Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

Power Wagons get a rinse

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jun 11, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Fairfield resident Dawn Ridgeway Bechtel waves with a smile despite getting soaking wet while riding on the back of a 1964 W200 Dodge Power Wagon during Saturday morning’s 31st Annual Vintage Dodge Power Wagon parade. She and her husband Todd Bechtel own the vehicle. Todd has worked at Vintage Power Wagons in Fairfield for 26 years.

A little water didn’t stop the faithful from turning out for Saturday morning’s Vintage Dodge Power Wagon Rally parade.

Rain clouds descended on the area at about 9 a.m., in the middle of the parade of vintage trucks from the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to Fairfield’s Central Park. David Butler, owner of Vintage Power Wagons in Fairfield, announced the owner of each vehicle as they pulled into their parking spaces around the square.

As Butler went from truck to truck, relaying information about the vehicle over a megaphone, the crowd took cover under the bandstand and downtown awnings to escape the rain. Following Butler around was his granddaughter Lulu Miller, who held an umbrella over his head so he could continue his announcing duties without interruption.


Gregg Morton

Jefferson County Sheriff Gregg Morton drove his 1953 M37 Power Wagon in the parade. He said this model saw action in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Morton was in the Marine Corps himself from 1982-1986.

Morton has had this Power Wagon for 17 years, having purchased it in northern Minnesota. He’s driven it in the Power Wagon parade for 16 years.

“I drive it quite often, and it’s fun to drive,” he said. “The squad truck I drive is a Power Wagon, too.”

The vehicle has a heater on the fender and one inside, allowing him to drive it in the winter.

“It’s not the warmest thing in the world, but it’s not bad,” he noted.

Morton said everyone who purchases an old vehicle should do a safety check on it, such as verifying the drive train and brakes are in good condition.

“This vehicle has all drum brakes instead of disc brakes, so they don’t stop on a dime. Plus, you’re pushing 6,200 pounds of weight,” he commented.

Morton described his M37 Power Wagon as a “workhorse” instead of a show car. He often leads the rally’s trail rides through Van Buren County because he knows the territory so well.

“They drove their trucks all the way to Pilot Grove on Wednesday, which is a long drive,” he said. “Most Power Wagons can do 50 mph on the highway.”


Visitors from New York

Vehicles parked around the square sported license plates from all over: Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and a few from far-flung states. Ray and Pam Maier and their granddaughter Evelyn Carter made the 16-hour haul from Spencerport, New York. They brought their 1958 civilian Power Wagon here on a trailer.

“If I drove it here, I would have had to leave a month ago,” Ray said. “This one’s top speed is 50-55 mph.”

A friend of theirs saw it on the side of the road, and he notified the Maiers about it.

“I had to go drag it home,” Ray said.

Ray added a number of aeronautical instruments to the vehicle, such as an air speed gauge, altimeter and joystick. The devices aren’t just for show; they really work. The joystick blows the horn and runs the hoist.

“It thinks it’s an airplane,” he joked.

Ray said he drives his Power Wagon every day.

“I don’t wash and wax,” he said. “It just got washed today,” referring to the rain shower.

The Maiers heard about the Power Wagon Rally in Fairfield about five years ago, and decided to pay the town a visit.

“The first truck I saw when I came to Fairfield was from Heberle Farms in Rochester, New York, the same town as me. I never knew the guy,” Ray said. “We live on the west side of Rochester and he lives on the east side.”



Margaret Mary Hill and her twin sister Mary Margaret Cinnamon rode in the back of a 1948 Dodge Power Wagon fire truck in Saturday’s parade. The vehicle belongs to Hill and her husband Glade, and this is the first year they’ve brought the truck to the rally.

“My husband just retired, and he’s been waiting and waiting to come here,” Hill said. “This is a big deal to him. He’s very excited.”

The couple hauled the truck here from their home in Brighton, Colorado. In Fairfield, they met Cinnamon and her husband Steve, traveling from Stillwater, Minnesota.

Hill said the couple drive it at least a few times a year in parades or entertaining their young relatives back home.

“They love to hear the siren horn,” she said.

Hill and Cinnamon grew up in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and are the last of 10 children. Hill explained how their parents settled on the names.

“Our parents couldn’t figure out two more names when we were born,” she said. “A nurse at the hospital also had twins, and said she named her girls Mary Margaret and Margaret Mary. In Two Rivers, Wisconsin, a town of 12,000, there are two sets of twins with the exact same names.”

Hill and Cinnamon dressed alike, down to their socks, from infancy until they reached eighth-grade, when they developed their own unique sense of fashion.

“As we got older, we started doing it again,” Hill said. “What’s fun is that my husband likes to stay home in our backyard, but her husband likes to travel. So I call Steve and say, ‘Let’s go on this cruise!’ and he says ‘OK!’ And that’s how we meet people.”

Fairfield resident Dawn Ridgeway Bechtel, whose husband Todd Bechtel has worked at Vintage Power Wagons for 26 years, saw an opportunity to connect Hill and Cinnamon with Fairfield twins Gloria and Ema Proksch. The sisters, who married brothers Charles and Roland Proksch, came to the parade dressed in the same outfit (a lifelong custom) and relished the opportunity to converse with a fellow set of twins.




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