LETTERS


| January 2003



FC_V5_I6_Jan_2003_03-1.jpg

1949 Choremaster brochure.

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.