November 30, 2021

Doodlebugs parade through Preble

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Members of the Franklin Doodlebug Club sit in the driver’s seats of their doodlebug tractors, ready for their 10-mile parade starting at the Preble Fire Station, heading over to Dwyer Memorial Park for lunch before stopping at Country Flavors ice cream shop for dessert.

Doodlebug: Look it up. It’s a classic time-waster; it’s a World War II German missile; a self-propelled rail car; an oil diviner; one of a family of woodlice.

But to these guys, a doodlebug is something special — special enough to draw them from across New York to Preble on Saturday to ride their doodlebugs in a parade.

Doodlebug tractors originated in the 1940s, when tractors were in short supply. Farmers would modify their cars — most commonly a 1920s or 1930s Ford — to become tractors. Nowadays, several clubs preserve examples of the doodlebug tractor — most popular in New England and upstate New York.

“We always say we’re the best doodlebug club in New York state, and we haven’t been proven wrong yet,” said club President Ron Oakley, 70, of Binghamton.

The club has 34 members. Saturday’s parade featured 10 people and six homemade tractors.

“We’re pretty scattered around, so we just kind of stay in touch and have these events — about 10 of them a year — where we get together and either display the doodlebugs or go on a nice back roads ride,” Oakley said.

Oakley’s tractor was built from a Model A Ford in the 1930s, and can get up to just about 15 mph.

“It’s a 1928, so it wasn’t that old when they chopped it,” he said. “I’ve had it for 11 years — I remembered when I was a kid, I used to work on a farm down in Pennsylvania and they had a doodlebug on the farm — so when I saw this one, it caught my eye and I bought it.”

Oakley met like-minded men with his same hobby when he joined the Franklin Doodlebug Club a few years later. The club meets monthly in Franklin, in Delaware County.

“The Doodlebug Parade — it’s about the camaraderie and having fun,” said member Glenn “Sparky” Craig, 69, of Preble. His friends chimed in, “And lunch!”

The group lined up their doodlebugs next door to the Preble Fire Station, set to travel south to Dwyer Memorial Park for lunch and then over to Country Flavors ice cream shop for dessert.

“They’re good old guys, you know,” Craig said. “It’s nice getting everybody together for the day.”