Art Parrish and his family went from one Mayer-Osborn elevator job to the next through the 1950s

Mary Ann (Parrish) Davis is the daughter of Art Parrish (b. 1921-d. 2012), who was a superintendent for Mayer-Osborn Construction Co. The family–Art, Flo, Alice, Mary, and their dog, Tuffy–went from job to job, living for weeks or months at a time in places ranging from Wyoming to New York. They had many marvelous, dramatic, and even tragic experiences. Mary was married 44 years to James Davis until he passed away in 2007. They had three children. Today she is known as Mary Mentel from a subsequent remarriage in 2011. We spoke to Mary by phone from her home in Oklahoma City on May 11, 2021.

Art Parrish

Mary: When he [Art] started working on elevators, he was only 18 and had just married my mom and worked as a laborer. In fact, his first day of work, he worked for his father-in-law, John Berle Fowler [Mary’s grandfather], he climbed into a big storm drain and fell asleep, so he [Fowler] fired him. After he forgave him and gave him another chance, he taught him to read blueprints. He [Art] worked real hard, and after a certain time he became a carpenter. When he was working as a carpenter, he was called to the Army in November of 1944. So from 1940 to 1944 he worked as a laborer and carpenter. Called into the army during the war, he was injured and sent home. He went back, and the war was over: they dropped the bomb. After the war he went back to work on an elevator because he already had experience and could read blueprints. He always thanked his father-in-law for that. It was in 1945 when he got out of the Army and  started working on this big job that was in Enid, Oklahoma. (That was his hometown.) He worked as a carpenter. His superintendent was Bill Grammar. So my dad was a carpenter for a year. Bill came to him and asked, “When this job is done, I have a small job in Oakland, Kansas. Do you think you can handle a foreman’s job?” The company from Hutchinson, Kansas, sent Bill up there. My dad said he didn’t know if he could do it, but sure would like to give it a try. Bill said it would pay $1.50 an hour. Now this was in 1946. The laborers got $1 an hour, the carpenters got $1.25, and a carpenter foreman got $1.50. Bill had been a superintendent for many years and–he was as old as his [Art’s] dad–and he only made $150 a week as a superintendent. He was on a steady salary. That’s how things were in those days. But you could buy a new car every other year, which my dad always did that. He said with that kind of money, things were cheap then. 

There was an old man that worked with my dad. His name was Roy Snodgrass. He kind of treated him like a son. My dad was still limping. He’d been shot in the leg a couple of places with a machine gun in the war. This old man said, “Are you getting your pension?” My dad said no. Well, he forced him to go downtown and sign up for that. My dad was always thankful. He said one day it was raining, and when that happened they would go into the toolshed and play poker. And Roy told my dad, “Come on, we’re going to go get you signed up for your pension.” So they did, and about a year later he started getting his pension in 1946. This doesn’t have anything to do with elevators, but his pension was $42 a month. By 2006 it was $800 a month. But then in 2007 the government cut it in half for any vets over 80 years old, which I thought was really sad. 

Myrl Davis, who was Mary’s father-in-law, with crew at an undetermined job site.

He said he never did see Roy again after that job. Then from 1946 to 1952, Art worked for six years as a carpenter foreman. He was all over the Midwest on different jobs, all grain elevators. There was just one time he worked on a cement plant. Then he was hired in 1952 as a superintendent when I was eight years old. 

My grandfather, J.D. Fowler, worked construction on the elevators. My father-in-law, Myrl Davis, he worked for Mayer-Osborn. In 1952 we were in Rudd, Iowa. It was population 400–you probably never heard of it. The elevator was the only tall building in town. It was really a big deal. There were about 10 kids in my third-grade class, and my dad invited the teacher and the children to come up on top after it was finished. So that was a big deal for me and my class. There was a  small elevator on the outside of the [grain] elevator. That’s what we got in to go up. I think he called it a manlift. I don’t know if they used ropes or it was electric. On that job his foreman was Ray Rogers. There were like three families of us that traveled, and we would see each like every other year. We kind of grew up together. Myrl Davis, Ray Rogers, and Art Parrish–those three families. And I ended up marrying Myrl Davis’s son and was married for 44 years before he died. He had one sister and 10 brothers, and all the boys were named with girls’ names. One of the brothers worked on one of my dad’s elevators, I’m not sure which one, but he had a heart attack on top. They all died before they were 65 of heart attacks; they were all kind of heavy drinkers. The one that died on top, he had a heart attack on top of the elevator. My dad carried him down. By the time he got he down, he was gone. My dad never told me these things till I was old.  

We went to Rochester, New York, and that was where my dad worked on the cement plant. 

[Mary raises the question whether it could have been a Mayer-Osborn Co. job, and we discuss the range of their work throughout the Plains, down to Texas, points in Iowa, and even Tempe, Ariz.] 

My dad worked an elevator in Tempe, Arizona, when I was in first grade. If I was in first grade it would have been probably 1948 or 1949. I remember Tempe. When we drove into town everybody was wearing coats. It was like 65 degrees and raining. Everybody was shivering. We were laughing at them. I learned to ride a bike in Tempe. I liked it there. 

Flo, Art, Mary (front), and Alice and an Oldsmobile

After Rochester–that’s the first place I ate pizza; it was wonderful–we went to Iron Mountain, Michigan. It was way out in the country and really cold. We went ice fishing. We saw the biggest ski jump in the whole world. And then when I went to school there, I went in and the teacher told them I was from New York, and they all applauded. This was a little bitty country school and I guess they thought I was from New York City or maybe they thought everybody from New York was a celebrity.

In 1955 we lived in North Canton, Ohio, and built an elevator there.  

In 1958, when I was 14, the elevator we built in Limon, Colorado, was right across the field from where we lived in a trailer court. So I saw it go up, and that was really interesting. It seemed like it took most of the summer for the foundation. When they poured that, my dad always worked–even when he was superintendent–he worked 48 hours straight when they poured that concrete. The other guys would be on a shift, eight or 10 hours, but a lot of times he had to call people in to help because they wouldn’t show up. He started getting ulcers because he was worried a lot about different things. I’d walk outside at night, after dark, and you could see across the field from our trailer court, it was bright out there. They’d string lights above and have floodlights shining down so they could keep working constantly for 48 hours. Then they’d get to go home and sleep for maybe a day so it would dry real good. Dad was superintendent, Myrl Davis was foreman. A lot of times on different jobs, either Myrl or Ray Rogers would be foreman. Some jobs he had both of them working, one as carpenter, one as foreman.  I was surprised after they did that foundation. It shocked me how fast that elevator went up, like one day it wasn’t there and the next day it was. Of course then they had all the inside and everything else to do. But it just went up so fast. I always knew he was on a time limit because they were on a contract, and if they didn’t finish within a certain time, they didn’t get as much money and they got in big trouble. My dad was real good about getting it done and doing it well. He said as far as he knew, in his whole life, he never had problems with his elevators. A lot of different companies, it crumbled or they had problems. His were always really well built. 

Mary Ann Parrish Davis, now Mary Mentel

I’m not sure where we were going in 1954, but our trailer turned over when we were pulling it on a wet two-lane road in Wyoming. These two big semi-trucks passed us real fast, and from the air pressure the trailer started weaving and my dad lost control and it turned over. It was the only one we had. It was brand-new, extra wide and long and like a split-level. That was a scary time, real traumatic for my parents. We had to live in apartments for a while until we bought a used trailer. I think back on my favorite Christmas. It was when that happened. Because we had no money, we were in a motel room. So they got these big Christmas stockings full of toys and candy. And the next year we made our own Christmas decorations. 

The last job that my dad worked on was in Commerce City, Colorado. That’s near Denver. It’s like a suburb. That was in the 1960s. He quit building the elevators. He painted the old ones, put the names of the towns on them. They stayed in Denver because my sister and I had gone to over 30 schools when we were growing up. [Art and Flo were divorced during this period in Denver.] Even after he retired my dad never quit working. He built his own house. He poured patios and driveways for people all around Denver, and he painted houses with his stepson and his family. He loved getting together with Ray Rogers and Myrl Davis and laughing and talking about old times. 

After we kids got married and moved out, he married my stepmother. They moved back to Commerce City. She had a house there. 

Art Parrish

My dad died in 2012. He was 91 years old. He was told he had cancer in 2007 and had six weeks to six months to live. My mother died, my husband died, my stepsister died. My dad was still alive. I was grieving everybody, and I said, “I’m not going to grieve him any more.” He lived until 2012–that much longer. The doctor said, “What do you want to do with the time you’ve got left?” He said, “I want to make a liar out of you.” And he did. 

Marvin Keele recalls building Mayer-Osborn’s Blencoe, Iowa, elevator in the hot summer of 1954

Ronald Ahrens and Kristen Cart spoke to Marvin Keele, of Blencoe, Iowa, on April 20, 2021. Marvin is 88 years old. In 1954 (above) he spent a few weeks working on construction of the Mayer-Osborn elevator in Blencoe. The interview starts with Ronald’s explanation about use of the voice recorder and typing a rough transcript during the phone call. 

Marvin: Well, I hope I can answer your questions. (Hearty laugh.) 

Ronald: How did you get the job working on elevator construction in Blencoe? What was the connection? How old were you? What did you do?

Ronald Ahrens and Kristen Cart at BMW Performance Center West, Thermal, California, April 22, 2021. We are just a few months from observing the 10th anniversary of Our Grandfathers’ Grain Elevators.

Marvin: I’d just turned 21 the fall before. I worked for the school with the buses, but they didn’t hire me during the summertime. I had to have a summer job. Word got out in town that they were hiring, and I and a guy from a nearby town were the first two hired. His name was Dale Vrainburg (sp?). He passed away at 100 here just a year or two ago. 

Ronald: So you had been colleagues since 1954. Have you been in Blencoe all this time? 

Marvin: Yep. I was born outside town here, and I’ve lived here all my life. 

Ronald: You heard through the grapevine that they were hiring. What did they call your job? 

Marvin: Well, they hired us as carpenters to build the forms. When we went to work the wage was 75 cents an hour. But for every week you stayed with them you got a dime raise up to $1.25. That was top wage. It was awful good money because they paid time-and-a-half over 40 hours. We worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week. So we had three days that we got time and a half. In ‘54, that was awful good money. I worked there from first part of June to a little bit into August, and I had to go back to work at the school. But we saved enough money that we could buy some furniture and go with my brother-in-law to Oregon on a trip. 

Ronald: You and your wife? 

Marvin: Yeah, Mary. We’re the M&M kids. We were married in Nov. ‘53. So we got married in November the year before, and I went to work at the elevator in the summertime. 

Ronald: Was your young bride concerned about your safety? 

Marvin: No, huh-uh. Nothing to be concerned about over there. The first thing they did was build a big deck so they could draw out the shape of the bins. We made a big deck. The engineer chart drew out the shape of all the bins. When they got to building the forms, we just followed the shape on the deck.  

Ronald: Was this all an adventure for you? 

Marvin: It was something I’d never done, being as young as I was. I just got out of the Air Force the year before, then went to work at the school. After they hired Dale and I, people would come to apply for a job and when they’d take their name down and say, “Well, we’ll let you know,” then they’d call Dale and I into the shack there, the timekeeper’s shack, and they’d say, “You know these guys? Would they be good workers? So Dale and I, we kind of could steer some of our friends into jobs that the other people didn’t have a chance to get. 

Inside the excavation at Blencoe: rebar mats, welder, and formwork for pits

Kristen: My name’s Kristen Cart–Kristen Osborn by birth. The Mayer-Osborn Company, that was my grandfather. I know my dad was on that job that summer. Jerry Osborn was there just for the summer. He was at pouring stage, putting in rebar. 

Marvin: I just mailed copies of some pictures I had. It’s showing all the rebar they put into the base of it, into the footings. I sent four pictures, and it shows all the rebar that went into the base. And in the center of one picture, you can see the dump bit, or the boot pit–we called it the boot pit–that was put in where they dumped the grain. 

Kristen: Do you remember the name of the superintendent on that job? 

Marvin: Ernie Mendoza was the foreman. That’s who we worked with. 

Kristen: Do you remember somebody named Dick Osborn on the job? 

Marvin: No, not really. I know there was an Osborn that was in the time shack and was the boss. 

Kristen: OK, that would have been him. 

Marvin: I’ll tell you something interesting about that. We had three guys that came to work, and they’d been working in another town for a local contractor. They were getting 75 cents and hour, no raises, no time-and-a-half. They came and got a job, and by the third day they was there, they got talking among themselves that Dale and I and a few others were getting more money per hour than they were. So they went over to time shack, and they went in and said, “Those guys, we’re doing the same job those guys are, and they’re getting more money. I imagine Dick Osborn, I think, was running it and I don’t know, whoever the Osborn was that was running the time shack said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” He pulled their time cards, wrote them out a check and said, “It’s been nice knowing you.” They came back about two weeks and said, “Can we come back to work?” He said, “Yeah, if you start out at 75 cents an hour and work your way up, you can come back to work.” And another thought that came to my mind today, they hired quite a few high school seniors, kids who were going to be seniors in high school in the fall. One was my cousin, Eric Keele. He was going to be a senior in high school that fall. He showed up for work, I think it was the second day, third day. I went by and he was.digging a hole. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m digging a hole for the outhouse.” That was in the days before Port-a-Potties. 

Ronald: We don’t have any photos of those outhouses. That would be a new department for us. 

Marvin: There wasn’t a city water system at that time. One of the pictures I sent you, I wrote on the back that there was somebody, I couldn’t tell who it was, you see back, and he was at the water pump evidently cleaning up or cooling off. They just put a point down, and had a water system that we drank out of and things. 

Ronald: Did you ever work the night shift? They went 24 hours a day. 

Marvin: I quit before they started up. I worked nights when we were pumping water. See, we live out here on the Missouri River bottom, and the water level is most times about 10 to 15 foot. When they got ready to put the boot pit, or dump pit, down I think around 80 two-inch points all around the perimeter, and they had two big Hercules engines–I think they were propane powered–and they pumped water 24 hours a day out into the ditch. They never shut ‘em down. They had somebody watch the pumps all the time–they had a sight gauge on the side with oil in it. That’s how they checked the oil level in the pumps. They never shut down. 

Ronald: We wanted to ask you, there were some problems with this job. You wrote a little bit about that when you commented on a post. Could you go into any more detail about what happened? They had to tear part of the elevator back down, right? 

Marvin: I quit and went on the trip. What they told in town, whether it was right or not, they had some of the forms were upside down. The forms had to be a little bit wider at bottom than they did the top so they’d slide. That’s what they told in town. They got up about 14 feet or something like that. When we got back from our trip they were tearing it down, but I didn’t go back to work because I had to go to work at the school. As I said, they put down all of those two-inch points to pump water. Then they built a coffer dam that was bigger than the dump pit. They built it out and dug down and stuck it in the ground. It was about eight-, 10-foot tall. Then they built another section on top of that, and they stuck it clear down in the ground and kept pumping the water out around the perimeter. Then we went down in there and built the forms for the dump pit. 

Kristen: Dad said that the concrete was slumping underneath the form, so they tore it down and started over. 

Marvin: Yeah, they tore it down and started over. They had quite a few high school kids working on that. They had one kid, they got going, they were up about 15, 18 foot. Ernie Mendoza did not know kids, when he wasn’t around, they were jumping off of the deck down into cars of sand, they had the railroad cars, and these kids were jumping down into the cars of sand. One night, he told this one kid to do something, and the kid just pretended to be mad. He said, “Well, I’m tired of you telling me what to do, I’m just going to jump off of here. He went over and jumped off into that car of sand. I guess Mendoza looked down and he said, “Don’t you come back up on this deck tonight.” 

Ronald: That’s funny. We were wondering if there were any accidents. 

Marvin: Not that I know of. I never heard of any. 

Ronald: Is the elevator still standing in Blencoe? Is it in use today? 

Marvin: Oh, yeah. It’s there. 

Ronald: Does the co-op still use it? 

Marvin: A  big co-op from Fort Dodge, Iowa, had bought it. They put up, the one that we worked on, a few years later, they put up some bins beside it to expand it. And then they put up another one. A few years later they put up another one. Now this New Co-op–the name is New Coop[erative]–that took over here a couple years ago, they put up a $750,000 bin, they put up a new dryer, and they put up a big fertilizer plant for dry fertilizer. Now this year they have built a barge unloading and loading on the river, and reportedly they spent $7 million building that. We were just out there over the weekend and they got their first load of dry fertilizer on three barges. They emptied them out, and they’re going to ship three barges of soybeans back down the river. 

Ronald: Can you remember the buzz when the elevator was built. It was such a tall building that comes out of nowhere–kind of a big event for the town. Do you recall any commentary about that? 

Marvin: No, not really. We had some people pass through town the other day, and he hadn’t been here–he was raised here as a kid and left as a kid, and he said, “I never remember seeing that elevator from the schoolhouse.” I said, “Well, the reason you never saw it is because it wasn’t there when you were a kid in school.”  

Ronald: That was an older gentleman then, I guess. Anything else you want to tell us about your adventurous summer of ‘54. 

Marvin: Well, it was probably the hottest summer we’d had in years. It was really hot. In fact, I sent you a picture that I’m in, and I noted on the back, “Notice how tan I was.” We really got suntanned over there. In those days you never had sunscreen or thought about skin cancer or nothing. 

Kristen: That elevator that they put in later also had a problem. They had a blowout under one of the doors during construction. Do you remember that? 

Marvin: No, I don’t remember that. But they were building an elevator, the same company was building one at Odebolt that summer. They had problems at Odebolt. When they put the dump pit in, they run into a lot of big rock I guess. That’s the story we heard. They ran into some huge rocks they didn’t know about. 

Kristen: That’s when they were building the dump pit? 

Marvin: Yeah, they run into rock. Now this elevator over here, it sets on sand. There was no pilings put down. They said that sand was so solid that they just dug down about seven, eight feet, and then they put the base of it on that. There was no piling used in the construction of it. This blow sand–they call it blow sand–it’s wet and packed. When they put that elevator up they said, “That’s the best base there is.” That’s what they told us anyway. 

Kristen: That coffer dam that was built–was that left on-site and then filled in? 

Marvin: They just built the boot pit inside of it and covered it up. After they got the boot pit made, then they filled the boot pit with water to let it cure. We went out and walked on catwalks out over the water to work on different things. Like I say, it was primitive according to today’s construction because the jacks they used to move it up, they were all screw jacks, they weren’t hydraulic or anything. They had a water line that run around the perimeter to level it. And they had guys, that’s all they did, was go around and make sure the water level, they were level.

Kristen: That’s interesting. I wondered how they did that. 

Marvin: There was a plastic pipe that went all the way around to each screw jack.

Kristen: They said they filled the concrete into the forms with regular wheelbarrows. 

Marvin: Up on the deck they had wheelbarrows that they moved the concrete around the deck. In these pictures, you can see how much rebar in in the base of that thing. There’s just tons of rebar in it. 

Kristen: That’s why it’s still there. 

Marvin: There were two levels of rebar, a bottom level and they put up on blocks, I remember maybe eight, or 10, 12 inches off the base, and they laid a mat down, a rebar mat, and then they built another one above that, about three foot above it. So there was two mats of rebar put in there, and it’s all fastened together and welded together. You can see in those pictures, there was an electric welder setting out in the middle there, that they welded a lof that rebar together with.  

Ronald: Did they bring in a specialist to do that welding, or was it just the local guys and they got some training? 

Marvin: I don’ know, I don’t remember, because I say, Dale and I were hired to be carpenters and that’s all we did was build things, build forms and things. Then after that, then they put you to work doing other things. When the forms got done, I was done, I quit. I went on a trip, and then I had to go back to school to my job there. 

Ronald: You did what for the school district? 

Marvin: It wasn’t that big a district, and later on our district consolidated with another district. I had a lot more buses. I worked for the school 36 years. 

Kristen: What did you do in the Air Force? 

Marvin: I was in motor pool. I was in the Air Guard in Sioux City. In fact, today is our 70th anniversary of reporting to Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, Maine, the 20th of April. They called us to active duty.  I always laugh that I was one of the few people that served on active duty and never went on active duty and never went to Lackland Air Force Base for basic training. I joined the Guard, and they activated us. And they said when we get to Maine, we’ll send to Lackland for basic training. We got up there, and they said, “We’d be short-handed if we sent you down there. We’re going to give you a week of basic training here. They marched us around the block, took us out to the rifle range, and said, “You’re in!” 

Goltry hails the new grain elevator in July 6, 1939 issue of the Leader newspaper

Grain Building Is the Work Of Omaha Firm

One of the largest wheat crops ever yielded by this section of the northwestern Oklahoma wheat belt was dumped into Goltry’s new 60,000 bushel elevator built for the Farmers’ Exchange of Goltry by the Tillotson construction company of Omaha, Nebraska,

The construction company operated by R.O and J.H. Tillotson, brothers, designers of modern concrete buildings, both of whom were in Goltry at various times during the progress of the building, was awarded the contract March 15. Shortly afterwards a crew of local workers began digging the pit, the first step in the actual construction of the new building.

Wheat was being dumped into the elevator at a time when the harvesting of wheat in this section was only beginning while electricians and skilled workers for the construction company were giving the building its finishing touches.

After the pit had been dug, a crew of 45 men–part of them local persons–was put to work by the company. Carpenters were building slip forms into which concrete was poured. The forms were four feet in height. As concrete was poured, the forms were moved upwards.

The forms were raised with jacks of which there were 48. All 48 jacks were turned by four men. Two turns of the jack screw raised the forms an inch and the jacks were turned in almost continuous operation.

The level of the forms was checked every hour in an effort to insure absolute accuracy. The Tillotson construction company used a new style of checking device in their job here. The company already had used five different kinds of checking devices during its various construction jobs. Employees of the company reported that the new device was the most accurate they had yet used.

The forms were raised an average of six feet every 10 hours. In the new checking device, targets were used in measuring distances with plumbs to keep the forms absolutely level all the way around at all times during their progress upwards.

The new style of checking system was not designed and made available until a short time previous to the date upon which the company began the Goltry job.

Before superintendent W.B. Morris, whose home is in Kansas City, left the job, 150,000 bushels of wheat had been put through the elevator. More than 85 carloads had been loaded from the elevator before Morris left. Each carload amounts to an average of 1,800 bushels. The machinery and equipment in the elevator were operating perfectly before the last of the company’s workers and the superintendent left the job.

“Everything ran smoothly with never a touch of trouble,” Morris, superintendent of the Goltry job for the Tillotson construction company, said.

A large amount of the responsibility for seeing that the day by day progress of the building was not interrupted at any time was delegated to Morris. However, Morris gave a great deal of the credit to the entire group of workers which included a number of local men. Morris said his company had “the best cooperation among the men working for us. We appreciate the interest shown by the people of the community and the efforts the men put forth endeavoring to keep the job going at the proper speed at all times,” Morris said.

The new elevator is 120 feet from the bottom of the basement to the top. The basement is four feet below the ground level and seven and a half feet below the floor. The capacity is 60,000 bushels.

A truck lift on the first floor of the elevator picks up trucks with ease in the process of dumping grain from the trucks into the pits. The new style of truck lift will not catch the radiator or damage the truck in any way.

Two pits into which grain is dumped hold 1,200 bushels. The first pit holds 850, the second 450.

Legs motivate the belt and cups and such a speed that the grain is elevated upwards into the bins at a rate of 60 bushels per minute.

At the top of the building, an automatic scale dumps 60 bushels per minute. The scale hold 10 bushels and automatically drops six times per minute.

A blowing system cleans wheat and sends the dust and chaff and foreign particles down a chute and into a compartment just above the first floor. At intervals this compartment is dumped into a truck and hauled away.

A fast cage type man lift–one of the fastest man lifts to be found in an elevator of the size of the new Goltry building–hoists the workers upward to the top of the building at a time saving rate of speed.

Among the various types of men working on the job–of which there were as many as 45 at the time the crew was running slip forms–were electricians, concrete workers, steel men, jack men, hoisting engineer, concrete mixer operator, finishers who smoothed the walls and the floors, painters, buggy men and wheel barrow men.

Front page caption:

Goltry’s new modern elevator building (above), built for the Farmers’ Exchange of Goltry by the Tillotson construction company of Omaha, Nebraska, is 120 feet in height, rising 116 feet above the ground level and falling four feet below the level of the ground. The capacity of the new building is 60,000 bushels and its modern machinery and equipment, all brand new, enable the operators of the Farmers’ Exchange to dump grain into the pit, elevate it, clean it with a modern blowing system, weigh it and load it into waiting box cars as rapidly as modern high speed trucks can bring it in. Photo exclusively for The Goltry Leader by Cochrane commercial photographers.

Inside page caption:

Approaching Goltry from the west a person would be afforded this view of the new Farmers’ Exchange elevator building (above) towering 116 feet toward the sky, its smooth, white walls reflecting with added brilliance the dazzling rays of the midsummer, afternoon sun. (Photo exclusively for The Goltry Leader by Cochrane commercial photographers).

In 1939 letter, Joe Tillotson asks about wheat allotment, reports on new concrete elevator

July 22, 1939

Dict. July 21

Mr. Warren Tillotson

Shields, Kansas

Dear Uncle Warren:

We have thought several times about writing to you to ask if there would be any possibility that we could get an allotment for not raising wheat on that land of Dad’s down there in Kansas.

Now of course it doesn’t seem right to us that the government should pay for this land being idle when there is really no intention of farming it, but we keep hearing of similar cases like this and even understand that where the local agent knows the owner of the land they are solicited and offered an allotment for this unused land.

We feel that you are probably familiar with this subject and if you have a few moments to spare, might drop us a line and let us know what you think about it.

We thought we would get out to see you and John sometime this summer but haven’t had a call anywhere near you so far. Most of our work this year has been down in Oklahoma, Kansas in the eastern part, Missouri in the western part, and eastern Iowa. We are enclosing a local newspaper from Goltry, Oklahoma which shows a job that we just finished. This is our first attempt at concrete construction and out of five similar jobs built in this same neighborhood our concrete by test shows to be the strongest, the machinery the best and fastest, and the insurance rate on this job is lower than any of the others; and as long as we didn’t lose any money on our first attempt at this line of work we feel that we would like to have more of this reinforced concrete construction work.

Don’t believe we answered John’s letter of April 5, as it came in right when we were the very busiest, but we still have hopes of getting out there to see both of you before the year is over.

We hope your wheat crop was good and that you may be coming up this way sometime soon and will stop and see us.

Respectfully,

Your nephew,

Joe

Rain delays and balky formwork hindered Grain Storage Construction Co. at Ceresco, Neb.

Lincoln Journal Star, Friday, Sep. 18, 1959

Grain Storage Construction Co. benefited from the expertise of Ted Morris, who had been employed by Tillotson Construction Co. As Tillotson’s activities declined in the late-1950s, the GSCC, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, stepped in to undertake construction of new grain elevators.

Here is news from the Fremont (Neb.) Tribune on July 24, 1959 as the company’s crew built an elevator of reinforced concrete next to a traditional wooden elevator at Ceresco, a village just 20 miles north of the Nebraska Capitol building in downtown Lincoln.

Weather, Difficulties Delay Bin Construction at Ceresco

CERESCO–The Farmers Cooperative Association’s new, 250,000-bushel capacity grain elevator being constructed here by Grain Storage Const. Co. of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is expected to be completed by Sept. 1, according to project foreman Doyle Elliott.

The elevator will have 120-foot high storage tanks, topped by a 42 1/2-foot scale house. Tank construction is one third complete.

* * *

Construction of the new elevator started April 1, but work progress was hampered by a lengthy rain spell during the initial weeks. Difficulty with the hydraulic hoists, which raise the movable wood form after concrete has been poured, caused a brief shutdown of pouring operations.

The wood frame held too tightly in some places and left a few unfilled pockets in the concrete shell of the storage tank walls. Construction workers are patching up the pockets and new concrete pouring should begin sometime next week.

Once the pouring begins the tank walls can be built up at the rate of 16 feet every 24 hours. “Most people judge progress in elevator construction by the outside appearance,” said Elliott. “They do not realize how much inside work has to be accomplished before you can proceed safely with the exterior work,” he added.

“We hope the elevator will be ready by Sept. 1,” said Farmers Co-op Assn. manager Leonard Palm. “We would like to get this year’s corn crop in. I think we will make it as there have been no serious construction flaws or delays so far,” he added. 

Editor’s note: Based on the Sep. 18, 1959 date of the Lincoln Journal Star’s photo and caption (top), GSCC did not manage to complete the elevator by the date the Co-op had hoped for.

We thank our friend Susan Allen for unearthing the clippings.

Tillotson Construction Co. alumnus Ted Morris leads new elevator job at Beatrice, Neb. in 1958

Beatrice (Neb.) Daily Sun, Oct. 28, 1958

The contract to build the 100,000 bushel elevator on the old Wiebe Lumber Co. property has already been let, August Grell said last night. He stated that the contractor is Ted Morris, Grain Storage Construction Co., Council Bluffs, Ia. They have materials on order and are ready to go to work, he stated. The Beatrice Concrete Co. has a sub-contract for furnishing the concrete for the structure, which is to be built at an estimated cost of $250,000.

Editor’s note: There is a discrepancy in capacity of the elevator as recorded in the two articles. We believe the 340,000-bushel figure is more likely correct.

The Lincoln Star, Dec. 27, 1958

Beatrice, Neb. — Construction has begun here on a new 340,000 bushel capacity grain elevator by the Farmer’s Co-Op. Being built by the Grain Storage Construction Co. of Council Bluffs, Ia., the elevator will consist of 8 concrete bins, 120 feet high with a 40-foot high headhouse on top to house lifting machinery.

We thank our friend Susan Allen for unearthing this and other clippings.

 

Beatrice Daily Sun, Dec. 26, 1958

Employees were on the move in 1959 for work on one of Tillotson’s last elevators

The Helena (Oklahoma) Star, Thursday, Jan. 22, 1959

Mr. and Mrs. Francis Dawson have moved into the former Thompson house, recently vacated by the Carl Jantz family, and Mr. and Mrs. Austin Brown live in a trailer house on the back of the lot, there.

The men are employed by the Tillotson Construction Co., that is building the new elevator at McWillie.

They came here from Texas.

We thank our friend Susan Allen for unearthing this and other clippings.

What were a timekeeper’s duties on a grain elevator construction project?

By Charles J. Tillotson

Editor’s note: The previous post about Charles Hauber, an employee of Tillotson Construction Co. in the mid-1950s, raises a question: What were a timekeeper’s duties on a grain elevator construction project?

The timekeeper’s duties were often directly proportionate to the project size. On small projects the timekeeper’s duties were performed by the job superintendent. If the size of the job warranted a full-time person, his duties would require him to daily monitor the laborers on the job and their hourly rate of pay, either by requiring each individual laborer to personally check in with him in the morning, thereby “starting the clock” for the labor to be performed for that day.

On larger projects with a given steady number of workmen on the job with constant types of duties being performed each day where personal check-in would take up too much time, the timekeeper would merely check out each laborer’s hours, task, and hourly rate for each workman via personal observation and contact throughout the day.

The timekeeper was also responsible for recording the hours worked by the on-site administration and supervision personnel, but usually the pay rate for these people, including himself, would be held confidential.

In any regard, no matter the job size, the responsibility of the timekeeper was to accrue, on a daily basis the name of each laborer, his hours worked, his job and his rate of pay. This daily tabulation for all labor and supervision personnel would then be transmitted to the accounting department in the Tillotson Construction Co.’s home office in Omaha.

The Accounting Department would then convert this information into the individual payroll checks to be issued to each workman. This was usually on a weekly basis. In many cases, where the job was in a remote area and there wasn’t enough time to transmit the payroll physically, the payroll checks were written on the job site by the timekeeper after receiving the amount of each check via the telephone from the Accounting Department.

The timekeeper’s job was a very important position requiring a person of integrity, honesty, and dependability–for without those key characteristics the possibility of achieving a successful and profitable project couldn’t be accomplished.

The Des Moines Tribune profiled Tillotson Construction Co. timekeeper Charles Hauber in 1955

By Herb Owens

DALLAS CENTER, IA–Charles Hauber, 21, timekeeper on a grain elevator construction project here, is living proof that “a weak chin” is not visual evidence of a lack of determination.

Seven years ago Hauber’s lower jaw suffered a major injury in an auto accident. A nerve was severed and, as a result, the natural growth and development of his chin was retarded.

Two years ago, Hauger spent a month at University Hospitals in Iowa City, where physicians and surgeons estimated his possibilities fro reconstruction of his lower jaw and chin.

By using bone from his hip, surgeons are hopeful that they can build a normal mandible for Hauber. Through use of cartilage, the youth’s chin would be rebuilt to normal appearance.

Long self-conscious about his receding chin, Hauber developed a plan for accomplishment of normal features. He left Loras College in Dubuque, where he had been enrolled two years studying for Catholic priesthood, to build a bank account for the surgery.

Studies Languages

Surgeons have assured Hauber that a series of operations would be necessary. The surgery will be expensive. When Charles has saved $1,000, he’ll submit himslef for the initial work. The accumulation of savings is slow–but Hauber already has more than $400 in the bank.

Hauber is a most unusual construction timekeeper. He has had three years of Greek and four years of Latin. He has had three years of German and a year of French. He even has had six months of Spanish.

Besides his interest in languages, Hauber is an enthusiastic amateur short story writer. He has written several stories–without ever submitting any to editors for professional judgment. And, as a student of people and human nature, he’s constantly alert for character studies and incidents he can incorporate in fiction writing.

Worked on Elevators

Eldest of six children of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hauber of Emmetsburg, Charles–known to co-workers as “Chuck”–for two years attended a Catholic seminary at East Troy, Wis., a school conducted by the Society of Divine Word. He also had a year at Epworth College, near Dubuque.

When Hauber first was employed by the Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha, he worked on an elevator project at Bancroft. Then the crew shifted to the Farmer’s Elevator Co. at Ralston. After a “repair job” at Aurora, Neb., he was assigned to the elevator construction project at Boxholm.

Here the Tillotson company is building the $151,000 addition on the Farmer’s Co-Operative Co. elevator.

Hauber likes his work–but his dreams go beyond a career in construction business. Whether he’ll return to studies for the priesthood, he hasn’t determined. His interest in languages–which he continues to study after working hours–has kindled thoughts of becoming an interpreter. Possibilities as a writer are not overlooked.

Whatever he heads for, be assured Hauber will give it the old college try–and he hopes to have “a determined chin” to show with it.

Tillotson Construction Co. wins $110,500 contract for large storage annex at Gurley, Neb.

More Grain Storage Seen

By the Associated Press, Friday, April 25, 1958

Commercial grain storage in Cheyenne County will be more than half million bushels larger for the 1958 crops than was available last year.

The Farmers Union Co-op Grain Co. of Gurley has let a contract for the construction of 8 cement tank-type grain storage bins.

Ross Handley, president of the co-op board of directors, said a contract for $110,500 was let to Tillotson Construction Co. of Omaha.

Arnold Draper of Gurley, member of the board of directors, reported that this new addition will add 274,000 bushels in grain storage to the present plant.

Plans call for placing this year’s crop of wheat in the new tanks.

Work is also under way at Dalton and about 20 miles north of Sidney for the Dalton Co-op Society to add some 250,000 bushels of storage to its facilities.

Farmers Union Grain Co. of Sidney plans to have about 70,000 bushels of additional space ready for the 1958 harvest.

The added storage will be urgently needed if present winter wheat prospects materialize into a big harvest.

Estimates now call for a harvest from the Panhandle of 20 to 25 million bushels of wheat this crop year.

We thank our friend Susan Allen for unearthing this and other clippings.