Need a Lift with Antique Jacks?
Missouri collector specializes in antique jacks.
Wagon and buggy jacks from Larry Voris’ collection. From left: A Favorite (wooden), a Lane’s steel carriage jack (green), a Wm. E. Pratt (rusty, with collapsible cast iron handle), an Oliver No. 2 (red with wooden handle) for vehicles weighing up to 2 tons, an International Harvester Co. (red screw-type jack with bevel gears), a mail-hack jack (wooden) and an unnamed (red) jack with a June 1, 1886 patent date.
Photo by Ron McGinnis
Larry Voris was born in Scottsbluff, Neb., in 1939, but he grew up on a dairy farm in Polk County, Mo. In the early 1950s, he was well acquainted with the hard metal seat of an Allis-Chalmers tractor. When he wasn’t spending hours pulling a hay baler or disc plow, he could be found guiding cultivator shovels along rows of sargo cane, used to make silage to feed the family’s milk cows.
“Our farm had a few hilly places and some rocks because it was in southern Missouri, but there wasn’t any rough ground,” Larry says. “I don’t think the country farther south of here is very pretty, like tourists do. Farmland ought to be flat enough to grow something, not just hard-scrabble hillsides.”
After Larry and his wife, Hazel, married in 1958, he began working at Producers Creamery Co. in Springfield, Mo. Later, Larry made a radical job change when he went to work at Tire Town. Working with his hands again, he was reminded of his youth on the farm.
Jack of all trades
Larry received a full education at Tire Town. “I did everything there,” he says. “I became acquainted with different tools and several kinds of jacks. After I did that for five years, I learned that Don McGuire, the man who repaired our jacks, was selling out his business.”
Larry bought Don’s jack shop in 1979 and Hazel became his bookkeeper. Don stayed on as an employee for 10 years. With Don’s experience repairing jacks and Larry’s knowledge of the tire business, the business’ unwritten policy was simple. “If we could get it in the door,” Larry says, “we’d work on it — and fix it.”
When a jack of any type needed repair, it was bound to end up on a workbench in Larry’s shop. Back then Larry was strong enough to load the heaviest floor jacks into the service truck by himself, but every so often he made on-site repairs.
“Once a mortuary had a small jack break down,” Larry recalls with a grin. “They used it to tilt an embalming table. It was a little spooky working on that one, but I got it going before I left. Another time a garage car lift was stuck up in the air. They’d overloaded it with a three-quarter-ton diesel pickup. I jacked it up separately before releasing the safety mechanism so they could lower it.”
Larry designed and installed several quick-lube systems for garages. He also created an air/hydraulic jack system used to level mobile homes during installation. At about the same time he began having trouble locating quality jacks and parts to repair U.S.-built jacks. Company closures became a common event; the jack repair business changed. “It was all about throwing away the old ones and buying new foreign-made jacks,” Larry says.
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