Massey-Harris Farming (Part II):
Arno Shull of Mapleton, Minnesota
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the May/June 2004 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember that Mankato, Minnesota lies at the bend in the Minnesota River Valley where the river makes an abrupt turn from flowing to the southeast and heads north to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. (See the article “The Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor [Part 1: The Mankato Implement Company”] at page 16 in the March/April 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) U.S. Highway No. 22 makes its way southward out of Mankato, Minnesota up out of the Minnesota River Valley. Also as previously noted following Highway 22 south reveals a sudden topographical change in scenery. (See the article called “The Wilmar Thrun 1937 John Deere Model B (Short Frame) Tractor [Part 2]” contained in the May/June 2002 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.) Almost as though passing through a doorway, one emerges from the hilly tree-covered land of the valley and comes out onto the open prairie. The prairie is flat as a tabletop and basically treeless except for the clumps of trees that surround the building sites of the farms that dot the scenery. Out on the prairie, one can see a building site of farms in every direction, even those that are some distance away. Nine (9) miles south of Mankato, U.S. Highway 22 passes through the small-unincorporated hamlet of Beauford, Minnesota. Five (5) miles further south, the highway arches eastward around the village of Mapleton, Minnesota (1940 pop. 1070) located in southern Blue Earth County.
Running directly eastward out of the center of Mapleton is Blue Earth County Road No. 21. One mile east on County Road No. 21 brought a person to the intersection with County Road 159. In 1944, one mile south on County Road No. 159 and on the right side of the road, was the farm of Carl F. and Emma (Truebenbach) Schull located on the west side of the road. Carl Fredrich Wilhem Schull, Jr. had been born in Pommern, Germany to Carl Sr., and Caroline (Papke) Schull on July 31, 1869. In 1881, when young Carl Fredrich was aged eleven years, the family which consisted of Albert, Henry, Gustav and Caroline in addition to Carl Frederich, immigrated to the United States. The family first settled in Lime Township of Blue Earth County, just west of Mankato. Carl Frederich grew up in Lime Township. As an adult, Carl struck out on his own and moved to his own farm east of Mapleton in 1899.
On October 25, 1899, he married Emma Truebenbach. They began a family which would eventually consist of six children, George, Fred, Earnest, Rosine, Walter and Arno. Arno Schull, the youngest child, was born on February 26, 1917. Most of the corn, oats and hay, they raised in the fields on their 120 acre farm was fed to the herd of Holstein dairy cattle they milked, the pigs that they raised and, of course, the horses that they used in their farming operations. The older sons grew up, got married started farming operations and families of their own. Rosine, the family’s only daughter, also married and left the farm. By 1944, only 27 year old Arno was left on the farm to help his father. However, in that year life suddenly took a sharp turn for the family when Carl Frederich was struck down by a heart attack while working in the family garden on the morning of Wednesday October 11, 1944. He died almost immediately. All responsibility for running the family farming operation, then fell mainly on Arno’s shoulders. Like most sons on many family farms across the nation at this time, Arno had new ideas on how the farming operation could be improved. One of his main new ideas was the acquisition of a modern farm tractor. He knew that by mechanizing farm power rather than relying on the horses, he could save much time and effort in the farming operation. However, he was unable to purchase a tractor immediately. Under the economic restrictions in place during World War II, purchase of new farm tractors was drastically curtailed and even the used machinery market was greatly restricted. Immediately, upon V-J Day on September 1, 1945, signaling the end of the World War, economic restrictions were lifted. However, the abrupt ending of the government restrictions triggered a period of spiraling inflation through out 1946. Consequently, government price controls were re-imposed. Arno had to postpone his dream of having mechanical power on his farm.
However, during this period of time, changes were occurring in Arno’s personal life. He attended a dance for young people held in the nearby town of Butterfield, Minnesota, (1940 pop. 511.) At this dance, he met Lois Dreeszen, who was a local grade school teacher in the Butterfield Public School. Lois Dreeszen had been born to the family of Roy and Florence (Groschens) Dreeszen of Aitken, Minnesota (1940 pop. 2062.) on June 16, 1925. Following graduation from high school, Lois entered Mankato State Teachers College in the summer of 1944. Ordinarily, the State of Minnesota required two years of college training to qualify for a teacher’s certificate in order to become a grade school teacher. Because of the high demand for school teachers at the time, Mankato State Teachers College had a course of instruction by which a person could obtain a two-year teacher’s certificate by attending college for one summer, an entire school year and the next summer. This was the program in which Lois Dreeszen enrolled in June of 1944. Following this course of study, Lois accepted a teaching position in Butterfield, Minnesota in the fall of 1945. However, after meeting Arno Shull at the dance they fell in love and were married on June 6, 1946. Accordingly, Lois ceased her teaching career after the single school year and she moved to the Shull farm with Arno and became a homemaker. Arno and Lois also started a family which eventually included three sons, James born on October 24, 1947, Glenn born on October 5, 1948 and Curtis born on November 12, 1950, and a daughter Lynette born on November 14, 1953. (As noted elsewhere, the current author’s mother, Marilyn [Hanks] Wells, graduated from Mapleton High School in Mapleton, Minnesota, in June of 1944. [See the article called “The Papec Company of Shortsville, New York: Part II” on page 17 of the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.] Marilyn, too, enrolled at Mankato State Teachers College in June of 1946. There she met and became close friends with Lois Dreeszen. Over the years, Marilyn and Lois remained in close contact and, consequently, the children of the Schull family and the present author, and his siblings became and remain close friends.)
Young farmers like Arno Schull of Mapleton, Minnesota were part of the same exact demographic group that was being studied by farm tractor manufacturers. One of these tractor manufacturers was the Massey-Harris Company Ltd. of Racine, Wisconsin. Massey-Harris was rather late in getting into the tractor market. Indeed as noted in the previous article in this series, the company had tried three times to find a tractor design that would be a popular sales item with the farming community. As noted in the previous article, only in 1928, when the Massey-Harris Company acquired the rights to manufacture and sell the Wallis tractor was the company successful in entering the tractor market in a major way. The Wallis tractor was a very advanced design of tractor. The Wallis tractor was the first tractor designed with an entirely enclosed power train. This was the famous U-frame design that was first introduced on the Wallis Cub tractor in 1913. (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors [Blandford Press: London, 1987] p. 29.) The enclosed power train was so popular that soon all the other tractor manufacturers would copy this design for their own tractors.
The Massey-Harris Company continued the production of the Wallis Model OK (also known as the Model 20-30) tractor. Indeed Massey-Harris expanded their tractor line by adding the smaller Wallis Model 12-20 to the line of tractors offered by the company. By 1936, the company had modified the design of the Model 12-20 to make their first row-crop tractor—the Challenger tractor. (C.H. Wendel, Massey Tractors [Motorbooks International Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1992] p. 50.) Besides being a row-crop tractor, the Challenger contained several improvements over the Model 12-20. The Challenger had a four-speed transmission as opposed to the three-speed transmission of the Model 12-20. (Michael Williams, Massey-Ferguson Tractors, p. 35.) The Challenger was able to deliver 26.21 horsepower to the belt. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests [Crestline Pub.: Osceola, Wisc., 1993] p. 99.) While the Model 12-20 delivered only 20.32 horsepower to the belt. (Ibid., p. 66.)
Nonetheless, the Massey-Harris Company realized that the design of the Challenger was really a mere modification of the same tractor design that had been developed in 1913. Thus, the design was badly out of date in the late 1930s. Consequently, Massey-Harris engineers set to work on a totally new design for a row-crop tractor. In 1938, the Company went into production with this radically new design. The tractor was called the Model 101 Junior. The power unit for the new Model 101 Junior was outsourced by Massey-Harris. The company signed a supply contract with the Continental Motors Company of Muskegan, Michigan, for purchase of sufficient numbers of Continental’s four-cylinder Model WFA “Red Seal” engines for installation into the new 101 Junior tractors that were being built at Massey’s Racine, Wisconsin, tractor manufacturing facility. Testing of the Model 101 Junior at the University of Nebraska on May 22 through May 26, 1938 revealed that the Continental-powered 101 Junior delivered 19.44 horsepower to the drawbar and 27.57 horsepower to the belt. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests p. 131.) The 101 Junior was a radical departure from all previous Wallis/Massey-Harris designs. The tractor was fitted with a mechanical lift under the seat for raising the cultivator. The operator need only step on a pedal on the operator’s platform to raise and/or lower the cultivator with this mechanical lift. Battery power, a generator, electric lights, electric starter and rubber-tires were widely popular options available on the 101 Junior. Not only was the Model 101 Junior a modern row-crop tractor, but also it was “styled” in the modern fashion with extensive sheet metal covering the radiator and power train. In the late 1930s nearly every other tractor manufacturing company was exploring “styled” designs for their tractors. Industry leaders, International Harvester and John Deere did not introduce their line of “styled” tractors until 1939. Thus, the 101 Junior moved the Massey-Harris Company to the forefront of modern tractor design a year ahead of the competition. Also in 1938, Massey-Harris introduced the larger Model 101 Senior with a six-cylinder Chrysler engine. In 1942, the company also introduced the smaller Model 81 row-crop tractor. These tractors were also styled tractors. Nevertheless, the two-plow 101 Junior proved to be the most popular selling tractor in the Massey Harris line of tractors. Even with the wartime restrictions in place, Massey-Harris sold 34,668 Model 101 Junior tractors from 1938 until the end of 1945 of this number 27,371 were the row-crop version of the tractor. In 1940, the 124 cubic inch Continental engine in the Model 101 Junior was replaced by a 140 cubic inch Continental engine. In 1942, this engine was replaced by the 162 cubic inch Model MFB Continental engine.
With the end of the Second World War, the huge pent-up demand for new farm tractors and farm machinery was unleashed. However, the farming public was demanding larger tractors with conveniences like hydraulic power and a wider range of speeds. In answer to this demand, the Massey-Harris Company updated the Model 101 by adding a 5th gear to the transmission of the Model 101 Junior. In 1948, the mechanical lift of the 101 Junior gave way to the new hydraulic system for lifting the cultivator. This hydraulic system consisted of a hydraulic cylinder located under the operator’s seat which would raise or lower the rockshaft to which the cultivator was attached. This hydraulic system was such a popular option with Massey-Harris farmers that Massey-Harris offered the hydraulic cylinder and appropriate linkages as a kit that could be purchased for retrofitting onto Massey-Harris tractors originally fitted only with the mechanical lift.
The changes made to the 101 Junior were significant enough to require a change in the model number of the new tractor. Accordingly, the Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor was born in 1946. However, production of the Model 30 in any sort of large numbers began only in 1947. (From the Belt Pulley Serial Number Index, p. 24.) The Model 30 tractor was manufactured in either a kerosene or a gasoline version and in either a standard or a row crop style. (From the Production Records located on the “Unofficial Massey-Harris Home Page on the Internet.) The Model 30 continued in the role of best selling tractor in the Massey-Harris line until 1949. A role previously occupied by the Model 30’s most immediate and direct ancestor, the Model 101 Junior. From 1946 until 1951, over 29,000 Model 30 tractors were built and sold. (Ibid.)
Just like the late-model 101 Junior, the new Model 30 was fitted with a Continental “Red Seal” Model MFB 162 cubic inch engine. When tested at the University of Nebraska, the Model 30 developed 20.64 horsepower at the drawbar and 30.09 at the belt pulley. (C.H. Wendel, Nebraska Farm Tractor Tests, p. 147.) Design of the Model 30 provided for a fifth gear in the transmission. As noted above, from 1948 onwards, a new hydraulic system was integrated into the design of Model 30 tractor. Thus, the Model 30 was well adapted to the farming needs of the post-World War II economy and sales of the Model 30 reflected this fact. Another change that was made to the 1948 Model 30, was somewhat cosmetic in nature. The throttle control lever was moved from its former position on the right side of the steering column behind the steering wheel to a new position between the legs of the operator.
As noted above, Massey-Harris manufactured 3,438 gasoline-fueled row-crop Model 30 tractors in 1948. These tractors were shipped from the Racine, Wisconsin factory to the network of Massey-Harris dealerships spread throughout North America. Some of these gasoline-fueled row-crop Model 30 tractors made in 1948 were shipped to the W.J. Nelson Implement dealership in Amboy Minnesota, (1940 pop. 576).
Amboy was located on Minnesota Route 30 which passed east and west through town. Just outside of town to the west, lie the intersection of Route 30 and U.S. Route 169. Small as Amboy was, it is quite surprising to note that in 1948, the town contained farm machinery dealerships offering nearly every brand name of tractor and/or every brand name farm equipment across the whole United States. Because of the heavy preponderance of farm equipment retailers, the small town of Amboy became known as the “Farm Machinery Capitol of Southern Minnesota.”
The W.J. Nelson Dealership was founded in Amboy in 1919 by William J. (Bill) Nelson. Bill Nelson had been born in Vernon Center, Minnesota in 1892. Vernon Center (1940 pop. 355) is another Blue Earth County town, was located just five miles north of Amboy on U.S. Route #169. In June of 1918, a year before founding his dealership, Bill had married Frieda Deljen. Frieda was the daughter of John and Ernestine (Benzel) Deljen of rural Mapleton Township. Together they would eventually have a family of two sons, Roger and Willard Nelson, and a daughter, Glee Helen.
The Nelson Dealership obtained the franchise to sell Allis-Chalmers, farm equipment and tractors, and the franchises to sell Packard cars and Dodge trucks and cars. The dealership did well and later, sometime after 1929, Bill Nelson obtained a franchise to sell the tractors and implements manufactured by the Oliver Farm Equipment Corporation of Charles City, Iowa. It is not known, precisely, when Bill Nelson obtained a franchise to sell Massey-Harris farm equipment, but it could well have been immediately after the Massey-Harris Company purchased the rights to produce the Wallis tractor in 1928. (See the previous article in this series in the March/April 2004 issue of Belt Pulley magazine for the story of this purchase.)
The wartime economic restrictions placed on the nation’s manufacturing companies during the Second World War severely restricted the amount of farm machinery that the W. J. Nelson Dealership could obtain and sell to the farming public. However, once the war was over the wartime restrictions were lifted. The demand for farm machinery, which had been pent up for the nearly four years, during the United States’ involvement in the Second World War, came bursting into the market place. Anticipating the flood of new business, the W.J. Nelson Dealership moved, in 1946, from their location in the center of the business district in Amboy to the intersection of Minnesota State Route 30 and United States Route 169 on the west edge of town. In their new location, the dealership began another period of tremendous growth based on the new post-war tractors and farm machinery available from the Massey-Harris Company—particularly the new two-plow Model 30 Massey-Harris tractor.
Under normal free market conditions individual farmers are faced with a two-edged sword. On the one hand they hope for a bumper crop to bring to market. On the other hand bumper crops usually result in surplus products in the market and result in low prices. Thus, a large bumper crop can be as bad as a small crop for the farmer’s economic survival. Since 1941, farmers had been encouraged to raise as much crop as they could to support the war effort. The federal government had provided a financial incentive for farmers to raise a great deal of farm commodities. (From a Columbia Encyclopedia article called “Agricultural Subsidies” (2001) found on the Internet.) By setting very high government subsidized price supports for various farm commodities, the government removed one of these problems facing individual farmers. Thus, during the war Arno Schull and his neighbors worried less about the threat of a bumper crop resulting in low prices. Instead they concentrated only on raising as much crop as they possible could and getting as much of that crop to the market as possible.
When the war ended, the high price supports were left in place as the United States attempted to feed war-torn Europe, through the Marshall Plan. Thus, thanks to government price supports, farm commodity prices remained relatively high throughout 1947 and 1948. Arno Schull knew that he would be assured a relatively high price for his crops, especially corn, at harvest time if only he could get enough of the crop to market. Now if only weather would cooperate.
However, in southern Blue Earth County, Minnesota, the outlook for the weather in the fall of 1946 did not look good. The rains began in the fall of 1946 and did not stop. (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley magazine will remember the effect of the rain in 1946-1947 on another family in the article called “The Case NCM Baler and a Family’s Crucial Year” in the January/February 1995 issue of Belt Pulley p. 31.) The constant rains continued into the spring and early summer of 1947. Because of the extremely wet spring and summer of 1947, spring planting that year was badly delayed. Hopes for a decent crop were rapidly fading. With the late planting, it was feared, the growing season would just not be long enough to allow the crops to mature.
Fortunately, the rains eased somewhat in July of 1947, but still, there did not seem to be enough time to allow the corn to mature. As the fall progressed, Arno was pleasantly surprised to see that the harvest season remained unseasonably warm and dry. Furthermore, the drying weather continued well into the winter months. This happy circumstance allowed Arno’s corn to fully mature and allowed him to get all the corn picked and safely stored away in the corncrib. The corn not used on the farm was shelled and sold in the spring. With the income from the corn and milk from his farm, Arno made a decision to mechanize his farm.
As noted above, the lifting of the wartime economic restrictions at the end of the war set off a period of intense inflation. (Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions [Doubleday & Co.: Garden City, New York, 1955] p. 488.) By December of 1945, the wartime restrictions and price controls were re-instituted in an attempt to control inflation. Only in July of 1947 were the wartime economic restrictions finally lifted. (Ibid.)
Now in the spring of 1948, Arno Schull finally felt the time was right to obtain a tractor. He visited his local his local Massey-Harris dealership—the W.J. Nelson Dealership in Amboy, Minnesota—and signed a purchase agreement for a new Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor. The purchase agreement also included a Model 34 Massey-Harris mounted cultivator with spring trip teeth.
Because of the delay in the harvesting of the crops in the fall of 1948, Arno had not completed all of the fall plowing on his farm. Now in the spring of 1948 warm weather arrived sooner than usual. Even in early April, the temperatures during the day were in the high 70s. For plowing with the new tractor, Arno had purchased a McCormick-Deering Little Genius two-bottom tractor plow with 16” bottoms. The Model 30 tractor handled this plow well even in the hard black gumbo soil of Mapleton Township. Arno was pleased to note that plowing in the spring of 1948 proceeded at a much quicker pace than would have occurred had he been forced to continue farming with the horses that year. No longer did he have to stop at the end of the field each time across the filed to rest the horses.
The warmer temperatures in 1948 continued throughout the spring. May 1948 was unseasonably warm as temperatures reached 90 degrees. (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Maximum/Minimum Temperatures for 1948 located on the Internet.) Thus, spring planting was completed early, unimpeded by the weather. The corn sprang up out of the ground in the warm weather and, soon, Arno was back in the cornfield with the Model 30 and the mounted Model 34 cultivator. For this first cultivation of the corn, Arno attached the shields to the cultivator. The shields protected tender shoots of corn from being covered up and crushed by the large clods of gumbo soil that were rolled up by the cultivator shovels.
The temperatures during the month of June in 1948 were actually cooler than the temperatures had been in May with temperatures reaching no higher than the low 80s for most of the month. (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Maximum/Minimum Temperatures for 1948 located on the Internet.) Thus, the initial cultivating of the young corn was almost a pleasure. Nearly every day during the month of June of 1948 a short rain occurred. (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.) However, the rains were usually less than 2 to 3 tenths of an inch. This was just enough to keep the corn growing properly, but not enough to prevent him from doing his fieldwork.
As the Model 30 and the cultivator approached the end of the field, Arno slowed the Model 30 tractor a little more with the throttle located between his legs on the operator’s platform. Then he pulled on the hydraulic control lever also located between his legs just behind the throttle. The pipes linking the front cultivator units with the rear cultivator unit which passed between the fenders of the operator’s platform on either side of the operator’s seat of the Model 30 tractor, moved forward and the shovels of the Model 34 cultivator were lifted out of the ground just before the front wheels of the tractor passed over the first of the eight (8) end rows planted at each end of the field. Arno touched the right brake to bring the front end of the tractor around to be aligned with the next two rows of uncultivated corn. Then he pushed ahead on the hydraulic control lever and the cultivator shovels were dropped into the ground and then he readjusted the throttle to a half-way position on the quadrant and the tractor headed out across the field again. The whole turn could be accomplished without even disengaging the clutch. Arno was pleasantly surprised with the progress he was making on the cultivation of the corn, cultivating two rows at a time with the tractor as opposed to cultivating only one row at a time with the horses. He appreciated the fact that he did not have to raise the cultivator by use of hand levers at the end of the rows. The cultivator was effortlessly and quickly raised by the tractors hydraulic system.
Heading back across the field with the new tractor and cultivator, Arno could hear the excited calls of the Killdeers who were tending their nests, which were built directly on the ground in the corn field. He could see the adult Killdeers feigning broken wings in attempt to draw attention away from their nests which were now filled with unhatched eggs.
Early July 1948 saw the return of very hot weather as the mercury climbed to temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Temperature Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.) The unseasonably mild days of June were left behind. Furthermore, the first two weeks of July saw no rain whatsoever. (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.) As he cultivated his corn for the second time in July, Arno worried that the corn would be stunted in growth by the lack of water. However, as he cast his eyes over to the oat field, he could see that the oats were ripening nicely in the intense heat and dry weather. With income he had received from the milk, the pigs and sale of some of the excess corn not used as feed, Arno had revisited the Nelson Dealership to purchase a Massey Harris pull-type “Clipper” combine. (The story of this combine will be included in the next article in this series on Massey-Harris farming.) Soon he would be returning to the fields with the new combine to harvest the oats.
The rains returned in late July and continued into August of 1948, just as he was attempting to harvest the oats. (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Daily Rainfall Amounts for 1948 located on the Internet.) Luckily these periodic ½ inch rains did not ruin his oat crop which was lying in windrows waiting to be harvested. The thirsty corn, however, lapped up all the moisture that the rains could supply. The Massey Harris Model 30 tractor had speeded up the process of cultivation of the corn and also had allowed him to get the combining of the oats completed without damage from the rains. By the time of the large 2” rain storm which struck in mid August all the grain was safely under cover.
With the oats already harvested, the corn to tall for any more cultivating and the ground too wet for any other type of field work, it was a good time for Arno to catch up on a little of his favorite hobby—fishing. After the cows had been milked in the evenings of mid-August he was able to get away in the family car to go fishing for Blue Gills at his favorite fishing spot—Cottonwood Lake, a small fishing lake located on the Landsteiner farm not far from his own farm.
The Massey-Harris Model 30 tractor helped Arno Schull get his corn crop raised and harvested. Thus he was able to take full advantage of the supported commodity prices of 1948. By the year 1949, the war-torn agricultural economies of Europe and Asia had recovered. Those countries ceased buying United States food products. Surpluses of grain began to build up and farm prices declined. The year 1949 was a year to merely be endured and 1950 looked much the same from the outset. However on Sunday June 25, 1950, North Korean Troops crossed the 38th parallel on the divided Korean Peninsula and invaded South Korea. (Joseph C. Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story of the War [Times Book Pub.: New York, 1982] p. 50.) By Friday June 30, the United States was already mobilizing troops to defend South Korea. (Ibid., p. 109.) In September of 1950, the federal government re-instituted war time restriction on wages, prices and, credit and brought back wartime rationing of consumer goods and farm equipment. (Harold Underwood Faulkner, American Economic History [Harper & Row Pub.: New York, 1960] p. 717.)
However, anticipating greater need for food around the world, United States farm commodity prices once again rose. (See the Columbia Encyclopedia article called “Agricultural Subsidies” cited above.) Once again farmers sought to expand and modernize their farming operations. The effects of this new demand were felt at farm equipment dealerships around the nation. After a short dip in sales in 1949, the Nelson Dealership, once again, noticed a strong demand for farm equipment starting in late 1950 spurred by the demands of the Korean War. Since October of 1949, Bill Nelson had been retired from active management of the dealership. Management of the dealership was not in the hands of Bill’s sons, Willard W. and Roger J. Nelson. Despite the re-introduction of restrictions on the manufacture of farm equipment, Willard and Roger still had less trouble obtaining farm machinery than their father had had during the Second World War. Other Massey Harris dealerships across the nation shared these experiences. One dealership in particular was the Pimper Dealership of Howells, Nebraska (1950 pop. 784).
Like the W.J. Nelson Dealership, the Pimper Dealership had been established in the years immediately following the First World War—in 1919 or 1920. Founded by Al Pimper, the dealership started as a “battery station” serving the Howells community. The Howells battery station supplied electrical batteries for the home electric generating systems that were in use in some residences and on some farms. (Regular readers of the Belt Pulley will remember that a home electric generating system using Excide batteries was used on the John T. Goff farm near Mapleton, Minnesota. [See the article called “The Papec Company of Shortsville, New York: Part II” on page 16 of the January/February 1996 issue of Belt Pulley magazine.])
Al Pimper married Beatrice Chudomelka of rural Dodge, Nebraska. She was the daughter of Don Chudomelka who presided over a variety of activities on his farm north of Dodge. The Chudomelka farm was a busy place with a dance hall, a roller skating rink and a scale for weighing truckloads of grain. Every building on the Chudomelka farm was covered in corrugated metal. Thus, the farm became known as “Tin City.” In addition to operating the dance hall, operating an ice skating rink in the winter and doing custom weighing of grain for the neighborhood, Don and his two sons operated their own farm and also found time to do custom threshing in the neighborhood with their own Case steam engine and large Case thresher.
Settling in Howells with her new husband Beatrice traded one busy situation for another as the Pimper Dealership sought to supplement the battery business and obtained the franchises to sell cars for the Ford Motor Company, the Maxwell Motor Company of Detroit Michigan and to sell the Whippet car and the Willys/Knight car for the Willys-Overland Company of Toledo, Ohio. When the Maxwell Motor Company became the Chrysler Corporation in the middle of 1925, the Pimper Dealership became a sales outlet for Chrysler cars. Later, in 1935, as the Ford Motor Company sought to build a sales network composed of exclusive dealerships, the Pimper Dealership lost their Ford franchise.
In the late 1920’s probably 1929, the Pimper dealership obtained a franchise to sell farm machinery for the Oliver Farm Equipment Company. This was the Pimper Dealership’s first excursion into the farm equipment market. However, it was not until the Pimper Dealership obtained the franchise to sell Massey-Harris farm machinery in the late 1930s that the dealership really found its notch. Al Pimper was aided in the successful dealership by a number of different factors. First, his son, Al Pimper Jr., who had been born in 1923 was now of high school age. During his time out of school, Al Jr. was employed in the parts department at the dealership. Additionally, the Pimper Dealership developed a good working relationship with the Massey-Harris Branch House in Omaha, Nebraska, and with Larry Dimig, the District Manager. This favorable relationship assured the Pimper Dealership of sufficient amounts of tractors and machinery to keep its inventory full at all times. At times the dealership ordered six or seven railroad carloads of machinery at one time from the Branch House.
Just like the W.J. Nelson Dealership, the Pimper Dealership experienced ups and downs in sales in the post World War II era. In 1951, with high prices for farm commodities fueled by the Korean War, the Pimper Dealership was once again selling Massey-Harris tractors and farm equipment. One of the 4,118 Model 30 tractors manufactured by the Massey-Harris Company in 1951 was the Model 30 bearing the Serial No. 15095. Number 15095 was shipped from the tractor factory at Racine, Wisconsin, to the Branch House in Omaha, Nebraska. Larry Dimig placed No. 15095 on a trainload of machinery destined for the Pimper Dealership. Accordingly, No. 15095 arrived in Howells, Nebraska, in the early spring of 1951, on board a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad flatcar with some other Massey Harris farm equipment sent from the Branch House in Omaha. The tractor did not spend long in the inventory of the Pimper Dealership before it was sold to Joe Vogel, a local farmer in rural Howells. Joe and Catherine (Becker) Vogel operated a 40-acre farm near Howell’s Nebraska, the family of Joe Vogel, was raising pigs, milk cows and some chickens. Most of the arable land of the farm was used to produce corn and alfalfa which was used to feed the animals on the farm. By 1951 their son, Gilbert had married Marilyn Molacek and had started taking over the farming operations from his father. The family already had a John Deere Model B with a tractor plow and a mounted two-row cultivator. Thus, when the Massey-Harris Model 30 was purchased the purchase contract did not include a tractor plow or a cultivator as might have been expected. Joe Vogel appreciated the fact that the tractor was fitted with hydraulics and purchased a Duncon hydraulic loader to mount on the Model 30.
The Model 30 tractor functioned well on the Schull farm in 1948 and during the following years. It was the sole tractor on the farm until 1956 when Arno purchased a new Massey-Harris Model 333 tractor. Although a row crop tractor, this particular Model 333 was fitted with an adjustable wide front end and had the optional three-point hitch. These two features would keep the Model 333 a useful part of the farming operations through the 1970s. Indeed, the present author used the Model 333 to cultivate corn with a six-row rear mounted cultivator on the Arno Schull farm the in summer of 1970. Meanwhile, the Model 30 continued as a second tractor on the farm. When the tractor became so worn out, in the early 1960s, that it needed major work done to it, Arno and his oldest son, James, purchased another Model 30 from a junkyard and combined the two tractors to make a single tractor. The restored Model 30 continued on the Schull farm for many more years.
Likewise, No. 15095 continued working on the Vogel farm. Frequent use of the Duncon loader on No. 15095 created pressure on the front wheels of the tractor and required the Vogels to replace the wheel bearings and other parts on the front end of the tractor. However, this was the extent of the major repairs that No. 15095 required during its working life. In 1982, No. 15095 was sold to John Mlnarik. (John Mlnarik is the father of Glen Mlnarik who has long served as a national board director of the International Harvester Collectors Association.) John Mlnarik had operated an International Harvester dealership in Howells, Nebraska and now lived in retirement in nearby Dodge, Nebraska. In 1992, John Mlnarik advertised No. 15095 for sale and the tractor was purchased by Fred Hanks of LeRoy, Minnesota. No. 15095 was fully restored and painted in the summer of 2003 in anticipation of the August 26-29, 2004 Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show. As previously noted the 2004 Pioneer Power Show will host the national summer convention of the Massey-Harris Collectors. No. 15095 will be present along with many other Massey-Harris tractors and farm machinery. Just as the restored No. 15095 stirs memories of other Model 30 tractors which have played a part in North American agriculture, so too will the other Massey-Harris farm equipment surely stir memories of the past with the many attendees at the Show. For a trip down memory lane be sure to be there and reminisce.