So far I have found two little know private museums in the Petaluma area. Before you jump to any blurry Monet conclusions, I warn you that they are not what most would expect from a museum, but in my book they are just as valuable for their art, history, and culture.
This weekend’s “Power Up” at the Penngrove Museum of Power and Implement promises much more than just tractors and trains. Rarely open to the public, this Saturday’s aptly named “Power Up” may be your last chance to glimpse into a bygone era. The PMPI is the creation of Steve and Nancy Phillips, of Penngrove’s Phillips Drive fame. According to their website, www.penngrovepower.org, “We are dedicated to the preservation — in working condition! — of specimens of equipment and machinery, some storied, some unsung. They have helped transition our country from manual labor and animal power to external power sources such as steam, internal combustion — diesel and gas — and electricity.” That kind of description piques my curiosity.
If you have attended a local parade you have surely seen some of the Phillips’ antique tractors making the rounds. I don’t know if they have names but I can now recognize a couple of them from a block away, as they lumber towards me on any one of our many parade days. The Phillips, along with many volunteers, are constantly restoring new (old) tractors as well as maintaining their current fleet. But they have more than just tractors at their Power and Implement compound. Along with both tracked-and rubber-tired tractors, they have old cars, printing presses, gas pumps, windmills, a rideable mini train, and one of the largest steam engines I have ever seen, all in working order.
But the piece of resistance (take that you french!) is a recently acquired Pratt & Whitney R-4360 aircraft engine. At 28 cylinders, it is not only impressive in size, sound, and engineering, but is a true piece of art befitting the finest museum or gallery. This is the same engine used by Howard Hughes in his most famous airplane, the Spruce Goose, which was the largest plane ever built and still holds several world records. I don’t know if it is a Spruce Goose original but it is still impressive in rarity, functionality, and historical significance.
I have been waiting close to a year for July 10th and no friend’s wedding, festival, or event is going to get between me and lots of cool motors, engines, tractors, and the people who restore and maintain them. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the machinery that revolutionized our country and made possible much of what we take for granted today. Whether you want to hear the R-4360 fire up, get your picture taken on a tractor (this is what the GF is most excited about), or take a ride on the mini train, I can’t imagine being anywhere else this Saturday.
Maintaining this equipment isn’t cheap, so please do what you can to keep this museum open and operating for our upcoming generations. You can do as little as buy the kids a couple of t-shirts or step up to an annual membership, with whimsically named membership levels such as “Machinist” and “Wrench Hand.” At the “Train Engineer” level you earn yourself a trip once around the grounds piloting the train. I try to subscribe to at least a couple museums in any given year to help offset my SPAM eating, cowboy hat wearing ways and I can’t think of a more deserving recipient than the Penngrove Museum of Power and Implement. Often forgotten in this era of smart-phones, iPads, and hybrid vehicles, the PMPI is helping to preserve the rich heritage that is uniquely American in its industry and ingenuity.
After the show, try Penngrove’s newest eatery, Yanni’s Sausages. Their sausages are homemade, created with the freshest ingredients, and are served with a smile and a handshake by two of the nicest shop owners you will ever meet. Yanni the Greek gets a twinkle in his eye every time he speaks of his wife of 36 years, Francesca the Italian. How could their food be anything but heavenly when created by hands of people who aren’t afraid to love each other, love what they do, and love the people they get to serve? — Don’t miss their incredible chili and their newest concoction, Yanni’s chips. I was there for the sausages, which were incredible, but can’t stop thinking about the chili and chips. Check back next week for my interview and review of Yanni, Francesca, and Yanni’s Sausages.
…and that second little known private museum in the Petaluma area? You will just have to wait for my upcoming blog in order to find out.