If you have been on almost any tractor ride in the area, you will be familiar with the deep infectious laugh of this month’s feature member. John Fahs is a native Peotone farmer. He grew up just northwest of Peotone on his parent’s farm where he still lives today. He says that when he was a very young man he and his father farmed about 400 acres and that his dad was always interested in new farming techniques. His dad was one of the early guys to shell corn from the field with a pull type Ottawa 500D sheller. He says that his dad went quickly to a John Deere 45 combine with shelling capabilities when offered to him by the Dralle John Deere dealership in Peotone. John also said that his dad was the first in the area to have a corn dryer at home. John’s mom worked at the Manteno State Hospital and was an avid fisherman. John says later in life his parents spent a lot of winters on the Texas Gulf, fishing.
John tells me that in 1957 he went to work at Bennett Industries of Peotone. While they were known for their plastic 5 gallon pails in modern times, they were originally a steel company involved in bridge making. Bennetts made girders up to 130 feet in length that were used to build bridges in IL, KY, TN and MI during the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate System. Bennetts also made expansion joints and “finger” joints to connect the bridges to the roadways. John says Bennetts still makes steel pails in Peotone today. John adds that he worked for Bennetts at their peak of employing over 400 workers. As a maintenance worker John helped develop the processes for welding iron and later injection molding. He helped set up manufacturing in several of their plants around the US while working for them. As a side note, Bennetts hired young men and women during the summer months and farmers during the winter for extra help. At one point John’s dad worked for him as a machinist.
I first became familiar with John on the 1st Heritage Tractor Adventure. He was driving his Super W6 International. He reminded me that he was parked near John Evan’s 80 John Deere in front of the Rialto Theater in downtown Joliet. We saw him on many rides on the SW6. Today he enjoys the rides on his 1970 International 656 Gold Demonstrator. It’s a hydro shift and has the classic red with gold hood and fenders. It always looks good. John also has a ’54 SMTA.
When I was talking to John I could tell that last tractor he has was very special to him. John tells me that he still owns his dad’s ’45 Farmall M. He tells me that it was ordered during the Great War and that it took about a year to arrive. It was purchased from the IH dealer in Manteno. John thinks the owner was Ed Smith who was a short-wave radio enthusiast. He also believes that Don Baker was a mechanic there and that Don and his brother Fritz later became the owners. He added that the M cost about $1,100.00 and was delivered with 11” tires and magneto. It was their main tractor for many years and was upgraded with power steering, live hydraulics, disk brakes and 1 paint job. I can tell when he talks about the M, it is very special to him.
John belongs to CIGC as well as WCTA, Chapter 10 IH, OTFS and Slow Boys. John, thanks for being a member of the Green Club.