Ithaca Times

Brockway Trucks Keep on Truckin' in Cortland

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Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 12:00 am

Through its annual Brockway Truck Show and its new Brockway Truck Museum, the Brockway Truck Preservation Association will give visitors a glimpse of the past this summer as it teaches them about a tradition in Cortland, New York.

From 1912 to 1977, the Brockway Truck Company was based out of Cortland, where it made many trucks that were big and were comparable to Mack trucks or other haulers, said Brockway Truck Preservation Association treasurer Robert Mudge. However, Brockways had a unique trait that set them apart.

“You bought a cab and a chasse from the company, and then you did what you wanted to do with the end of it,” he said. “It was up to the individual what he did with the end of the truck.”

And truck owners took advantage of the freedom that such a design afforded them. Some trucks would pull trailers, while others held cement mixers. One truck that came to the show in recent years was even designed to be a hot asphalt sprayer, Mudge said.

The company might have created versatile and powerful machines, but its effect upon the local citizens was just as strong, said Doreen Bates, chief operations officer for the Central New York Living History Center.

 “So many families were employed, and it was such a big employer, so that was one of the things, so truly the economic impact,” she said. “The other thing was with the museum opening and the visitors that will be coming, the impact that will have on the community.”

Considering this influence, it is not surprising that a Brockway truck show was a given once an opportunity presented itself.

“A couple of people [who were] Brockway employees and the downtown businessmen’s association wanted something to go along with the centennial that was taking place in August 2000,” said Mudge, “and one of the employees said ‘Why not have a truck show?’”

The idea seemed to be a good one, he said, so the group put their heads together and began to organize the event. Less than six months later, over one hundred trucks arrived in downtown Cortland for the show, some from as far away as Michigan. This success raised an interesting question.

“And then [came] the discussion, “do you have another truck show? It may not be an interest, but let’s give it a try,” he said.

And the group continued to organize the show every year during the first or second week of August. The event has become so popular that about 140 truckers brought their trucks last year, said Mudge. The truckers are not the only ones who enjoy the event, however.

When asked how many people come to watch the show, he gave up: “There is really no way to tell; all I can say is thousands. Main Street is packed before the parade starts, waiting. Throughout the day, the streets are just full of people.”

The onlookers’ ages cover a wide range. It is common to see both former Brockway employees and young people watching the event, said Mudge. He said part of the reason for this is that the truck show seems to set a different kind of pace for the day.

The truck show is not the only memorial in Cortland that is dedicated to Brockway trucks, however. Under the guidance of the Central New York Living History Center, supporters of Brockway trucks formed their own segment of a new museum that also will feature Tractors of Yesteryear or TOYS, military paraphernalia from the Civil War through the Korean War, information about past local railroads, and a section on local historical boundaries. Another addition to the museum is planned as well.

“There are a couple of antique fire trucks here,” he said. “The collection will be [complete] at some point in time in the future. A fire house will be built on the south end of the building and will look like a firehouse of yesteryear.”

The museum was due to open June 8 and will charge adults $10, seniors $9, and children 6-18 $5. Children who are under 5 will be free, as will be active military with ID. Unfortunately, however, progress on the building is not going as quickly as could be hoped.

The work is “a little on the slow side,” said Mudge.

The museum has received some grants from the state government, he said, but more financial assistance is needed. Those who wish to assist the museum and the truck show can show their support by visiting the museum and taking part in the fundraisers at the truck show on August 9-12. There will be a pork roast buffet on the evening of Friday August 9 and there will be a chicken barbecue on Saturday August 10. There will also be tables on Main Street selling Brockway memorabilia. Anyone who wishes to make a donation, Mudge said, can also send a check to the Central New York Living History Center P.O. Box 162 Homer, NY 13077. 

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