' kit," he said. "I'll be driving it in the Polish Days parade (in Ivanhoe Sunday)."

Winning bidder Howard Swanson will likely drive his newly-acquired 1931 Chevy Coupe in the Aebleskiver Days parade in Tyler next year, too. Swanson bid $14,100 for the black beauty.

"It was probably my last bid," he said. "I sure didn't think I'd pay that much, but it'll never be worth any less. I'll drive it around a little and put it in parades. It'll be a nice addition to the Tyler area."

Swanson has owned three other coupes, 1929, 1930 and 1931 versions. His favorite, the 1930, was driven from Spokane, Wash., to Tyler when Swanson was in the Air Force back in 1952.

"I paid $85 and drove it back to Minnesota," he said. "I sold it in 1953 for $125. I put a lot of miles on all of them."

Swanson said he was a jack-of-all-trades. He built a 1902 Oldsmobile with a wooden body and a lawn mower-type engine. More recently, he built a three-wheeled motorcycle that he takes out to the farm.

"I have a lot of fun with it," Swanson said.

Countless conversations were stuck up at the Kulla auction, including one about two old-time washing machines.

"I remember these in my day," Ray Lozinski, 77, of Porter said about an early 1930s Maytag washer. "They start them and you'd have to run the hose outdoors because it had a gas engine."

Most people usually had their washing machines on the porch in the open air so the exhaust wouldn't harm anyone in the home, Lozinski said.

A lot of people also stopped to inspect an older, wooden washing machine.

"I'd like to see how much it brings," Lozinski said. "I bet it brings a lot of money."

Lozinski still remembers the day his family got electricity - June 29, 1947.

"It took three days and $329 to wire everything," he said. "The electric company came from Canby."

Prior to that, Lozinski recalls how difficult it was for farm women to feed their families and sometimes, neighbors.

"The women had to burn cobs and use a cook stove," he said. "People don't realize today how hard it was back then. When there were threshing parties, they'd have to go get food from the garden."

Lozinski said that neighbors were extremely helpful years ago.

"Times have changes, though," he said. "There's still a lot of friendly people, but they don't work together like they used to."

"Now they just wait for you to die so they can have your land," joked Bernard Larson, 65, of Hendricks. "I farmed all my life, but just retired three years ago."

Larson recalls that his first job was driving tractor in the spring.

"I got paid 75 cents," he said.

Lozinski said he got paid 1 cent per bale to help with flax bales.

Arnold Zempel, 62, of Montevideo, paid for his college tuition by working in the summer.

"Flax straw paid my way through college," Zempel said. "I'd earn enough to go to school at the University of Minnesota. Two quarters cost $1,500. But you can't do that nowadays."

Zempel remembers hauling 100 ton of flax straw during the summer of 1969. Zempel usually planted 2,000 acres a year with a 12-foot head.

"We worked every day for about five weeks," he said. "Archer Daniels was the buyer. It was better when you owned the baler. We earned it, but it was a good business for us kids."



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