Fifty years ago, Raymond Elder bought a brand new 1949 Chevy grain truck. Special care (and an annual coat of polish) kept the vintage classic in great shape as the decades slipped by. Raymond Elder has since passed on, but the truck remains a cherished – and working – part of the Elder family.
On a warm, summer day in 1949, Donald Elder (Raymond’s son) and Dale Brown (Donald’s then 10-year-old nephew) were sent to town to get the new truck and bring it home. Home was rural Bluemound, Ill., near the Osbernville grain elevator.
Donald lives only a half-mile from where they brought home the Chevy. That trip remains a vivid memory.
“Dad bought the Chevy in Decatur at Fredes, which was on the corner of Eldorado and Franklin,” Donald recalled. “He bought it in either June or July of 1949, because we were cutting wheat.”
Getting the truck home was a bit of a challenge.
“I remember when we turned onto Eldorado,” Donald said. “It was the first time I drove anything with dual wheels … I turned too short and ran up on the curb!”
Each harvest since, for more than 50 years, the Elders’ Chevy has been used to haul grain to the Osbernville elevator. Now in its sixth decade, the old Chevy still pulls its weight.
“It is not one of our starting players,” Donald’s son, Calvin, said, “but it still comes up to bat sometimes.”
Three generations of the Elder family have taken their turn at the wheel.
“The whole family has been very careful with it,” Nadine, Donald’s wife, said. “I used to help before the boys (Calvin and R.D.) got old enough to help out. When I first brought grain here, I was afraid to dump. One of the elevator guys would drive it from the scales to the pit!”
When not in use, the Chevy has been parked in a shed and regularly maintained. That care shows in the truck’s mint condition. The upholstery has been replaced, but the cab and bed are original. Other than the rare modification (“The turn signals on the fender were added when the law required them,” Donald said), the truck is almost the same as it was more than 50 years ago. FC