October 23, 2021

Brockways roar back

Big rigs return for truck show on Main Street, Cortland

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

Children watch the parade of trucks Saturday morning along Church Street in Cortland as the vehicles head to the 20th Annual National Brockway Truck Show around the block on Main Street.

The smoke-belching monsters came to town Saturday, all 146 of them, roaring down Main Street for the 20th Annual National Brockway Truck Show.

The big rigs ran the gamut, from antiques dating back to the 1920s, such as Philip Huntington’s 1923 LaFrance Brockway Torpedo, an old-time fire engine, and Bob Messersmith’s 1927 Model 75, to more modern classics, such as Andy Preiser’s 1969 Model 361, which won the People’s Choice award, and will lead the parade of trucks during next year’s event.

Messersmith, of Newark Valley, came by his truck in April 2000, when he bought it from an old farmer in Whitney Point who had kept the truck in a barn so long a sizable tree had grown in front of the barn door during the nearly five decades the truck had been sitting there.

Pat Archiere of Danbury, Conn., came as just a spectator Saturday, but back in the day, he owned half a dozen Brockways for his own trucking company, PW Archiere & Sons.

“I loved the Brockways,” he said. “They were a great truck — a good, dependable work truck.”

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”23″ gal_title=”20th Annual National Brockway Truck Show”]

Photos by Travis Dunn/staff reporter and Casey Austin/contributing photographer

A total of 146 Brockway trucks made their way into downtown Cortland for the 20th Annual National Brockway Truck Show. Check out our photo gallery above – photo prints are available by request.

He switched over to Macks when Brockway went out of business, and he hung on to his last Brockway for a while, before finally selling that, too, 15 years ago.

“I couldn’t find parts for it,” he said. “But nowadays everyone’s finding parts for them, and they’re rebuilding them.” He said the internet has made it easier for collectors to find and share parts.
The Brockway trucks also had plenty of much younger fans, such as 6-year-old Owen Chitambar, who was enthusiastically waving to the trucks on parade Saturday morning, and occasionally giving them the signal to blow their horns.

“He’s been going to this since he was 6 months old,” said Owen’s mother, Natalie Chitambar. She said Owen has been “really fixated on his Brockway trucks” since he was small. His favorite toy is a model Brockway, a hard-to-find collectible he got as a present for doing well in school.

“He wanted to bring it today, but we said, ‘No, that one’s too precious.’ They’re hard to find,” she said.
The event also brought out former Brockway employees, veterans of the old manufacturing plant in Cortland that closed down in 1977. Chuck Moore of Wilmington, Delaware, was one.

“If you wanted to work in a factory, then it was the place to work,” he said.

Moore, who grew up in Cortland, started with Brockway making $3 an hour as a janitor; he quickly worked his way up to management and spent his last three years as a service representative. After the plant closed, he went to work for Freightliner, and moved out of the area in 1978.

Jim Nichols, former city police chief, said Brockway was a crucial part of the city for decades.

“It was a good place to work,” he said. “You could go to work and support your family.”

The annual show, he said, was something he looks forward to every year.

“It brings vitality to the community,” he said.

Brockway Trucks, founded in 1912, began as a carriage-building company in 1875.

Saturday’s event was organized by the Brockway Truck Preservation Association, which also runs the Brockway Museum at the Central New York Living History Center on Route 11 in Cortlandville.