Rose Hill Historical Society Honoring Early Rose Hill, Kansas

Futhey Captures Bygone Era

By Chris Wendt

Published in The Rose Hill Reporter, Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tractors, wooden washing machines, hand pumped rug sweepers, you name it and chances are Marshall Futhey has it in his extensive antique collection.

Futhey and his family go back four generations in Rose Hill, on both sides, with most of the family clan still living on S.W. Prairie Creek Rd. just east of Rose Hill where he has resided most of his adult life. He was born not far away on 47th St. and Rose Hill Rd. in 1922. Yes, that makes Marshall 90 years young. He still sits on a tractor and drives the grain trucks during the wheat harvest, working with his son Gail.

For the biggest part of his life Futhey and his wife Thelma had a dairy farm as did a lot of people back in the day. Life however changed for Marshall in 1973, when he sold the business and charted a new course.

Futhey’s “bits and pieces” come together documenting the march of time across the landscape of everyday life and the changes left in it’s wake. The renaissance of electricity left many “modern conveniences” behind which he has preserved. This montage of tools, appliances, farm equipment and photographs captures a yesteryear that few now remember outside of books.

The center piece of the collection are the International Harvester tractors in their signature color of red. Over 15 of these workhorses have been completely rebuilt and refurbished by Marshall during the past 30 years. Why the International tractors? Futhey grew up with them and could drive one by the age of seven.

One has a story behind it. He did the unthinkable and painted one of them John Deere green. “The story goes that we painted it red but it was damp out and “mildewed” over night turing out green,” chuckled Marshall. “Some guys who have seen it have really given me the devil about it, but if you can’t have fun in life what’s it worth?” The tractor bears the decals “Futhey’s Outlaw” and “They Made Me Do It.” The other renegade is painted white with red trim.

Marshall Futhey
Marshall Futhey stands next to an old 12 foot gas pump which is part of his extensive antique collection.

Two tractor shows have been hosted at the farm with the help of his brother Marion Futhey. He has also taken his trucks to show for the last 31 years and had them featured on the cover of the Fastline magazine. The Futhey family have driven upwards of eight-to-nine of the tractors every year in the Rose Hill Fall Festival Parade. Futhey often drives an open brougham Model A automobile.

A small windmill used to generate electricity is beneath the window nest to a horse-drawn stump puller used by his father. Each treasure has a story bringing memories to mind. Some are whimsical, some sad with the passing of an era, a different way of life.

“I credit my father for me still being alive. He taught me how to work on engines and take care of equipment. I was a staff sergeant in WWII and got assigned to the motor pool in Manila after basic training. The rest of my company headed for Europe and the Battle of the Bulge. They never made it home,” said Futhey. The front page of the Wichita Eagle from May 7, 1945 declaring VE Day was behind glass along with the headlines when BTK was apprehended.

A twelve-foot, 1920’s era crank style gas pump stands a few feet away, complete with brass fittings, glass globe and electric lighting. It’s companion piece, a five foot electric pump version sits across the room.

“I can’t wait to get an item cleaned up, painted and on display,” said Futhey. “Nothing is thrown in an old can or anything, it has all been refurbished.”

Neat floor-to-ceiling rows of glassware of every ilk and kind line the walls of one room, highlighted with pieces of blue glass, his favorite color. “These are insulators from the old utility poles. If you bake them awhile and dipped them in cold water they get crackled and are real pretty,” Futhey stated holding up an example. Brown glass jugs are displayed that had once held pancake syrup, bleach and other liquids. The colors, shapes and sizes were as endless as the metals tins.

Camel cigarettes, marshmallows, crackers, candy and old fashioned spices are rarely seen anymore. They all used to come in tin cans. “I picked up old beer cans for awhile but that got monotonous and I took up oil cans, 900 of them,” said Futhey. “There are few things that are duplicated. They may look similar but the color or the wording or something makes each different.”

Marshall Futhey collection

His wrenches are the most prolific in number totaling over 3,000. Each is painted and displayed on handmade boards or line another wall amongst small axes and sledge hammers.

Display boxes made from silverware chests sit in neat stacks containing hundreds of spark plugs. Each one cleaned and mounted inside. A 24-inch wooden-handled Yankee screwdriver lays next to the spark plugs.

Varnished wood and painted metal framed “drill boxes” have been made into end tables with a hinged lid. “I’m not much good with refinishing wood but these turned out real nice and I have sold some of them,” said Futhey with a glimmer of pride.

An upper level loft is decorated with license plates from every state in the union and some from Canada. Old money in frames, posters, cards that belonged to his great grandmother dated 1927 and a grouping of blue decorative bottles accompany the license plates.

He has a shadow box commemorating his late wife Thelma (shown here on their 50th anniversary in 1993). They had been married 64 ½ years when Marshall lost her in 2008, but their sons Joe and Gail and daughter Louise are still with him. So are seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. “I just found out a day or so ago that there is another one on the way, that will make 11,” said Futhey.

Another frame holds a picture of his 11 year-old brother Paul who died from blood poisoning in 1936. “We didn’t have penicillin back then or he might have lived,” recalled Marshall sadly. “It was a bad year. It was so hot. A lot of folks died from the heat.”

Bits of Rose Hill history are interspersed among the collection. A hay board from the Harris Farm Store, the wooden door that once held glass from the old United Methodist Church when it stood at Main and Berry Streets and the small metal furnace that was the only source of heat in the church are on display.

Walnut shellers, ice and meat grinders, sickle grinders for sharpening blades, rug sweepers, lawn mowers, all hand or foot powered have also been preserved.

His collection covers a lifetime that has witnessed the disappearance of the horse and buggy and the emergence of the automobile and airplane and man walking on the moon. A world where communication was done by letter and telegraph to having the world at your fingertips in seconds via the internet, Futhey has seen it all. And made a record of it.

“The world moves too fast. You don’t see much old stuff anymore. It’s getting harder and harder to find. Old farm sales are fewer and farther between,” said Futhey.

Dust motes drifted in the hot afternoon air around piece after piece of a bygone day. “You know, sometimes I like to come out here and just sit and look at everything,” he said in a satisfied voice.

Futhey is also something of a traveler. He and his wife visited almost every state and adventured to Israel and Egypt. Treasure boxes were shipped home. He enjoys sharing his hobby with people and has given tours to neighbors families and the Rose Hill Red Hat Club.