How David Hatch summered as a winch operator on slip-form construction, Part One

Story and drawings by David Hatch

David Herbert Hatch is senior pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wisc. He worked slip-form construction on elevators throughout Iowa in the early to mid-1970s. 

It was 1973. Vietnam was still rolling along. Woodstock was four years in the rearview mirror, Watergate was only an investigation, and the Supreme Court had just decided Roe vs. Wade. 

My friends and I graduated from high school that spring and signed on with Todd & Sargent out of Ames, Iowa, our hometown. For the next three summers we journeyed from slip to slip around Iowa. 

In slip-form construction, we took–from the ground–a four-foot high honeycomb of wood to 120 feet in a mere seven days. It paid $4 an hour. Fast food was $1.60. I had just set down my mop at McDonald’s in order to learn a lot about slip-form construction.

In the beginning everyone got a little experience at each job. Perhaps it was like what the Navy does on a sub, training each man at each station just in case. I went from pushing a Georgia buggy, to running the concrete hopper, to settling into my saddle as the ground winch operator. 

Rain or shine, cold or wet, once the pouring began it did not stop until you hit elevation or an emergency stop for lightning. The crew worked two 12-hour shifts, pouring 24 hours a day. On my first day I received a white hardhat and gloves. It sure beat the paper hat at the Golden Arches.

I clearly remember looking around and seeing something very complex: the work of a busy-bee carpenter who created an enormous, complex configuration of lumber. There were multiple, circular, honeycomb-like sections (tanks) with endless vertical wood slats (forms), and scores of steel (rebar and jackrods) rising six or eight feet like antennas. It was neat, clean, and super-intricate. There was sawdust everywhere!

On the deck with its several features and teams

The Deck–A plywood floor was attached to the forms. This is where the workers would live for the next seven days. It served like the floor on a regular elevator, but slower, in a business building and would go up with you on it. Or consider it like a stretched trampoline canvas with nothing beneath. Good thing we couldn’t look down.

The Pump Shack–On the deck the pump shack housed the hydraulic pumps. From here the hydraulic lines fed oil to the jacks. On many jobs, a father and son from Arkansas were the jacking experts. And experts they had to be. Lose the pump or blow a line, and the jacking could stall, hanging up a form or creating a cold ugly seam on the outside wall.

The ground winch operator.

The Steel Gin Pole and Winch–On the deck was a gin pole with its own electric winch. This brought up vertical and horizontal steel to be laid in the forms, spaced out and tied into place with wire ties. The gin-pole operator also brought up jackrods. These were threaded on the ends. They were about six feet long and perhaps a solid inch or more in diameter. The operator of the steel gin pole stood at an unprotected opening upon the sky. There had to be a gap for the steel to come through. He had a dangerous job. One of my friends ran this gin pole for awhile and recalled almost falling off when he lit his pipe.

The Concrete Hopper and Gin Pole–This gin pole and its operator received the loaded concrete bucket from the ground, dumped its contents into the hopper, and pushed the bucket into open air for free fall back to the ground and refilling. That pattern continued for seven straight days. The gin pole had a swing arm for the operator to bring in and return the bucket. Two pulleys were on the pole, one at top-center, one at the end of this upside down “L.”

The Steel Layers–Some guys were assigned to lay steel, both vertical and horizontal, inside the forms. The concrete was poured over the steel and all of it disappeared as the jacks lifted the deck, two inches a minute, as I recall. Then more steel would be laid, repeatedly and perpetually, until we hit elevation. Without the steel, the wall might succumb to a blowout

The Jackrodders–These guys went around adding new jackrods where the existing ones were getting shorter and disappearing into the rising form. The jackrods were super-heavy. They had to be threaded onto the top of the other rod, above the jack. These jacks “bit” the rods, lifting and raising the deck in unison around the perimeter. With that, up went the whole structure!

The Concrete Pourer–This stalwart guided a Georgia buggy from the hopper through the narrow track in the formwork. If you pushed all day down Georgia Buggy Boulevard, you never had to join the YMCA.

The Concrete Vibrators–Carrying electric-powered vibrators, they rid the concrete of bubbles inside the forms. A man’s hands got numb, more so than from riding a Harley all day.

Safeway Scaffold Ladder–As the deck went up, new sections were added to the external Safeway ladder system. This was our way up and down. The more days that went by, the higher the ladder.

The Finishers–We never saw these guys from the deck. They stood on a suspended wooden scaffold that went around the perimeter below the deck. With a brush and a bucket of water, they finished the concrete and made it pretty. Around and around they went, never stopping until we hit elevation. Sometimes the blueprint called for a door or window to be dropped into the form at a certain elevation. The finishers would pretty-up the edging around that door or window as it came out of the form. If the door or window was uneven–no changing that.

Part Two tomorrow.

David Hatch was born and raised in Ames, Iowa. Prior to college studies, Pastor Dave worked construction and had hopes of serving in law enforcement until his partial color-blindness prevented that. He did not know what to do with his life. Through God’s Providence and a phone call from his sister, who was a kindergarten teacher in Milwaukee, he enrolled in a college where, unknown to him, many of his future classmates were studying to be pastors. He received his education at Concordia College in Milwaukee; Concordia Teacher’s College, River Forest, Ill.; and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. His pastoral career began in 1982, following seminary, when he served as an admissions counselor at Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y. and parish pastor at Love Lutheran Church outside of Albany, N.Y.

David Hatch recalls his youthful days as a winch operator in grain elevator construction

We are pleased to introduce you this week to Rev. David Herbert Hatch. He leads a Lutheran congregation in Green Bay, Wisc. but cut his teeth in elevator construction during the 1970s when hydraulic jacking had replaced the mechanical means.

David Herbert Hatch is senior pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wisc. He worked slip-form construction on elevators throughout Iowa in the early to mid 1970s. 

In this post and the coming series, Dave supplements his recollections with original drawings. These are especially noteworthy because of his colorblindness.

He writes: If I could leave this for your imagination …

An extremely heavy concrete bucket free-falling to the ground at an unknown speed for about 150 feet until the brake man on the winch brings it to a timed stop in front of a concrete truck driver on the ground below.

What if my foot had slipped off the brake?

Likewise, imagine an entirely full concrete bucket, running up the side of a grain elevator at full throttle and I got distracted just before it came to the pulley on the gin pole at the top … what would happen to the guy in the hopper or those below?

This was so intense for me, I would sit up in the middle of the night, operating the winch in my sleep.

I wonder why there’s a ringing in my ears. Hours and hours of running an industrial engine, a few feet away from me, at super-high RPM.

My brother-in-law worked steel. There was a bunch of us, my friends, who would camp–or crash in motels around the state–and go from slip to slip.

The experience gave me a hunger to be a crane operator, which never happened.

About getting concrete to the deck during active slip-form pouring:

  • Looking at the photographs of current construction, I can see concrete pumps and tower cranes. My company, Todd & Sargent, tried a concrete pump once and it plugged up! Yikes!
  • During my days, we used a winch that was anchored into the earth. That was our normal way of getting the mud to the top, one slip operation after another.
  • The winch was perhaps 200 to 300 feet away in the base of the tanks. 
  • There were three pulleys involved. One at the base of the tank near where the concrete truck was and two up on the gin pole on the deck.

 The Concrete Hopper

  • Above the deck was the concrete hopper. 
  • Vertically next to the hopper was the gin pole. It had a handle so the bucket-dumper guy could swing the bucket in and out.
  • This hopper was directly above the concrete trucks below.
  • A guy stood on a platform next to the hopper. As soon as the bucket came up and stopped, and as fast as he could, he pulled the bucket in and dumped it into the hopper. 
  • A light concrete splash went flying everywhere, everytime. Safety glasses for sure. That concrete spit often dropped down into your gloves, burning your skin. 
  • And then, fast as he could, he threw and/or pushed the bucket out into open air to begin its freefall to earth for refilling. The winch operator controlled that.
  • Being hopper-guy was fun for many reasons: timing, repetitive actions, striving for efficiency and grace. Could it be graceful to pull in a bucket, dump it, and throw it to the wind as fast as you could? Yes! And you were working with some invisible guy on the ground you never saw or met: the winch operator. You were a team. You never communicated. It was like you were playing catch, back and forth as fast as you could, with bucket of mud. I kinda miss it!

David Hatch was born and raised in Ames, Iowa. Prior to college studies, Pastor Dave worked construction, and had hopes of serving in law enforcement until his partial color-blindness prevented that. He did not know what to do with his life. Through God’s Providence and a phone call from his sister, who was a kindergarten teacher in Milwaukee, he enrolled in a college where, unknown to him, many of his future classmates were studying to be pastors. He received his education at Concordia College in Milwaukee; Concordia Teacher’s College, River Forest, Ill.; and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. His pastoral career began in 1982, following seminary, when he served as an admissions counselor at Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y. and parish pastor at Love Lutheran Church outside of Albany, N.Y.

The nomadic life in elevator construction provided lessons in loyalty, industriousness, and workmanship

R. Janet Walraven, M.Ed, a retired 35-year teacher and international-award author of four books, resides near Albuquerque, N.M. She is the youngest of Bill and Sadina’s three daughters.

By R. Janet Walraven

As a child growing up in the slip-form concrete industry, I probably never heard of most of the challenges my parents faced. But I do remember some. 

My mother, Sadina, was intrigued by slip-form construction, as I have been all my life. There is something special about revisiting what I call prairie skyscrapers across the Great Plains. 

Being a superintendent, Daddy usually went ahead in his pickup to start a job. Mama would follow with my two sisters and me, stair-stepped closely in age, with everything we owned in the trunk of the car. Finding a place to live was challenging; many times, she would be turned away because owners did not want to rent to “construction rats.” Most of the time the apartment or house she found was old, small, and sometimes not very nicely kept. Mama would have the place spic-and-span by the time Daddy got home for supper. Her motto: “Always leave it better than you found it.”

As time went on, Daddy collected a group of loyal foremen–carpenters, steelworkers, electricians, and laborers–whose wives and families followed wherever the job took us. Many chose to live in trailer houses pulled by their pickups. Daddy refused to live in a trailer house. 

Bill and Sadina Walraven

Mama was the best teammate Daddy could have found. She cooked, baked, and cleaned, and she sewed all the clothes for us girls and herself. She planted a garden if we would be in one place long enough. She washed, starched, and ironed to perfection with only a wringer-washer most of the years. And she served as Bill’s payroll bookkeeper. In addition, she planned social gatherings for the crew: picnics, baseball games, birthdays, and roller-skating parties. She knew it was important to keep the crew together. Daddy and Mama made lifelong friends, even after some of them drifted off when their wives and children no longer wanted to keep moving around.

While in Albuquerque in 1958 to 1960, Daddy purchased the 38-unit Texas Ann Motel on Route 66. Mama operated it for two years. When his next job required another move, she found managers and was thrilled to be back on the road experiencing new adventures. 

‘Safety first’ in a hazardous undertaking

One of Daddy’s priorities was safety first. Working on a slip-form concrete job was very dangerous. He paid attention by always being where the action was and insisted on everyone keeping the jobsite orderly. In all of his dozens of jobs, I remember only two incidents where he lost a man. One was in Hereford, Tex., where a man fell to his death from the top of the elevator. Daddy was in deep grief; he felt responsible for the tragedy and took on the responsibility of caring for the bereaved family. 

The second was in Plainview, Tex., where a subcontracted electrician, standing at the top of the elevator, accidentally stepped into his own toolbox and fell through a manhole. 

While building, Daddy endured a few situations of his own. Once climbing the ladder up the side of an elevator, he fell and broke his leg. A week later, not being able to get around on the job well enough, he sawed off the cast and limped around until the leg was healed. He never lost one day of work in his entire career. 

Unions can also be challenging. When the Teamsters went on strike, they were stopping the non-union cement truck drivers and pushing the trucks over into the ditch. The drivers then refused to continue. Daddy got into the driver’s seat of a truck, held a gun out the window, and drove across the strike line. No one messed with my dad, and the strike was over.

Another incident was when he had to fire a laborer. The next day, the man came onto the job, came up behind Daddy, and hit him in the head with the hammer claw. A foreman took the guy down, drove Daddy to the emergency room to get stitches, and they both went back to work. That same foreman who saved Daddy’s life was Will Evans, a black man whose family was very close to ours. I was riding with Daddy when we moved to Sunray, Tex. and was shocked to see a billboard at the city limits that read: “All Negroes must be out of town by sunset.” 

“What does that mean?” I asked. “Where will Will and his family live?” 

Daddy gritted his teeth and said, “I’ve bought him a trailer house to put out on the jobsite.” 

It was my first encounter with prejudice. Daddy looked after that family until all their children were grown.

Excitement of ‘The Pour’ and pride in workmanship

I loved riding with Daddy to the next town. As soon as I could read, he taught me how to navigate by map, letting him know what the next highway route was, though he probably already knew. As we rode along, passing through small towns that had grain elevators built by someone else, he would say, “See the lines running horizontally in those tanks? That’s where the superintendent in charge kept pouring concrete even when the weather was below freezing. A freeze line is a weak place that can cause a blowout in the tanks. I will not let that happen.” 

I had a great sense of pride in his perfectionism. He was also proud of grain elevators that had a headhouse and “Texas house” that contained the equipment: the uppermost leg and the “run” to the storage tanks. He said all other elevators were messy-looking because so many mechanisms were outside the structure. To this day, I can spot a Chalmers & Borton grain elevator miles away.

One of the most exciting times of my childhood was watching a week-long pour. Daddy stayed on the job night and day, coming home only to eat, bathe, and change clothes. 

In the evenings, Mama would drive us to the job so we could watch the pour. It was like watching magic, all the lights twinkling, seeing men running the wheelbarrows (buggies) full of concrete and the men pumping by hand the jacks as the wooden, rounded slip-forms edged up. I was fascinated to see the concrete “grow” until the tanks finally topped out.

I once observed Daddy running his hands through the gravel that had just been dumped at the job site. He immediately stopped the truck and told the driver to take it all back because it was too coarse. It had to be exactly the right grade to prevent blowouts.

He often ran his hands along the tank walls as the pour was happening, knowing instinctively how the surface should feel. 

As I grew older, wearing a hard hat just like Daddy, I loved being with him on the job site. I was impressed that he would stop and talk to the men who followed job to job. He knew their wives’ names and always asked about the children. 

Daddy has always been my hero. 

Working for Chalmers & Borton, the close-knit Walraven family left Kansas on a journey of prodigious building 

By R. Janet Walraven

R. Janet Walraven, M.Ed, a retired 35-year teacher and international-award author of four books, resides near Albuquerque, N.M. She is the youngest of Bill and Sadina’s three daughters.

Standing on his family’s front porch in east Texas, nine-year-old Bill Walraven declared, “Someday I am going to be somebody. I will not be poor, and I don’t want to stay in the South.” 

William E. “Bill” Walraven was born September 25, 1912, the middle child of 11 by their Choctaw mother, Georgia Allice Addy and Dutch father, William Alfred Walraven. 

I called him Daddy. He graduated from high school in 10th grade–that’s as far as it went–and got a job in a sawmill. By 1940, he was building army barracks in Enid, Okla., where he met my Mama, Sadina M. Wagner, and rose to the top as construction superintendent. After high school graduation, Mama had moved to Enid to find a job near her married sister.

World War Two interrupted things, and he went to Europe with the 579th Field Artillery Battalion. After the War, he met Clinton H. Chalmers, partner in Chalmers & Borton. 

By then, Bill and Sadina had already married. Their love story is told in Rainbow of Promise: A World War II Romance, my family’s legacy and tribute to my parents. Upon his return from Europe to Kansas, Daddy went to work in La Crosse, 150 miles northwest of Wichita. He filed saws on the Farmers Union elevator under Chalmers & Borton superintendent R. Alberding. 

Early days of Chalmers & Borton and exciting adventures

Cpl. William E. Walraven. All photos are courtesy of R. Janet Walraven.

Chalmers & Borton started out in 1927 with wooden elevators. The men and their wives lived together in one boxcar. After building up a big company, Chalmers–being mindful of the army barracks project management–promoted Daddy in 1948, to superintendent on Farmers Cooperative in Shields, Kan.—a 100,000-bushel slip-formed concrete elevator.

Born June 27, 1919, Mama was smart, gregarious, and madly in love with Daddy. She was excited about his job and happily became the best partner he ever wanted. She took on payroll duties. For her, moving around was an exciting adventure. The full extent of it is recorded in the company’s Book of Superintendents.

We moved in 1948 to Dighton, the central Kansas town where Mama had graduated high school 11 years earlier. For a while, we lived with Grandma Wagner in Bison. Daddy drove back and forth as he built an elevator for Co-op Equity Exchange of Mullinville. Later it was Bucklin, Kan. for Bucklin Cooperative’s new elevator.

Mama presided as we moved to Hereford, Tex. in 1949. It was a new state and bigger job—500,000-bushels of storage for Pitman Grain Co. Daddy finished Summerfield, Tex. for Pitman also. Most jobs in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle were 100,000 to 750,000 bushels. Later, he tackled one to 10 million bushels, whether grain elevators or storage units. 

Chalmers visited regularly, introducing Daddy to Andy Milnar, a superintendent since 1927. Andy mentored Daddy at every chance. They both loved to fish. As their friendship grew, Andy realized Daddy was a math genius. Without having taken geometry, knowing no formulas for calculations, he could look at a pyramid-shaped pile of sand or gravel the size of a huge building, and know exactly the volume. He calculated the concrete, lumber, and steel needed for the structure. In fact, Daddy sometimes had to persuade Andy and Chalmers to modify blueprints.

“This won’t work,” he would say while redrawing. The college-graduate engineers in the office had it wrong.

The family grows while staying on the move

Bill and Sadina Walraven in 1967.

By this time, there were three of us daughters: Ramona Sue (1944), Rita (1945), and me (1947). 

In 1950, we moved to Utica, Kan. where Daddy built an elevator for Utica Grain as well as storage for Farmers Coop in Shields. Utica was the first place he constructed an office where grain trucks would drive onto a scale. He was quite proud of it. 

Next came Aurora, Mo. for Missouri Farmers Association, and then Girard, Kan. for Consumers Co-op. The year 1952 took us to Manter, Kan. for Collingwood Grain and back to Mullinville for Co-op Equity Exchange. 

We moved in 1953 to Ponca City, Okla.–near Hazelton, Kan.–for Farmers Co-op Equity, before completing a 4-million-bushel monster for W.B. Johnston Grain in Enid. With energy to spare, Daddy also did an elevator for Farmers in Perry, Okla. 

While in Hereford Tex. in 1954, he completed a one-million-bushel elevator for Pitman Grain, another elevator for Sears Grain, and a storage nine miles to the southwest in Summerfield. Still nearby in 1955, in Bovina, there was a storage for Sherley Grain, an elevator in Dimmitt, and a storage in Farwell. We lived in Sunray, a tiny town with a huge public swimming pool we enjoyed every day. My first encounter with prejudice was that blacks weren’t allowed after sundown within city limits. Daddy purchased a trailer house for his black foreman’s family to live on the job site. 

The Walravens turn eyes eastward–and back–for huge triumphs 

During the summer of 1956, Mama brimmed with anticipation about getting out of the Texas Panhandle for something very different in Paulding, Ohio: two storage units for Consolidated Cement Corp. 

That was the inflection point in our adventures.

In 1957 we moved to Homestead, Fla. for a cement plant on drained swampland. But we were soon back to Kansas to build a storage for Montezuma Co-op Exchange. 

During 1957 and 1958, Daddy took on a seven-million-bushel elevator for Farmers Co-op in Hutchinson, Kan.—his first construction of hexagonal tanks. He enjoyed the diversity and challenge in building. At half a mile, that elevator became the world’s longest. Workers rode bicycles from end to end. 

We moved back to Florida—now Tampa—in 1958 for a subcontract job for Mills & Jones, today known as Federal Construction. Yet within the same year, we went to Albuquerque, N.M. on a two-year cement plant job for Robert E. McKee in Tijeras Canyon near the base of Sandia Mountain. During that year, Daddy also completed a 10-million-bushel elevator in Topeka, Kan. Then back to Bovina, Tex. (We lived across the state line in Clovis, N.M.) for 1.56-million bushels of storage for Sherley-Anderson Grain. But how could we call a calendar year complete without going back to Tampa for cement tanks and some buildings in Busch Gardens for The Austin Company?

The next few years capped Daddy’s career. In 1961, he superintendended a cement plant in Wilmington, N.C. for Rea Construction. 

General Portland, a cement producer in Chattanooga, followed in 1962. Then on to Kansas City, Mo. for two million of storage for KC Terminal Grain. Another 4.7-million storage and office came in 1963 for Producers Grain Corp. of Plainview, Tex.—including, for the first time, steel tanks. 

Our final stop, in 1964, was Eaton, Colo. (we stayed in Greeley) for a Great Western Sugar mill.

That summer, at Andy Milnar’s urging and honoring Chalmers’ perspective, Daddy was promoted to vice president and field superintendent. Chalmers, who by then had passed away, thought of him as the best they ever had among the long journey of 125 superintendents in far-flung sites from 1927 onward. 

Determined to succeed, Daddy stayed at it and did what he loved until his own tragic death at 59–just before retirement–in 1972. Mama survived him by 17 years when she died in a car accident. 

Drawings for an elevator of 200,000-bushel capacity with bin plan and schedule

The present drawings that are reproduced from records of the Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, show details of a 200,000-bushel, single-leg, reinforced-concrete elevator

To the left above, seen at the scale of one-eighth inch to one foot, is the cross-section of the structure. The main house has eight tanks (silos) with internal diameter of 15 feet six inches and achieves a height of 120 feet. The cupola is 30 feet six inches high. At the bottom, we see a depth of 15 feet three inches below the main slab.

In the cupola, we see notations for the distributor, distribution floor, and automatic scale.

Below, numbers of the large tanks and smaller interior bins are noted. The driveway and rolling door are shown above dump pits Number One and Two. The driveway is 12 feet wide, the door is 13 feet high, and a 17-foot distance extends between driveway floor and driveway roof.

Other notes in the lower-right indicate the work floor, back pit, and a track conveyor to be installed at a future time.

Outside the elevator’s wall is a load-out spout for rail cars and the inscription “Track,” showing where a car draw up to be filled.

Ratings for the bin schedule are cut off due to the limitations of our scanner bed and the 11×17-inch sheets that were copied from blueprints by Uncle Tim Tillotson.

The schedule has the large tanks, Number One through Seven, at 16,880 bushels each. Number Eight is 15,495 bushels. Internal bins nine through 20 range in capacity from 3,980 bushels (Number 19) to 6,665 bushels (12 and 14).

The whole structure sits on the slab measuring 48.5 x 62.0 feet.

Number 21, which can barely be seen in the Bin Plan, is an ovalized chute that stands just outside the accommodations for the electrically operated man lift. “Down” is inscribed to the left of the lift, and “loader” and “up” are to the right.

The Bin Plan and Work Floor Plan are shown at the scale of three-sixteenths inch to one foot.

From the bottom, notes in the Work Floor plan show “Trucks” entering in the direction of the arrow to the two dump pits. Additional notes say “Rails for the 7 1/2 H.P. overhead Electr. Truck Lift” and “12′ wide x 13′ high Overhead Steel Curtain Type Door (Opp. end same).”

At far right, notes say “Track Door” and “RR Siding.”

The stairway inside Number Eight is indicated with the note “Down to Bsm’t.” And this stairway is the reason for the tank’s capacity of 15,495 bushels as opposed to the 16,880 bushels of the others.

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.

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.

Fragmentary biography of Tillotson Construction Co. employee Charles Hauber in 1955

From the Des Moines Tribune, Friday, Dec. 16, 1955:

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, Wes., a school conducted by the Society of the 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 …

In 1940, Bernard Blubaugh prepared the Clyde Co-op’s Medford, Okla., location for a concrete elevator

The Clyde (Okla.) Co-operative Association filed its 21st-annual report in 1940 and listed Bernard Blubaugh (seen above) as general manager of its Medford operation.

The report named the nine directors:

L.E. Melka, President

B.F. Cline, Vice president

Otto Zeman, Secretary

C.E. Clark, Mike Hein, E.J. Best, J.R. Skalnik, C.S. Shellhammer, and Louis Droselmeyer, directors

Stogie in hand, Bernard Blubaugh walks an elevator site. Photos courtesy of the Blubaugh Archive.

Employees were O.L. Sturtz, local manager, Clyde; Phil Kenny, local manager, Renfrow; Lewis Dahlen, local manager, Deer Creek; E.L. Hampton, local manager, Nardin; Gary Cassingham, local manager, Salt Fork; Evelyn Dillon, bookkeeper, Medford; Elmer Huffman, elevator, Medford; Robert Wharry, gasoline and oil, Medford; Carl Dahlen, gasoline and oil, Clyde; Irvin Dester, gasoline and oil, Deer Creek.

Another co-op record shows that Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, was already familiar with the co-op. On March 11, 1936, the company was awarded the contract to build an elevator at Clyde. This would have been a wooden elevator: their first concrete elevator was in 1939 at Goltry.

The bid was $10,950. Two weeks later the company came back to the co-op board with a request.

“Tillotson ask if we would reconsider as he had left out $3,335 labor bill,” the record says. “Board did reconsider.”

And Tillotson went on to do additional, significant work for the Clyde Co-op, building the 212,000-bushel elevator of reinforced concrete at Medford in 1941. Presumably, the bid included labor costs on that one.


A distressed, robotized Tillotson elevator awaiting rescue by Hercules in Wahoo, Neb.

By Ronald Ahrens

We wanted terrific in Wahoo. The fifth and final stop on our Jan. 2 road trip in eastern Nebraska called for it, in keeping with the unusual name of the seat of Saunders County and the town’s colorful history. We are told “wahoo” is taken from a shrub, the eastern wahoo (Euonymous atropurpureus), and the name was also given to a navy sub, the USS Wahoo

An icon for Nebraska 2020 road tripWahoo happens to have produced more than its share of notability. Wahoo Sam Crawford twirled his way into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Howard Hanson composed his way to a Pulitzer Prize. Darryl F. Zanuck swept up three Academy Awards. Geneticist George Beadle shared a Nobel and took over Chicago U. 

There must be something in the water: Wahoo had fewer than 3,000 people until after World War Two. A greater concentration of talent, where?

Electrodes on the brain.

Tillotson Construction Co. built a 150,000-bushel, single-leg concrete elevator there in 1950.

I had passed through Wahoo many times without understanding the elevator’s provenance and would not have thought to see Tillotson embossed on the manhole covers.

Notes in the construction record say our Wahoo house followed the busy year’s Imo, Okla., plan. It means five grand tanks of 16 feet in diameter and 120 feet in height. There’s a 13 x 17-foot center driveway, and the note says, “Split 4 bins over Dr.” 

Construction consumed 1,492 tons of reinforced concrete, 40 tons of plain concrete for the hoppers, and 72.34 tons of steel. 

The slab, 21 inches of reinforced thickness, covered 54 x 51 feet.

  • Pit depth: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • Structure rating: 8,216 tons. 
  • Curve of cupola: 22 1/4 feet wide, 42 1/2 feet long, 26 1/2 feet high. 

Our excitement soon diminished on seeing the subject and its neglect. What a shame to Wahoo. The use as an antenna tower is a terrible disappointment.

Things could be fixed up in a cute robotic way. Lay out a note of history, then rachet up each paying guest in the manlift, serving Wahoo wine on the dining deck. Block the wind and electromagnetic radiation, and it’s a regional phenomenon. People will come all the way from Loup City.

We visited late Saturday. The taverns had filled. Naught else moved. We extracted no information and must imagine circumstances of the elevator’s degradation. 

Wahoo produces all-stars, but the big star amidst, is disheveled and in duress. Like Prometheus, bound to a rock, an eagle preying his liver, Tillotson’s Wahoo house awaits Hercules.

Before Prometheus could be freed, he received a visit from straying Io, garbed as “a most lovely white heifer.” She recognized him, saying: 

You–he who succored the whole race of men? 

You, that Prometheus, the daring, the enduring?