Old Fashioned Farmers’ Day – How it all began
In 1975, the Silk Hope Ruritan Club endeavored to seek new forms of gaining revenue. William L. Cockman and one other member went to visit Jack “Jackie” M. Johnson to investigate the possibility of a show with old equipment on exhibit in Silk Hope. Jackie was the owner of a steam engine and was presently on the board of directors for The Old Time Historical Association in Climax, N.C. where antique machinery was on exhibit. The three thought it could work, and together they brainstormed with the Ruritan Club the idea of a show of “antique farming machinery and old cars, etc.” They wanted to bring history of the community and rural America to the area so all ages and backgrounds could either reminisce or learn for the first time what agriculture had been all about.
Several other farmers were in disbelief that people would come and pay to see old equipment working; after all, some of the area farmers were still using the same equipment many were thinking of displaying. The late Elroy Teague was heard saying, “Who in the world will come to Silk Hope to see this old machinery and pay money? We don’t care if we ever see it again.” He chuckled. Many of these farmers who were skeptics that first year in 1975 would soon become the greatest supporters of the show. Jackie, a Silk Hope Fire Department member, decided with the Ruritans to hold it the weekend of the annual Fire Department Chicken Supper in mid-October. They figured the crowd that normally supported the department in eating chicken would support the Ruritan Club by visiting the exhibit. So, the date was set and Jackie Johnson became the show’s first coordinator. Jackie said, “It was an experiment. The Ruritans needed a good way to make money and felt it would work. The word spread and members asked neighbors to bring horse drawn equipment. With Jackie’s coordination, the first show turned out the largest display of horse drawn equipment ever exhibited in the Silk Hope community – and to this day there has never been the amount of horse drawn equipment in any given year as there was at that first annual show.
The first year “ignited” many hearts to the potential of what Old Fashioned Farmers’ Day could be. Even though the show only made $300 with donations taken of usually fifty cents or a dollar, the Ruritan Club sought to have greater success the following year.
The second year, Jackie Johnson joined the Ruritan Club. With the assistance of Rocky Cook, Billy Smith, and Richard Fox, a “massive hauling” all over the Silk Hope community began, and with the word out, tractors, engines and other items of interest arrived. Jackie’s wife, Faye, said, “Jackie, who was in the layer business, couldn’t pack an egg for two weeks he was working with the old stuff so much.”
Since the first year, Old Fashioned Farmers’ Day has expanded significantly. From new exhibits to extra days, the show has grown and we hope it will continue to grow bringing another history lesson to the young and a chance to reminisce to the rest.