You Are Going to Have to Buy a Better Truck

12 Mar

Part IV

Once Charles Bell sold the products and Shelah Thompson built them, the windows and doors had to be shipped. In the beginning, they used a green 1959 Ford pickup with red lettering on the side.It worked perfectly for local deliveries and other small jobs. However, after a long delivery Bell received some advice.

In 1962, Jesse McMann drove the truck to Rigg’s Supply in Missouri. After unloading the shipment, the buyer from Rigg’s called Bell and said, “You are going to have to buy a better truck.” Bell took their advice and eventually built a fleet of tractors and trailers that made long hauls across the continental United States. Interestingly, that first pickup was not forgotten. Its colors became part of the company’s official logo, and, due to sentimental value, Bell did not sell it. The truck sat behind the factory for many years and was finally restored to mint condition. Le-Al-Co Truck 002

The fleet of tractors needed drivers and many hit the roads for Le-Al-Co through the years. Raymond Jones delivered in the early days and is remembered for getting lost and driving onto the airport runway in Louisville, Kentucky. J.C. Likens made a few deliveries to his customers and, needing assistance, took Bell on a trip to Memphis. The pair hit a major snow storm, and Likens had trouble keeping control. Each time the truck slid Bell hit the dashboard with his fists. It was the last delivery Bell ever made.

In the late 1960s Thompson hired a new driver that became one of the best and most loyal employees in Le-Al-Co’s history. Floyd Farmer originally worked for Bell Door, another company owned by Bell, but transferred to Le-Al-Co when the first tractor and trailer arrived. The first shipment was loaded by Harvey Driver and delivered by Farmer. The trip was the first of many for Farmer as he would deliver a shipment; pick up materials; unload; reload; and head out again.

Almost everyone has stories about Farmer’s abilities, and many of the tales are amazing. Once, he was moving boxes in preparation for a journey when his head hit a bar across the trailer. Farmer knocked out two of his teeth but made the delivery on time. After decades of driving, Farmer left the road and moved to the maintenance department. However, the rigors of the road left a toll on his body, and Farmer passed away before Le-Al-Co closed.

There came a point when Le-Al-Co’s fleet gave way to the more efficient method of leasing, and Dick Lang oversaw the leasing agreements of shipping in these later years. Despite the change, Bell never wavered from his belief that service was the key to success and, shipping was a key component. Products arriving on time and in good condition kept customers satisfied, and, many times, drivers were the only representatives of the company that customers saw in person. For these reasons, Farmer and the other drivers played a major role in the Le-Al-Co universe. In addition to being skilled representatives, the numerous drivers never had a major accident in over thirty years of service.

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