His ‘People Hauler’ delivers holiday fun

Posted: November 30, 2013

The Winchester Star

Douglas Bromley, 76, of Frederick County fires up his festively decorated “People Hauler,” which he built with help from friends. It seats 28 and has become a fixture in area Christmas parades. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Douglas Bromley started out with single horsepower on his family’s Clarke County farm.

“When I was eight years old, I’d go out and plow” with one of the eight horses there, said the 76-year-old Frederick County resident.

Then, as he grew older, the farm acquired tractors, and that began Bromley’s love affair with a different kind of horsepower.

And that eventually led to a Christmas tradition for the retired mechanic who spent 40 working years at Shenandoah’s Pride Dairy.

In 2008, Bromley and his friend Harold Orndorff built what they called a “People Hauler” and took 28 people riding in area parades.

Since then, the contraption has been used in Christmas parades in Winchester, Berryville, Woodstock, Purcellville and Leesburg.

“I built it in the backyard with four or five buddies,” Bromley said of his eight-foot-wide wagon, which he tows with one of his antique tractors.

Bromley is a member of the Massanutten Antique Tractor and Gasoline Engine Club of Edinburg.

The wagon is designed so it can be towed on highways to parade venues.

But it wasn’t enough to have a wagon with 14 bench seats and stairs so people can get on and off easily.

Bromley decided to make the wagon more useful for parades by adding Christmas decorations.

For several years, a caroling Winnie-the-Pooh was featured on the wagon, but this year, said Bromley’s friend Debbie Spaid, it was time to change the decor.

Spaid, who has ridden the People Hauler several times with her grandchildren, helped to choose the new celebrities, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

The Disney favorites are ready to sing Christmas carols, and Bromley has added music to the mix so they can.

A new, quieter generator will keep the Christmas lights glowing along the wagon’s sides and power the lights that change color on a small Christmas tree that graces the front of Bromley’s Ford tractor.

And it won’t drown out the Christmas carols sung by Bromley’s passengers. His wagon even has an on-board boom box to accompany them.

Bromley decided the $700 investment in the generator and battery pack was worth it, because he also takes carolers from Greenwood United Methodist Church through nearby neighborhoods each Christmas season.

Last year, said Spaid, the singers parked outside the home of the church’s pastor for caroling, and Bromley turned off the tractor to quiet the engine, only to have the battery run down from all the electricity used by the wagon’s decorations.

Caroling isn’t the only use for the People Hauler.

Bromley has participated in Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival parades since 2009.

He also takes his wagon to Greenfield Assisted Living Center in Berryville each year to give the residents, some in their 80s and 90s, a spin around the back streets of the town.

They really enjoy the trip, Bromley said.

All of the rides are a gift from Bromley to his community.

“I really enjoy doing it,” he said, even though he must obtain a $1 million insurance policy each time he volunteers the People Hauler for an outing.

It’s also a tribute to his friend Orndorff, who encouraged him to build the wagon and use it as publicity for the club they both enjoyed. After finding a mutual enthusiasm at the Berryville Gas and Steam Engine Show, they were friends for 28 years.

“They did everything together,” said Spaid of Bromley and Orndorff, who died on Christmas Eve 2012.

Bromley’s love of tractors shows not just in the meticulous manner in which he keeps the Ford that hauls his wagon — a viewer can see his or her face in the chrome nuts that cover its wheel lugs — but also in his other hobbies.

He has three more large tractors and nine riding lawnmowers he fine-tunes and shows at his club’s events and those in other nearby states.

He even has the first tractor that ever went to work on his family farm, an Oliver 70 that still runs.

Bromley also has a wall of miniature tractors and collectible small trucks from his Shenandoah’s Pride days to admire on winter evenings when the weather is too cold for going outside and playing with the big toys.

Except it’s never too cold for a Christmas parade.

“He does this because of the kids,” Spaid said. “My grandkids just love him doing it.”

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com