Article By: Jim Hanna
My story goes back to the spring of 2005. I was visiting with good friend Gene Preston and our conversation led the subject of Simplicity and Allis-Chalmers garden tractors that he remembered being used in the area. Gene being a long time resident and third generation to farm here in Greece, New York, was familiar with most of the lawn and garden equipment that was used to maintain properties here in this northwest suburb of Rochester, N.Y.
Gene mentioned long time family friend and retired mechanic/auto body repair man Ray LaCroix. Gene was sure that Ray had a Simplicity garden tractor along with a newer Allis-Chalmers B-110 garden tractor that he used to maintain his business and home on Fetzner Road, not far from Gene's farm. The next words out of Gene's mouth was, "let's take a ride and I'll introduce you to Ray."
Minutes later we arrived at Ray LaCroix's place. After meeting and talking with Ray, our conversation quickly turned to his two garden tractors the he owned. He had the '64 Simplicity Landlord, bought new by him from a dealer near where I grew up in Leicester, NY and there was the Allis-Chalmers B-110 that he was currently using to maintain his property. Ray had indicated that the Simplicity had been sitting in his storage area for some time. It needed motor work and he had just not got around to working on it, and didn't know if he ever would.
Ray took us over to where the Simplicity was sitting. Cosmetically, it looked good. A snow thrower attachment and rear counter weight were sitting there next to it, which were part of the original purchase. The original mower deck had rotted away and was long gone.
The next words out of Ray's mouth to me were, "do you want that tractor, take it, it's yours". Just having met Ray, I felt uncomfortable about taking something of this magnitude for free.
I asked Ray if he would accept some money for the Simplicity just to make me feel more comfortable about the transaction and he agreed. Gene and I loaded the Simplicity and attachments on my truck and it was off to the tractor's second home.
During the next two years I was able to acquire a used mower deck, which needed a lot of work and roto-tiller attachment. I also had a Simplicity dirt/snow blade attachment that had been given to me by my late farmer friend Rod Adamson from Groveland, NY. Also during that time I removed the engine and had taken it to a friend for a full evaluation of what it needed to bring it back to life. My intention was to make this tractor a year-round "worker" to maintain my property.
Often, while updating Gene Preston on my progress with the Simplicity, we would talk about plans for Ray LaCroix to see it in when it was completed. Our conversations also led us to start calling it, "Ray's Tractor". The name just seemed more personable and in honor of the man who originally owned it.
By the end of summer 2007, Ray's tractor had a new paint job, new decals and was ready for the motor. The fall of 2007 I got the prognosis on the motor. It would need a major overhaul to bring it back to life. The repair would be expensive and my tractor fund was very low. Work on Ray's tractor was put on hold. I just could not justify the money for the motor repair. The mower deck I acquired was going to need a lot of work and parts also.
Summer of 2008 I was talking with an Allis-Chalmers collector friend of mine Jim Zornoch and the subject of Ray's tractor came up. Jim said he had an Allis-Chalmers B-10 he was parting out and that the motor was good. The motor was the same one that was in Ray's tractor. Jim and I worked a deal and work on Ray's tractor was started again.
By late fall of 2008 I got the motor painted and installed and all the necessary wiring, cables and fuel line hooked up. Ray's tractor was finally ready to go back to work after a long rest. I'll never forget turning the key on and pushing the starter button, several revolutions of the motor and Ray's tractor came back to life. Hearing the sound of the motor brought a smile to my face and I also felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing I brought another tractor back to life.
Ray LaCroix would have been happy to see his tractor back in the condition it was when new, sadly though he never had a chance to see his garden tractor in that condition. Ray LaCroix passed away on April 4th, 2007. Often, Ray's name will come up in conversations I have with Gene Preston. We know there's always a smile from above when his tractor is mentioned.
Recent additions to Ray's tractor are a hydro-lift system and an enclosed cab.
Below are my three granddaughters. Hayley who is 14, my oldest taking a cruise around the property. Heather who is 7, my middle is getting last minute instructions on driving the tractor for the first time and Isabella who is 6 months old sitting on the Simplicity for the first time.
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