Power-Wagon related in a round about way

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Posted by Clint Dixon [] on Sunday, April 09, 2023 at 10:53:37 :

So in a thread down below, a long-time friend of mine asked me a question about the "railroad caps" I wear. I though it may be time to explain a little bit as there is a definite link to my love of Power-Wagons.

Attached here is a picture of the first 8-point Utility Cap I ever wore. That is the actual cap above in our china cabinet. That is me to the right in the picture below it.

Grandpa was born in 1901. He grew up on a farm here in Western Illinois, run off at 18 years old and sewed his oats in the oil fields of Texas, came home and worked as the head mechanic in a Chevy Garage, mowed the grader ditches with a scythe on the new Illinois Route 94 in 1926, and plowed snow on the same road in a surplus WWI 4-wheel-drive prime mover - getting it stuck on a railroad crossing and digging four holes in the new concrete with the tire chains and those hard rubber tires.

By 1961, he had long been back to farming and doing carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and custom harvesting on the side. That was the year I was born. We lived on the farm with Grandpa and Grandma and Mom and Dad both worked in town. My Grandmother and my Great Aunt made that Utility cap for me, from an old pair of Grandpa's coveralls in herring bone denim, to look exactly like the caps he wore every day. I remember him wearing bib overalls and coveralls in indigo Denim, indigo and white Hickory Stripe Denim, and the indigo and white Herringbone Denim.

Those pieces of clothing were pretty much the standard workwear for factory workers, tradesmen, craftsmen, and farmers around this part of the country during the 20 or so year time period after WWII. I just saw an old picture on the TV show "Barnwood Builders" the other night taken in a large dairy barn in the 1960's. It showed three men hand milking cows. Each one was wearing a Hickory Stripe 8-point Utility Cap. Off course, different branches of the military had their own version of the Utility Cap (and some still do I believe) as well as them being popular with railroad workers.

Most people today associate (especially the Hickory Stripe version) with railroad engineers. I am okay with that as railroads provide the general public with a sense of romance not matched by farming, working in factories, etc.

Growing up I remember seeing the caps in the workwear aisles of every farm store, feed store, dime store, general store, JC Penny's, and Montgomery-Wards in our area. In 73, Grandpa went into a tavern and walked back out with two all white utility caps (rather rare to find now). One for him and one for me. He wore his until it was no longer white. I wore mine until I outgrew it.

After that, I gave those styles of caps little thought. I would see guys (and gals) wearing them all of the time at the antique tractor shows and thresher meets that we would attend annually, but it was not until my first VPW Rally in 1988, and seeing Gary Godkin wearing an Indigo Denim Utility Cap, that I thought, "Hmmmm." I went to the local farm store, and sure enough, they still had plain denim as well as hickory stripe denim OshKosh brand Utilty Caps for sale. I came home with one of each and you will usually see me wearing the blue one to this day at Power-Wagon rallies and antique tractor shows.

If it had not been for Grandpa basically raising me while Mom and Dad worked days in town, I would never have become interested in Power-Wagons. I actually covered this in a few articles I wrote for the Power Wagon Advertiser over the years.

So today I collect vintage Utility caps, both 8-point and balloon style, from different manufactures, weaves and colors of denim. I wear them to honor my Grandfather and all of the farmers and workers that built this great country. I wear them to honor the Power-Wagon and the role it played in that endeavor.

Here is a scan of an artist's rendition of a group of farmers checking out a new pick-up real for a combine. I found the ad in a publication I have - the 1950 edition of "I & T Catalog File" by the publishers of Implement & Tractor:


I count 21 farmers in the image. At least 19 of them appear to be wearing bib overalls in either a solid color, or in Hickory Stripe. 5 of them are also illustrated wearing Hickory Stripe 9-point Utility Caps.

So no you know the rest of the story. Although I never answered your question Steve.



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