This is in regards to the May 2002 Farm Collector article, 'One-wheeled Wonder,' by Jim Cunzenheim: I am the oldest son of Louis L. Weber, and as a teenager, I worked for Lodge and Shipley during the summer of 1948, and in 1952 while attending college. My recollection of events surrounding the Choremaster is somewhat different than Mr. Morgan's in a few areas.
I met Mr. Van Ausdall during one of his many visits to the company in 1947, and remember him as a down-to-earth, country gentleman with a great idea.
The company began production of the Choremaster in 1947, and I had the opportunity to work on two units and try out most of the attachments. I believe it was in early 1949 that Dad offered the Choremaster to Sears. They turned it down, most likely because their two-wheeled tractor was doing so well. The 'One-wheeled Wonder,' as I recall, did very well until 1951. It was that year that the Merry Tiller started to hurt sales. In 1950, Ken Brown, the company chief engineer, and Paul Edrich began working on our version of the Merry Tiller, using the worm and wheel transmission to power the tines. Production of the Choremaster tiller started in 1951. In early 1952, Dad took the tiller to Sears and they jumped on it. Dad used to say, 'They didn't want to make the same mistake twice.'
In May 1952, Dad bought the Special Products Division from Lodge and Shipley and kept all of the 100-plus employees except for one. That certainly was quite a tribute to the loyalty he engendered. Thus began Weber Engineered Products, Inc.
Choremaster was sold through distributors. Farm and Garden, Inc., was a wholly owned subsidiary of Weber and was the distributor for the Midwest. Hershal Grimme worked for Farm and Garden as a salesman. It was around 1955 that Lou Weber began serious discussion with Bob Chambers of Magna Engineering, the maker of the Shopsmith home workshop tool. The two presidents thought the contra-seasonal aspects of their products would make a good merger of resources and manpower. By 1954, between the Choremaster tiller and the Sears Roto-Spader, the Weber Engineered Products accounted for more than 80 percent of all the garden tillers being sold worldwide, according to industry statistics. The one-wheeled garden tractor was, unfortunately, on its way out.
In late 1957, Bob Chambers sold Magna to Yuba Consolidated Industries. It wasn't long after that with Chambers' persistence that Yuba chairman John Magarra approached Dad to buy Weber Engineered Products. Weber was finally sold in May 1958 and merged with Magna to be known as Yuba Power Products, Inc. I left the firm in January 1960.
One of the points made in the article was that Sears returned a massive amount of tillers and parts to Weber. This was not ever the case, and even after the merger with Magna under the Yuba umbrella, sales of the Roto-Spader remained strong through 1959. I cannot comment about what happened after that.
- L Lodge Weber, P.O. Box 44220, Columbus, OH 43204
I grew up on a 100-acre farm near Ashburn, Va., about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C. During the summer months, I assisted my father in making hay. We farmed with three tractors: a Massy-Ferguson 165, a Farmall M and a John Deere 4230.
My duty was to rake the hay. The Farmall M was hitched to a single New Holland hay rake. I was so small that in order to push the heavy clutch in, I would grab two of the steering wheel spokes and push the clutch in with both feet, lifting myself out of the seat while doing so. This was rarely a problem since the tractor would not travel much faster than walking speed and the terrain in northern Virginia was mostly flat. My father would assist me with the clutch when it came time to stop for lunch or at the end of the day.
One hot, muggy day in late June, my father and I were attempting to finish a hay field before nightfall. Without warning, a thunderstorm erupted. Being the ripe, old age of 8, I was terrified of thunderstorms. I maintained my cool for as long as I possibly could, but as luck would have it, I was at the furthest point away from the barn when Mother Nature sent a bolt of lightning ripping across the sky. It was so long it forked four times, and the clap of thunder that immediately followed completely unnerved me.
'That's it!' I said out loud. 'The rest of the field will just have to get rained on.' I immediately disengaged the clutch with both feet and held my weight with one hand, which was wrapped almost permanently around the heavy spoke of the steering wheel. With my free hand, I reached down and shoved the transmission into fifth gear - a gear I was forbidden to use by my father. That didn't matter to me at that point.
Once the tractor was in gear, I used my free hand to grab the throttle. I attempted to let the clutch out slowly. However, I learned one arm wasn't enough for clutching purposes. My feet slipped off the clutch; gravity took over and in sheer desperation, I hung on to the throttle to prevent myself from falling off the tractor. In doing so, I managed to open the old M up all the way. Needless to say, it took off like a jackrabbit. I was told later by eyewitnesses that I managed to get about 3 feet of air between the ground and the front tires.
The M made it across the field in short order. The rake literally shot hay from underneath, up into the air, and several feet past the row I was supposed to be raking. I think the top speed on a Farmall M 12 mph, but at that point, you couldn't have made me believe it was going any less than 100. I made it to within running distance of the truck and hit the kill switch on the tractor to stop the engine, instead of dealing with the clutch again. After the M ground to a halt, I took off running. My pace hastened as the tractor backfired, making me think the thunder was chasing me. I made it to the safety of the truck and waited on pins and needles, not knowing how my father would react.
Much to my surprise, he got in the truck laughing. Wheeewww! I was safe. Dad was there to protect me. Since, I have moved from the farm to take a local government job, but the place is still in the family, as is the M, which I still like to start up and drive around the yard whenever I am home.
- Charles T. Woycik, Jr., 17329 Trimmers Road, Orange, VA 22960; (540) 672-7384