By Ronald Ahrens
After Tillotson Construction Co. had built their first three modest concrete elevators on the Goltry plan starting in 1939, it became time to attempt a big one at Medford, Okla.
In 1941 the Omaha company upsized with a 212,000-bushel single-leg elevator in Medford. Tillotson’s records say they also built an identical companion elevator in Thomas, Okla., which had been too far south from my route across the state’s western region and must be reserved for a future visit.
I had just been in Pond Creek; now, on my way out of Oklahoma, I headed north to Medford. “Located in a wheat-growing region, Medford served as an agricultural trade center with a flour mill and several grain elevators,” Wikipedia reports. “By 1909 the local economy supported three banks and three weekly newspapers.”
The elevator complex run by Clyde Co-op Association loomed on the horizon. This would be the last stop on my road trip–the 20th elevator in all. (I haven’t even mentioned stopping in Tucumcari, N.M., the very first site visit even before reaching Canyon, Tex.; that elevator had manhole covers embossed with the name Bleater Construction, of Amarillo.) I’d learned by now not to jump to the conclusion about what I was seeing.
Indeed, here were two elevators and a storage annex at 567 Hwy. 81. So which one was the House of Tillotson? Turning to the company records, we find the ’41 giant had eight tanks, or silos, of 15.5 feet in diameter that rose 120 feet from the loamy earth.
The cupola, or headhouse, towered further, being 21.5 feet wide, 48.5 feet long, and 33 feet high.
The job consumed 1,845 cubic yards of concrete and 82.5 tons of reinforcing steel.
On the scene I met Jacob States, a lanky young native of Medford who had worked for Clyde Co-op for a while but maybe too short a period to have developed a wealth of historical knowledge.
Alas, I came away with no photos of manhole covers from inside either house. I did snap one of a Johnson-Sampson plate on the storage annex.
The south elevator appears to be of the same general style but a larger capacity, and it has the larger headhouse. The north elevator looks as if it matches the dimensions listed in Tillotson records.
This morning, two months after my visit to Medford, I phoned the Co-op and spoke to Jenna, who said both elevators are operational.
I hate to end the road trip reports on a note of uncertainty. What can be told for sure is that the total cost less commission for the Medford elevator was $41,888.37. The workers received 30 cents per hour straight time and 60 cents overtime.
In all, the job required 25,630 man-hours. Total payout was $11,015.50 for an average of 42.9 cents per man-hour.
The Thomas elevator, being identical, required 836 fewer man-hours (streamlined procedures?) and cost $41,275.28.
Rather than conducting a more thorough site visit, I needed to find a lunch spot and then get going in order to make it to my sister’s house in Omaha before bedtime. Jacob States had said I’d find no fast food in Medford, but he failed to mention Smrcka’s Dairy Shack on the north edge of town. In this one-of-a-kind restaurant I ordered a delicious Czech sausage sandwich and sauerkraut, along with friend and a limeade, for only $8.38.
“Have a nice day. Please come again,” says the sales receipt. I don’t know when that will happen, but indeed I’d like to come back to conduct further evaluations here an about 10 other Tillotson sites like Thomas, which I had to bypass.