Another forgotten firm, the Orrville Body Co. was a specialist truck cab manufacturer, who supplied OEM quad cabs and sleeper cabs to America's largest truck makers. Their customers included AMC, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Mack, Studebaker, White and Willys. Located in the Mennonite community of Orrville, Ohio, the Body Co. eventually became one of the community's largest employers, second only to the jelly giant, J.M. Smucker.
Between 1928 and 2001 the town of Orrville, Ohio, was home to two related firms that supplied truck cabs, sleeper cabs and quad cabs to many of the nation’s truck manufacturers. Known clients and specific models include: Mack B, F, H, MB and MC, RW, and W models; White WC, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 5400 models; Autocar; Western Star; Diamond-T, REO, Brockway, International, Studebaker, Ford, GMC and Volvo.
The second, (Crown Steel Products - and its subsidiaries and descendants) was founded in 1941 by employees and directors of the Orrville Body Co. and is covered on another page. This writeup deals with Orrville Body Co. and its successor, Orville Products Inc.
Coincidentally Ohio was the home of most of
their early competitors, which included the Highland Body Co.,
Cincinnati (pre-war White sleepers); Gerstenslager Body Co., Wooster
(multi-makes); Royal Body Co., Akron (pre & post-war White
sleepers); Kidron Body Co., Kidron, Ohio (multi-makes); and Montpelier
Body Co., Montpelier (pre-and post-war Ford sleepers). Several non-Ohio
based firms engaged in similar work included the Stoughton Cab &
Body Co., Stoughton, Wisconsin (post-war Ford); York-Hoover Body Co.,
York, Pennsylvania (pre-war multi-makes); Proctor-Keefe Body Co.,
Detroit, Micigan (pre- & post-war Ford); Automotive Industries
Inc., Owendale, Michigan (post-war multi-makes); Winter Weiss Co.,
Denver, Colorado (pre-war Ford sleepers); and in Toronto, Ontario,
Canada; Wilson Motor Bodies and Smith Bros.
Like so many of its competitors, the firm was founded by a farmer/cabinetmaker named George A. Breneman (b. February 8, 1898 – d. July 16, 1979), who eventually branched off into the repair and manufacture of wagons and early motor vehicle bodies.
George Arthur Breneman (aka Brenneman) was born on February 8, 1898 in Elida, Allen County, Ohio to Charles David (b.1867 in VA - d.1949) and Mary C. (b.1867-d.1949) Breneman, siblings included Christian B., Lillian E., Alvin N., and Ruth A. Breneman. On June 25, 1918 he married Mabel K. Martin (b. 1896 - d. 1996) and to the blessed union were born three children; June L. (b.1920), George M. (b.1923) an Edwin J. (b.1928) Breneman. His Draft Registration card dated Sept 12, 1918 lists his address as R +D No.7, Lima, Allen County, Ohio and his occupation farmer, next of kin, his wife, Mabel K. (Martin, b. 1896-d. 1996) Breneman
In 1921 Breneman moved to Orrville,
Ohio where he established a small cabinet works. As business increased
he hired his brother-in-law, Allen
L. Steiner (b. August 10, 1890 - d. April 15, 1971) , who was made a
partner in the firm
in 1923 .
Allen Lloyd Steiner was born on August 10, 1890 in Apple Creek, Wayne County, Ohio to Daniel and Martha Steiner. On December 25, 1910 he married Lillian Elizabeth Breneman and to the blessed union was born 4 children; Eda Mae (b.1912), Lloyd E. (b.1914), Irene E. (b.1920) and Dale J. (b.1922) Steiner. His Draft Registration card dated June 5, 1917 lists his address as Orrville, Wayne County, Ohio and his occupation farmer, next of kin, his wife, Lillian E. Steiner. The 1920 census lists him in Baughman, Wayne County, Ohio, his occupation, farmer.
Originally known as Breneman & Steiner, they began doing business as the Orrville Body Works around 1925. A local contractor named John A. LeChot saw possibilites in the firm, which employed only six, and in early 1928 bought out the partners, the March 2, 1928 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent reporting:
“Will Develop Body Plant
“George Breneman and A. L. Sterner, partners in the Orrville Body company plant, have sold their interests to John LeChot, of this city, who will continue the business in the same manner as in the past. The mill and cabinet work will be continued and the body building will be carried on a much larger scale than in the past.
“This firm was organized seven years ago, when Mr. Breneman came to this city and started in on a small scale. The business grew and developed until it was necessary for him to take in a Partner, and five years ago today, March 1st, A.L. Steiner became a partner in the business. The volume of business has been greatly increased from year to year until it is now enjoying a fine patronage.
“Mr. LeChot, seeing the possibilities of this firm, decided to purchase the equipment and develop it to a much larger extent and devote considerable time to the sale end. He has retained Mr. Breneman as manager of the mill, cabinet and designing work. Mr. Steiner will also be retained for the present.
“Plans are under way for the branching out in other lines, but some details must be worked out before any definite announcement is made. The new firm has bright prospects for the future, and will undoubtedly develop into a substantial growing industry for Orrville, under the supervision of Mr. LeChot.”
Alonzo LeChot was born on January 29, 1881 to George H. (b. 1857 –d.
Marie Anne (Houmard, b. 1855-d.1912) LeChot in Mount Eaton, Paint
Wayne County, Ohio. At the age of 5 he attended the Frog Pond School
and in 1887 relocated to
Creek with his family. In 1897, he passed the Boxwell examination,
which entitled him
school and on January 25, 1903 married Maida Silva Smedly who was born
on Dec. 25, 1885
in East Union, Wayne County, Ohio to Lehman J. and Emma (Lachet) Smedly
of Apple Creek. In 1907 the couple moved to Orrville in
at the corner of Vine and Chestnut streets. A short time later, Mr.
built a home at 323 West Oak street.
When Mr. LeChot first came to Orrville, he worked as a carpenter for Nelson Chaffin, general contractor in the community at that time for 15 cents an hour. Later he was given the job of supervising 10 men – at 17 1/2 cents per hour. The building of his own home on West Oak street was just the beginning of Mr. LeChot’s home building activities and starting in 1908 he became a full time contractor on his own accord.
August 27, 1929 Orrville Courier Crescent
“The fire department responded to a call sent in for a blaze that started in the partition of the Orrville Body works building. The flames started in some manner possibly by a match or cigarette. No damage was done.”
September 22, 1930 Orrville Courier Crescent:
“L. C. Hoffman and Leonard Jones are putting in the wiring for the new Orrville Body Co. building today. The structure is rapidly nearing completion, some of the body-building operations already having been shifted to the new plant.”
February 16, 1931 Orrville Courier Crescent
“General Jacob Coxey, who became a general by virtue of the fact that he led his army of unemployed to storm the White House gates almost a generation ago, found a little ready cash in Orrville last week. The money came from Chicago, but it didn't stay in town long, as Coxey presumably took it to Massillon with him.
“Howard Thurston, magician of note, gave Coxey the money in exchange for the ‘Auto-Pullman,’ which Coxey ordered John LeChot's body company to build out of an 'old White bus last year, and which John had to hold in "hock" because Coxey couldn't pay for it. Coxey and the Orrville Body Co. together had about $4,000 in the affair.
“The ‘Auto-Pullman,’ which was seen by many here, was a pretty foxy affair, being fitted up inside with berths, and other conveniences of a pocket-size home. A mechanic who accompanied Thurston here, drove the outfit to Chicago from where Thurston will set out in the Spring for his magical tours.”
August 25, 1932, Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Mr. and Mrs. .John A. LeChot left this, morning for Long Island City, N. Y., where they are making delivery of a cab from the Orrville Body Co.”
September 15, 1932
“John LeChot has begun the task of refurbishing and re-modeling his building beside the Pennsy tracks on South Main street, which he formerly used for his Orrville Body Co., and the word is that Sam Boyd will be the occupant of the new quarters with a gas and oil depot. “
A display ad in the January 26, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Tailor-Made" TRUCK BODIES For Every Purpose
“Moving Vans, Wood and Steel Trailer Bodies, Insulated Fruit and Dairy Bodies, Combination Grain Bodies and Cattle Racks, Platform and Stake Bodies
“SLEEPER CABS, Three-man and Standard Two-Man Cabs …or any other Bodies built to your special requirement. Orrville Body Co. A. L. STEINER, Sales Mgr. West Pine St. Orrville, O.”
January 30, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Delivers Two Sleeping Cabs
“J.A. LeChot returned Sunday from Richmond, Pa., where he delivered two completed sleeper cabs to the Baker Equipment Co., which were manufactured at the Orrville Body Plant in this city. This order delivered to the Richmond firm is the second in as many weeks. Mr. LeChot says that he sees possibilities of many more cabs for this firm. As those already delivered have been very satisfactory.”
February 6, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Body Company Opens Repair Depts.
“In order to use its very complete wood and metal working departments to the limit, as well as to afford a service to the residents of this, city which might be greatly appreciated, the Orrville Body Co. recently arranged its modern plant on West Pine street to take care of general repair work in the wood and metal lines. It has not been generally known that the Body Co. plant is equipped to do such widely divergent work as repairing torn or worn upholstered furniture, repairing wrecked or weather-worn auto bodies and metal parts, rehabilitating worn farm machinery and even such menial tasks as sharpening scissors, but such is the case.
“The factory is equipped with the last type of machinery and by setting up a new repair department, repair work is now being done without interfering with the chief function of the plant—the making of all types of auto truck bodies and cabs.
“The plant has been enjoying a very satisfactory volume of new business, and every week sees several bodies and cabs either shipped out or mounted on trucks or trailers brought to the plant here. So rapidly have the facilities been expanding, though, that the establishment of the new repair department will take up whatever slack there is. Thus far they have been extensively patronized. Emerson Hostetler is in charge of this work.
“Through a recent change in personnel, A. L. Steiner has been made sales manager of the plant, in charge of new body and cab sales.”
Thursday, May 25, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“John LeChot, of the Orrville Body Co., left this afternoon for E. Peoria, Ill., to make delivery of two sleeper cabs.
August 7, 1933, edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Mr. Le Chot delivered a sleeper cab for the Orrville Body Co. at Buffalo.”
August 31, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Cab Business Brisk— A. L. Steiner, sales manager for the Orrville Body Co., is enroute for Allentown, Pa., with two Orrville-made cabs, and from there will go on to Long Island City, L.I., on business. Business at the body plant has been brisk this month, an average of a cab a day being delivered. Five cabs were taken to Allentown (Mack trucks) and Richmond, Va., last week.”
September 7, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“A new Ford V-8 coupe was delivered to the Orrville Body Co., Saturday night, and the next afternoon Mr. and Mrs. John LeChot left for Richmond, Va., in the car with a trailer loaded with two Orrville cabs hitched on behind.”
December 21, 1933 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“A. L. Steiner, sales manager for the Orrville Body Co., left today for Tarry town, N.Y., to deliver two sleeper cabs, and he will deliver two more to the same firm next week, making a second trip with the Body company’s own Ford coupe and trailer.”
April 23, 1934 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Mr. and Mrs. John A. LeChot and Mrs. Rose Marty have returned from Milwaukee, Wis., where Mr. LeChot delivered a sleeper cab for the Orrville Body Co. They visited friends in Ft. Wayne, Ind., on the return trip.”
May 8, 1934 United Press newswire:
“Orrville, O. (UP) – Fire of an unknown cause today destroyed the Orrville Body Company truck body manufacturing concern, with a loss of $30,000 and resulted in the death of the building janitor. Shortly after the fire started, John Smith, company janitor, who slept in an upstairs room of an adjacent building owned by the company, dashed into the street collapsed and died, apparently of excitement.”
August 16, 1934 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Rebuilt Body Plant To Increase Space
“Brick work on the rebuilding of the Orrville Body Company's plant on West Pine Street is being carried on under direction of John LeChot, owner of the body concern. The plant was destroyed by fire May 8.
“The remodeled building will be enlarged, taking in the alley and paint shops to the west under one roof. The completed structure will be 81 by 121 feet, LeChot said.”
November 30, 1934 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Concern Displays New Models
“New ‘refrigerated’ truck bodies, designed for milk haulers, were displayed Wednesday night to truck owners and representatives of milk companies in this area in the new plant of the Orrville Body Company, now almost completed.
“The building, almost totally destroyed by fire last May 8, has been rebuilt and will be ready for full occupancy soon. The new building is larger than the original, the space formerly occupied by an alley to the west of the structure having been put under roof. By doing this, the LeChots were able to utilize the east wall of the storage building which they own and which stood on the west side of the alley.
“The new type ‘milk bodies’ designed by the company have been made necessary by recent state laws requiring all truck bodies used to haul milk to be insulated. Attendants at the first showing of these bodies appeared very favorably impressed with the Orrville line.”
June 25, 1936 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Firm Seeks to Keep Sole Agency for Cabs
“Attorney Raymond O. Morgan appeared in Cuyahoga County common pleas court in Cleveland Monday as counsellor for the Orrville Body Co. which was defendant along with the Ford Motor Co., the White Motor Co. and the Autocar Sales Co., in a suit brought by the Ohio Truck Equipment Co. seeking to restrain the four firms from entering into any contract for supplying the City of Cleveland with 25 trucks equipped with garbage collection bodies. The Ohio Truck Equipment Co. claimed in its petition that it had an agreement with the Orrville Body Co. for distribution of truck cabs made by the latter concern, and that the automobile concerns were not entitled to supply trucks equipped with Orrville cabs and, at the same time, the Orrville Body Co. was not entitled to furnish cabs to those companies for use in bidding on the Cleveland contract. The motion for the restraining order was refused. A petition asking for an injunction will be heard later.”
October 1, 1936 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Body Works Busy With Most Orders In Plant's Existence
“From the ashes of a $32,000 fire on May 8, 1934, the Orrville Body Works, builders, of truck bodies and sleeper cabs, has built its business to the highest peak since the firm was established in 1928.
“To the hundreds who pass by the West Pine street plant of the company on their was up and down South Main street, it is not news that the Body Works has had the best summer months it has ever enjoyed. Truck cabs and bodies have been parked outside the plant for the entire summer.
“During the past week, a dozen International truck cabs for the garbage disposal department of the City of Cleveland excited considerable comment. The attractive aluminum-colored cabs were part of an order for 23 cabs, the last of which will be delivered this week. In 1935 the Body Works furnished 25 of these cabs.
“At present the plant is rushing work on 45 special, pug-nosed cabs for the White Motor Company of Cleveland. The cabs squat directly above the motors, and the truck chassis are 28 feet long. Sweeney’s Bakery Co. of Canton has placed an order for seven truck bodies. Other companies in cities whose location ranges from New Jersey to the far Midwest are Body Company customers.
“A force of about 10 men was employed at the factory this summer and this number has been boosted to 40 employees at the present time.
“‘I wish I could figure out a way to expand,’ John LeChot, president of the company, said today. He added that expansion to the rear of his present plant would be the only possibility.”
November 9, 1936 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Work Started on New Addition to Orrville Body Co.
“To accommodate an increasing business which has necessitated tripling the number of employees within the past six months, the Orrville Body Co. is considering plans for a brick building at the rear of its present plant to provide an additional 5,000 square feet of floor space.
“Two weeks ago workmen began moving lumber stored at the rear of the West Pine street plant, and the ground should be cleared for the new structure within several weeks.
“The addition will join the present shop and extend back to the edge of the Pennsylvania Railroad company’s main line boundary along which it will run for a distance of about 70 feet.
“Plans for the building project are as yet tentative, but are not expected to take definite form before December 1.”
July 12, 1937 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Local Plant Builds Body for Doylestown Engine
“The Doylestown volunteer fire department, which has purchased a new truck, will get delivery of the outfit this week. The body for the truck was built at the Orrville Body plant on West Pine street.”
A.L. Steiner, Orrville’s sales manager reigned in early 1938, Howard Bennhoff replaced him.
February 14, 1938 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Announcement - Recently we VOLUNTARILY severed our connection with the Orrville Body Company. We are now connected with the ROYAL BODY COMPANY, located at 328 East Water Street, where we will be pleased to meet our old friends and happy to make new ones. A.L. STEINER; LLOYD STEINER.”
January 5, 1939 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Company adds new $10,000 one-story brick and tile addition on site of warehouse destroyed by fire last December.”
January 9, 1939 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“New Model All-Steel Orrville Sleeper Cab Saves Lives of Two
“John LeChot and his corps of workers at the Orrville Body Company were particularly pleased this morning when they were informed by their Charleston, W. Va., dealer that one of the new model all-steel sleeper cabs made by Orrville had emerged from a bad wreck virtually intact.
“The cab was mounted on a Mack tractor unit here December 27 and was being used to transport automobiles. The tractor-trailer outfit was forced off the road when it was struck by a passenger car near Charleston last week and it hit a telephone pole with such force that the front of the tractor was demolished. One of the automobiles on the trailer was hurled from its mounting onto the top of the cab.
“The cab withstood the shock so well that its top was only slightly dented and not a pane of glass was broken, oddly enough, it was the first of the new all-steel cabs put into production at the Orrville plant. Neither the driver nor his helper were badly hurt.
“The Orville Body Company is currently operating at the greatest-production peak in,-its history and has the largest payroll it-has ever had. About 60 men are working in the plant, on West Pine street and every square foot of the building, which has been enlarged three times in the last two years, is being utilized.
“Orrville cabs are standard on Mack, White and Studebaker trucks and, of course, are used on all makes of trucks and tractor units. Part of the cabs are mounted on chassis brought here, by truck manufacturers or customers, and part are shipped elsewhere to be mounted.
“The fact that the cab involved in the Charleston accident was so little damaged by an accident that was as serious as any that could happen is proof, the Body officials say, that now the safety that has been provided in passenger cars has at least been applied to sleeper cabs.”
October 5, 1939 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Three Cleveland Men Now Manage Body Company
“Although its ownership remains in control of Mr. and Mrs. John LeChot Orrville Body Company's management was assumed this week by three newcomers; F. H. Ragan, Jr., Al Vetter and Stephen Walko, each of whom has purchased an interest in the business.
“All three of the men come here from Cleveland where until two weeks ago they were associated with the White Truck Company. Ragan was purchasing agent; Vetter, chief cab and body engineer, and Walko, cab production manager. At the Orrville Body Company, Walko will be cab production manager and inspector; Vetter, chief engineer; and Ragan, head of sales and purchasing.
“No part of the local plant's operations will be moved to Cleveland, as rumored here last week. The new managers will move to Orrville in the near future to make their homes here.
“Purpose of the management change is to increase production at the local plant which is now working at about 50 per cent capacity. According to Ragan, the sleeper cab business is in its infancy and the Orrville Body Company is in a position to get a much larger volume of the business than it has handled in the past-few years. Much of this business comes from the White Truck Company where the three new managers were formerly employed.
“Except for two former employees in the management end of the plant, the personnel at the Body Company remains unchanged.”
December 4, 1939 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Company Buys Adjacent Property.
“One of the largest recent real estate transactions in the downtown area was completed on Friday when the Orrville Body Company purchased from Miss Iva Brown, Lake street, the two buildings and land immediately west of its present plant.
“The property has a frontage of about 120 feet on. West Pine street, running from the west end of the present body company plant to South Vine street. The rear or north boundary line adjoins the Pennsylvania Railroad property line and runs diagonally, giving the newly purchased are at a depth of about 70 feet at its east end and 40 feet at the west end. Purchase price was reported to be about $6,500.
“On the land purchased by the body company are two large one-story buildings, a frame building at the east end of the lot which has housed Harold Shreve's City Garage for the past 11 years and a concrete block structure at the west end of the lot shared by Clyde Lilly's transfer and trucking company and a body company storage room.
“These buildings are to be vacated by their present occupants on January 1. Shreve moving his garage to the front part of the Ellsworth Haffner horse collar factory at 245 West Market street. Lilly as yet has made no plans.
“Remodeling of the two buildings will be done in January, connecting doorways being cut through from the main assembly room. The cab production line will be extended into the new buildings. This will give the body company a string of buildings extending for nearly the whole of the first block along West Pine street.”
December 18, 1939 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“BODY COMPANY INCORPORATES
“Listed among incorporations filed at Columbus on Saturday was the Orrville Body Company, at $100,000 by Maida L. and John A. LeChot and Fred H. Ragan.”
February 26, 1940 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
Nickles Bakery Places Biggest Order of Year With Orrville Body Co.
“The Orrville Body Company has been awarded a contract to build 36 retail delivery bodies in addition to 16 recently built for the Nickles Bakery Company of Navarre. Thirty of this new order will be built on International chassis and six on Mack Truck chassis.
“Pending arrival of chassis, the Body Company expects to produce to a schedule of four complete units per week starting the end of February. This is the largest order for bodies received by the company so far this year and with other body business on the books, will keep the body division of the company going at a good rate for the next two months.
“Recent orders from Nickles to the Orrville Body Company have amounted to approximately $5,000, and the new order approximates $12,000. The Navarre firm also spends large amounts here for products of the Orrville Milk Condensery and J. M. Smucker Company.
“The cab division of the company is moving at a slow rate as a result of a general decline in sales of large truck companies. However, the company hopes for increased production in the cab division pending results of several negotiations under way, which increase will bring many men back to work who were temporarily laid off.
“The company has made preparations for increased production in all lines and has already utilized a portion of the new buildings recently acquired. Closing of the books for 1939 disclosed approximately $200,000.00 gross sales which amount it is hoped can be surpassed in this new year.”
March 18, 1940 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Howard Benhoff Is Bound Over to Grand Jury Friday
“Howard Benhoff, former salesman for the Orrville Body Company was arrested in Cleveland Friday and at a hearing before Mayor C. W. Willaman was bound over to the grand jury on a charge of embezzlement and released under $1,000 bond. Benhoff is alleged to have misappropriated about $350 of company money according to the affidavit sworn out by Mrs. John LeChot. Since leaving the Body Company employ in October. Benhoff had, according to company officials here, been approached several times with a plea to make restitution.”
March 21, 1940 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Body Company Gets Large Order From Galion Iron
“The Orrville Body Company was busy this week working on a sample job to be followed by construction of 50 steel cabs for road graders on a contract newly received from the Galion Iron Works. There is a possibility that the Galion firm may place orders for 200 more of these cabs before the end of the year.
“The Galion Iron Works was founded by the late D.C. Boyd, a former resident of Orrville, and is now actively operated by his four sons: J.F., F.D., R.E., and T.H. Boyd.”
May 15, 1941 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Body Company Builds Big Steermobile for Sargo
“The Bordens have their Elsie, and the Firestones have their Sargo; One's a cow and one's a steer, But both are tops as animals go.
“Elsie got hit by an automobile several weeks ago, and died (although the Bordens have replaced her with a spare cow), while Sargo has just got himself a new automobile. And what an automobile!
“The prize steer of the last Chicago International Livestock Exposition, Sargo was raised by an Iowa farm lass, who sold him for a fancy price to the Firestones, as you may recall if you read the papers. Firestone in turn, cart the steer around to its dealers, which brings in the farmers for miles around to see such a fancy animal (and also to see Firestone products).
“Now it could be expected that Sargo would travel in style, being an extra-special attraction, but it took A1 Vetter, designer for the Orrville Body Company, to really build the proper vehicle. Even the fabulously wealthy Maharajahs of India have no such equipage.
“Made at the Orrville Body plant, Sargo's automobile (that isn't the right word, but it would be an insult to call it a truck) measures 31 feet long and is as big as a Greyhound bus. Everything about it is special and it took the bodymen ten weeks to put it together. They finished it Tuesday night and delivered it in Akron Wednesday morning.
“Painted white as the driven snow except for wide bands of vivid blue and white, the outfit makes a spectacular appearance on the road, with the Firestone flag flying at full mast above the driver's cab.
“The huge streamlined body is mounted on a 2 1/2 ton cab-over-engine International chassis. Most of its interior is given over to Sargo's living quarters while he is touring, although a small space is provided in front for the driver and an attendant, with a seat immediately in back of the driver's where the two men can bunk down at night.
“Sargo gets in and out of his car by means of a ramp, protected by an iron railing so he will not fall off on the way up or down, which slides neatly into a concealed compartment under the floor when not in use. Two huge double doors at the back make way for the steer, while there is a door for the driver and a third door, entered by foldaway steel steps, for the public to enter to see the steer at close range.
“Along both sides of the body are huge windows made of unbreakable glass—the first time any of this new material has been used at the body plant here—through which Sargo can look out and her visitors can look in.
“The interior has a lighting system operating from batteries and a 110 volt line which is plugged in to city current when the outfit sets up for a show. A ventilating system carries air from the front of the body and expels it through a raised duct in the roof after Sargo has been bathed in it.
“Only thing which the bus lacks, as Steve Walko, plant superintendent, pointed out, is a lavatory. And by the time he designs another steermobile, Al will probably have that problem worked out.
“Busy On Fleet Work
“The Body Company is currently extremely busy with several orders for bodies for truck fleets as well as for its standard line of bodies of Mack and White trucks and sleeper cabs. One of the orders now being run through calls for a large fleet of box panel jobs for the National Biscuit Company on International chassis, and an order for three refrigerated bodies for Sugardale Provision, embodying Kelvinator units designed to hold the temperature below 30 degrees.”
June 16, 1941 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Body Co. Storage Warehouse Begun
“Workmen began last week on the construction of a frame storage warehouse of 11,000 square feet for the Orrville Body Company on property recently purchased by the firm immediately north of the Wheeling and Lake Erie freight house and west of McGill street. The old Grave Vault plant located on the site burned down several years ago. Work is progressing under the supervision of Contractor John LeChot, owner of the Body Company, who expects the building to be completed late in July. Although plans for the warehouse, which will be approximately 110 feet in length and 100 feet wide, were completed soon after the purchase of the property in April, construction was delayed by lack of steel trusses to support the roof. Wooden trusses have now been substituted in the plans and work will go forward without delay. With this change, the structure will cost between $5,000 and $6,000, it is estimated. Provision for additional storage space was made necessary by the rapid expansion of business and the inadequacy of present facilities, which include use of the Exchange Club parking lot adjacent to the Pennsylvania railroad tracks on South Main street for the storing of truck chassis.”
February 19, 1942 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Ragan Quits Body Job For Michigan Post
“Fred H. Ragan, 250 South Main street, has resigned his position of director of sales and purchasing at the Orrville Body Company here and expects to take up new duties on March 1, in Battle Creek, Mich., as purchasing agent for the Railway Division of the Clark Equipment Company. Now operating four factories in Michigan, the Clark Equipment Company is building a new plant in Battle Creek, where Mr. Ragan will be located. Formerly a purchasing agent at the White Motor Company in Cleveland, Mr. Ragan has been with the Body Company here more than two years, during which time the plant has expanded considerably. He states that this new association affords a large r scope and responsibility in the manufacturing field and appears to have a fine future.”
June 1, 1942 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Begins Work on Hulls for Fire Boats
“Far removed from water, except that insignificant trickle which is Sugar Creek, Orrville would at first blush be considered the last place in the world where boats would be fabricated to help in the war effort. Yet the building of boats will soon become one of the chief activities of one of Orrville's largest manufacturers.
“Modified in some details since it was originally drawn, the sketch above shows the design for a new type of all-steel, water-propelled fire boat, the hulls of which are now in the early stages of construction at the plant of the Orrville Body Company, famed builders of truck bodies and sleeper cabs. The United States Navy Department recently placed an order with a well-known Ohio manufacturer of fire apparatus for 100 of the fireboats, first of their kind to be put to practical use, and the Body Company has been awarded a subcontract for the construction of 60 hulls. Plans for the boats were submitted to the Navy Department last month and were returned, with minor changes, on May 20 with an order to proceed with their construction. Changes in the above drawing include elimination of a wheel-house, replacement of the guiding wheel with a lever, and transfer of the rear monitor (fire nozzle) to the approximate position of the searchlight in the drawing. The hull, engines and principle of water propellation are fundamentally unchanged.
“Salient feature of the boats, which will be put into service along the docks and wharves of New York City and Hudson Bay, is the fact that they are water-propelled, eliminating the necessity of the usual gear shafts and steel propellers.
“Thus, with no undercarriage to become fouled by debris, the boat may move about freely in shallow water in a depth of little more than its draft of one foot, eight inches, and its engines are available either for pumping water through the monitors or through the jets to propel the ship, or both.
“To give the boat motion, four 90- horsepower engines housed in the hull, draw water from the river bed into four sea chests from which it is forced at a pressure of 150 pounds through two 1:! 4 inch jets at the rear of the ship at a rate of 2,000 gallons a minute.
“The boat is guided by means of a lever controlling fins installed in the stern which may be manipulated to change the course of the water as it flows out of the tubes.
“Under ordinary conditions, a stream of water forced through a jet of that size at so great a pressure may be shot into the air the height of a 17-story building and it propels the boat at a maximum speed of approximately 15 miles an hour.
“An idea of the efficiency of the boat's fire-fighting apparatus may be gleaned from a comparison with that of the Orrville fire trucks. Pumpers on the two large Orrville fire trucks are capable of shooting water at the rate of 500 and 350 gallons per minute, respectively, while each of the two monitors on the fire boats pump 2,000" gallons a minute through the two-inch jets at the tip of the nozzles.
“The monitors are mounted on revolving bases built to absorb the powerful recoil of the streams of water. The fire-boats are also equipped with four hose outlets and each boat will carry 2,000 feet of hose.
“Fuel tanks have a capacity of 260 gallons of gasoline, and each boat is capable of 15 hours of continuous operation at peak efficiency without refueling.
“The boat has an overall length of 30 feet, six inches, a beam of 10 feet, six inches, and weighs, complete, with all rigging and equipment, approximately 20,000 pounds.
“A searchlight installed near the stern throws a beam of light more than 5,000 feet. Lockers, shelves, racks, clips, etc., for the proper stowage of equipment will be built in the hull. The ships will probably be completed about the third week in June and shipped to New York, after which extended contracts for the construction of additional boats for service elsewhere are anticipated.”
July 20, 1942 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“First Fire Boat Built By Body Co. Ready to Float
“First of several score fire boats for use in coastal waters by the U. S. Coast Guard and the Amphibian Command will be completed late today by the Orrville Body Company and shipped early Tuesday to another point where the machinery, including four Chrysler marine engines, will be installed.
“Approximately 30 feet long and 10 feet wide at its stern, the boat will be taken away from Orrville by a tractor-drawn carry-all which has been especially built for the purpose. The first boat will probably be taken to the East Coast by the same method after it has been fitted out.
“Somewhat different in design from a boat projected by Al and Wallace Vetter of the Body Company staff, the vessel is severely plain. Electrically welded entirely of steel on a tubular steel frame, the boat has a flat bottom so that it can be operated in about 18 Inches of water. Almost entirely enclosed, it looks a bit like a miniature Noah's ark and presumably will be just as sturdy as that famous craft. Back of a small front compartment, which is self-bailing in case water splashes over the short covered bow, is a spacious engine room in which the four engines and pumping machinery will be located. Entrance to the engine room can be had from either the front compartment or the rear deck by means of stairways. The helmsman's position is on the after-deck.
“As explained here previously, the boat is water propelled so that it will have no exposed undergear to foul in debris-filled water. The pumps are so arranged that they can propel the boat backwards or forwards and throw streams of water from several turret nozzles. While not as speedy as a torpedo destroyer, the boat makes sufficiently good time for the purpose whit it is intended.
“Work has begun on a second boat, and as soon as the first boat has had its trial runs and been OK’d or slightly changed by the government, the plant expects to get into full production, turning out the boats at the rate of three or better a week.
“As is common in small boat construction, the vessels are built upside down until the bottom plates have been welded in place, when it is righted and the deck assembly and engine cabin top, fabricated elsewhere in the plant at the same time, is hoisted into place and welded to the frame.
“Only wood in the boat are two door frames, two doors and grids for the front compartment and rea r deck to keep the crewmen's feet dry. Idea of the wooden doors is to enable any of the crew who might be trapped in the engine room to chop their way out.”
May 24, 1943 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Not Tanks, Not Jeeps, But They're For War
“A report that tanks and jeeps were being unloaded here last week to be stored in the warehouse of the Orrville Body Company is accurate insofar as machines of war were being unloaded, although they are neither tanks or jeeps. The equipment are large truck chassis, on which will be mounted bodies fabricated in the Body Company plant to make mobile machine shop units. The company received a contract for a large number of such units several months ago, and has been busy since in preparing to go into quantity production.”
August 11, 1947 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“AI Vetter, Manager of Body Co., Dies of Heart Attack
“Death came almost instantly Saturday a few minutes afternoon to Alvin C. Vetter, 45, vice president and general manager of the Orrville Body Company, while he was sitting a t the soda counter in the Seifrjed Drug Store waiting to drink a potion to relieve distress he attributed to indigestion.
“‘I’ve had a pain since last night,’ he told Frank Seifried. ‘ Maybe it’s gallstones.’
“Before Fran k could pour the drink, Al slipped from the stool to the floor. Dr. E. E. Breyfogle said that Mr. Vetter had suffered a coronary blood clot and was dead before he reached his side a few minutes later. Injections of adrenalin and use of the city I owned resuscitator were of no avail.
“A native of Cleveland, one of three sons of Mr. and Mrs. George Vetter, Al graduated from Lakewood High School and took an engineering course at night school. He was employed as an engineer by White Motor Company when he accepted a call to come here as plant manager of the Body Company in the early Fall of 1939 at the age of 37.
“An able designer, a serious minded executive and a methodical planner, he had enabled the Body Company to continue its growth a s one of the community's valuable manufacturing enterprises.
“When the War virtually stopped the manufacture of truck bodies and cabs, Mr. Vetter was instrumental in negotiating a contract for fire boats, which enabled the company to keep busy.
“As a partner with Julius Fejes and brother, Wallace Vetter; in the Crown Steel Products Company, Mr. Vetter was also a key figure in another important manufacturing venture here. His death comes at a time when Crown Steel is in the midst of an expansion program, including the erection of a new plant on North Main street.
“It is safe to say that few men have ever moved into this community who has made more friends than Al Vetter. Although he worked hard at his business often 12 and 14 hours a day, he had a sincerity and integrity that drew men to him and made him widely known.
“His sudden passing left the community with a sense of great loss, which is the greatest memorial that a man can have.
“Besides his wife, Muriel, and little daughter, Joyce, 4, he is survived by his parents of Cleveland; his brother, Wallace, who was associated with him in the Body Company; and another brother, Elmer, of Cleveland.
“Mr. Vetter was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, of Cedar Lodge No.430, F.&A.M., the Stark Consistory and Al Koran Shrine of Cleveland, and of the Exchange Club.
“Funeral services will be held at the residence, 116 East Oak street, Tuesday afternoon at 1 o'clock, with Rev. O. R. Gerber officiating. Burial will be in Lakewood Par k Cemetery, Cleveland, with Frey and Gresser in charge of arrangements. Friends may call at the home this evening.”
May 6, 1948 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“A bid of $2,850 by the Orrville Body Company for furnishing a body for the newly purchased fire department emergency truck chassis – the only offer received – was accepted by town council at its regular meeting Monday evening after Fire Chief Edgar Kochel said that his committee was satisfied with the bid.”
September 27, 1948 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“70 Body Company Workers Go Out On Strike Friday A strike has been called at the plant of „the Orrville Body Company by Local Union 813 of the United Automobile Workers of America, affiliated with the American Federation ; of Labor, as the result of a failure to negotiate a wage agreement. “Representatives of the Union have conveyed through the local committee a request for a 25-cent an hour increase for all production and maintenance employees retroactive to July 1, it was said at the office of the company today.
“After several meetings with the union committee, the management of the company offered a blanket increase of 10 cents per hour, effective as of August 16, it was added. The union failed to accept this offer.
“Further meetings resulted in an offer of 10 cents per hour increase together with a profit sharing plan, which offer was also rejected by representatives of the union.
“As a result of the failure of negotiations, the employees were informed by the union committee on Friday afternoon at about 4 o'clock that they were on strike as of that hour, and to date no further negotiations have been offered, by either the company management or the Union.
“In an interview at the office of the company this afternoon with The Courier, the management said that it sincerely hopes that the employees will return to work in order to make possible further negotiations. Seventy production and maintenance men are affected by the strike.”
October 14, 1948 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Body Company Strike Is Ended Amicably
“The 70 employees of the Orrville Body Company who ceased work Friday afternoon, Sept. 24, when negotiations over a request for an increase in wage rates reached an impasse, returned to work this morning following a meeting held Wednesday afternoon to consider the company’s offer.
“Although a picket line was maintained at the plant on West Pine street, the strike was conducted with coolness and in a much more polite way than most such disputes.
“Wallace Vetter, speaking for the company today, said: ‘We have expressed our appreciation to the personnel for the consideration they have given the management's proposals and for their return to work. We are, of course, very happy that the stoppage was no longer.’”
March 21, 1949 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Crown Steel Tests First of 30 0 Aluminum Ladders Being Built For Bell Linemen
“Sales Manager Bob Seiwert of Crown Steel Products Is shown here climbing the first of 300 all-aluminum ladders being built by his company for the Western Electric Company, for use by the Bell Telephone System. The ladder swings in a full circle when extended to its maximum of 21 feet, and It is hinged in the middle to swing: a lineman close to his ' work above roadside obstructions.
“Julius Fejes, president of the Crown Steel Products Company, climbed up in the air Thursday and gave a great shout. And when he climbed down, Bob Seiwert, sales manager for the company, did the same thing. They were celebrating, in an eminently fitting way, the completion of the first of 300 aluminum ladders which the company is making for the Western Electric Company for use on trucks operated by various operating companies of the Bell Telephone System.
“As everyone knows, linemen need ladders to get to their Work, and also climbing irons, but it has only been in recent years that they have been able to climb easily and quickly, without carrying ladders with them, from the bed' of a truck to the lines they take care of. That was after folding wooden ladders were developed for mounting on trucks.
“So far, few of them have ever climbed an aluminum ladder, but that will not be true long. For the new aluminum extension device which Crown Steel is making to put men in the air all over the country will be coming off the production lines from now on at a steady rate – for the moment at two a day and by April 15, at eight a day.
“Crown Steel, of course, isn't a ladder factory. It was set up in a small way several years ago in the buildings a t Riceland owned by the late Tom Rice to manufacture steel cab tops.
“Founder Fejes had been a ‘hammer man’ at the Orrville Body Company, and because he knew more about hammering out cab tops than anyone else, and could do it faster, he set up his own operation to feed the tops to the Body Company. Later the operations were extended to include other pressed steel products for truck cabs and bodies.
“Then, last year, the company, having grown prodigiously, built its new plant on North Main street, a 20,000 square foot steel and concrete block structure, and Mr. Seiwert joined the staff and started to look for more work.
“He called on Western Electric in New York, since the company furnishes thousands of trucks and buys the truck bodies for them for the Bell System. There was nothing doing, he was told, except that the company was taking bids within a week on ‘this thing.’ That was an aluminum extension ladder, to be mounted in a standard telephone maintenance-truck body.
“‘You don't make ladders, do you?’ the buyer Inquired. ‘I don't know,’ Mr. Seiwert replied. ‘Maybe we do. Let me have a set of blueprints and we'll find out.’ The result was that Crown Steel, after putting its head together with Will-Burt and the Orrville Bronze & Aluminum Foundry, assembled the necessary data within a week's time and put in a bid. And got the job. Undismayed by the word that drifted in from the trade that an Eastern outfit had spent $30,000 tooling up to make a similar ladder, the Crown Steel men took the purchase order and went to work. The result, as aforesaid, is that the first ladder was mounted on a standard Bell Telephone CLN-86 truck Thursday, and Mr. Fejes and Mr. Seiwert took turns running up and down it.”
August 10, 1950 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Co. Seeks To Expand Plant Facilities
“Planned expansion of the Orrville Body Company, which will result in the erection of a new one story building westward from the present plant on the north side of West Pine street and the hiring of an additional 70 to 100 employees, was revealed Monday night at town council meeting. At that time, Manage Wallace Vetter, representing the owner, John LeChot, presented a petition to have the portion of South Vine street, which extends northward from Pine street to the Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way, closed. Mr. LeChot owns the property west of this street, as he does the property and the body company buildings east of the street. Thus, the vacating of the street by the city would enable the old and the proposed new plant to be joined.
“Since the street in question has no value whatever to anyone except the Orrville Body Company, whose properties it pierces, its vacation would have been no more than a routine matter, with the blessing of council, if it had not been for the fact that the Ohio Central Telephone Corp. had laid a main-line cable in the street only last year. Municipal Utilities Supt. James E. Specht also pointed out that power lines feeding the south portion ,of the city also use the street – overhead – although he expressed the opinion that the lines could easily be raised to pass over the proposed one-story building.
“Village council asked Mr. Vetter to contact the telephone corporation and seek its opinion on the possibility of building over the cable conduit. The petitioner and a representative of the construction firm which plans to erect the new building told council that they could assure the telephone company free access to the telephone cables. They felt the new building could be erected in such a manner that an opening in the cement floor would permit inspection or replacement of cables, if necessary. Mr. Vetter contacted C.E. Smith, manager of the local telephone exchange, on Tuesday. Mr. Smith, in turn, informed his home office, but no reply has been received today.
“The petition for the closing off Vine street was turned over to Engineer Paul Brenneman and the council's street and alley committee. It is believed that the receipt of a three-way agreement between the telephone company, council and the Orrville Body Company will move that firm's expansion program into high gear. Council appreciated the value of the expansion of local industry and seemed willing to abandon the unused portion of South Vine street if an agreement with the telephone company is reached. It offered to hold a special meeting to speed the company's program as soon as the telephone firm accepts the Body Company's proposal.”
July 31, 1958 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Company Was Leader In Production of Sleeper Cabs; Now Produces 275 Cabs Per Month
“Orrville Body Company, one of Orrville's larger industries, also has the distinction of being the first company in existence in the United States to build sleeper cabs for trucks.
“The company built its first sleeper cabs 26 years ago, kept it a s a production item, and now does about 90 per cent of its business in the manufacture and sale of sleeper cabs. An average of about 175 employees turn out cabs or sheet-steel parts for some of the big names in the trucking and off-highway vehicles industries: Mack Trucks, Inc., of Allentown, Pa.; White Motor Company of Cleveland; Euclid Division, General Motors, of Cleveland; International Harvester of Chicago. The Orrville company also stamps and forms parts for such companies as American Machine and Foundry of Buffalo, N.Y. which is known for manufacturing of automatic pin-spotters for bowling lanes.
“Many of the big trucks seen rolling across the highways of the nation are equipped with Orrville Body cabs. There are only 8 or 10 companies in the country that manufacture sleeper cabs and the Orrville company normally turns out about 350 cabs month. Off-highway cabs, included in this figure, are made for such pieces of machinery as road graders and materials-handling vehicles. Contract work done by the company includes the production of steel stampings, such as go into pinball machines, and steel weldments, which is the assembly of steel parts welded together.
“Designing Is First Operations of the body company consist of designing through all stages of engineering, producing experimental samples of cabs, tool designing, parts fabricating assembly, prime-coating and shipping. Welding done includes arc, spot, acetylene and heli-arc -welding, the latter being done on aluminum pieces. Construction of cabs is from sheet steel, which is trucked into the plant. Present production of cabs totals about 275 a month, which is a drop from normal production, reflecting the recent offset in industry generally and the vehicle field in particular. Formidable is the word which best describes some of the heavy pieces of machinery in the plant. One punch-press, which reaches almost to the ceiling of the plant, can put 300 tons pressure on dies which cut out parts. ‘There are machines with long blades used to shear the sheet metal. The heavy machinery occupies a large portion of the 80,000 square feet of plant space.
“Started in 1929
“The company was originally a body company not a cab company. In its early days bodies were built for horse-drawn bakery and milk wagons, and consisted of both wood and metal. The name, ‘Orrville Body Company,’ was chosen during a carnival, according to John LeChot, who founded the business in 1929. The company had a booth set up at the carnival and asked passersby to choose name, ‘Orville Body Company’ was the most popular title.
“About 15 or 20 persons were employed during the early (lays of the company. It was located at the ‘hole in the wall’ on South Main street, where Mr. LeChot now has his office. The name was originated when a hole was cut into the brick for a doorway.
“In 1932 the plant, located then at its present location, had a complete burn-out. Two years later, the ‘hole in the wall’ section burned out, leaving Mr. LeChot to operate ‘on a shoestring.’ He never actively managed the plant, being busy enough with his general contracting work, which he does to this day, at the grand age of 77 years.
“Mr. LeChot was born in Mt. Eaton, lived in Apple Creek, and moved to Orrville 50 years ago, at the age of 27. He has constructed many houses and buildings in the community. He said that one time he decided to get a count of the number of houses by going over a map of the city and recalling how many homes he had built, street by street. ‘When I got to 200, I quit,’ he said.
“The plant in early days built many wooden and metal wagons for the Nichols Bakery, located at Navarre. When automobiles came into the American scene in greater numbers Mr. LeChot began thinking about cabs for trucks. The first cabs were produced in 1932, when George Brenneman was manager of the plant. Cabs became more and more of a major production item until 8 years ago, body manufacturing was discontinued so that all of the company’s attention could be devoted to its present lines.
“Wallace G. Vetter, vice president and general manager of the company, joined Orrville Body Company as sales manager in 1938 and has been handling sales since then. When Mr. Vetter came to Orrville, his brother, Al Vetter, was general manager. Wallace Vetter had come from Philadelphia, where he was associated with J.E. Rhodes, manufacturer of power transmission machinery, and, as Mr. Vetter pointed out, oldest company in the United States today.
“Mr. Vetter was born in Lakewood, and graduated from Ohio State University with his degree in engineering and two years of study in law.
“Company officers are: John A. LeChot, president; Wallace O. Vetter, vice president and general manager; Don Musser, production manager; Bob Shearer, purchasing agent; Bob Hoffman, chief engineer; John Skabar, tool and new production engineer; Ralph Leindecker, superintendent; Herbert- SoIIenberger, personnel manager; George Hanson, accountant. Jones, Cox and Lötz of Canton is the auditing firm. Factory employees who have been at the plant since before World War II are as follows: Elmer Saurer, 27 years, employed in the mill room, Freemont Diel, 20years in sheet metal shop; Steve Medve, 19 years, pattern maker; Harold Butler, 19 years, door hanger; Tommy Thompson, 17 years, in charge of tool crib; Jay Musser, 16 years, installs glass in cabs; Andy Walkerow, foreman in sheet metal department, 21 years. During World War II, the company built 30-foot cabin boats for the Navy, used for fighting fires. These metal-hulled boats used four Chrysler marine engines to supply power for navigation and for its fire hoses. The boats were actually jet propelled with water and had a number of differently placed jets to control drift of the boat while it was in position for fighting fires.
“Experimental Work Done
“Those who depend on Orrville Body Company for a living can be sure that the company is not content to rest on its past performance at a time when new ideas and new products may spell the difference between success and failure.
“Between $25,000 and $30,000 is spent on experimental work every year. Last year the company experimented with an aluminum cab and successfully built a test model. Although it is still in the experimental stage, final developments are being made and it does hold good prospects for the future.
“Most of the experimental work is done under wraps, since truck cab manufacturing is a highly competitive field. It is in this department that the future of the business may well be determined, and company men are anxious to see their company ahead of the field in the realm of ideas. As Mr. Vetter said when he was viewing an experimental job in the milling room, ‘There isn't anything that can't be done. It only depends on the amount of effort people are willing to contribute.’ With this attitude, Orrville Body Company will continue to be a strong influence in the truck cab field and in the prosperity of the community.”
July 21, 1960 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent included a short history of the firm:
“Before leaving the restaurant for the tour, Carl Goldring gave a short history of the Orville Body Company.
“He stated that in 1928, John and Maida LeChot started a small business for the purpose of manufacturing horse-drawn wagons for local retail and wholesale businesses. The first wagons built were delivered to the Nickles Bakery Company of Navarre, and other wagons were built for local meat packers.
“The organization grew, until in 1934, about 20 persons were employed. In 1934, the original plant was completely destroyed by fire and was rebuilt the next year.
“In 1939 the company was incorporated under the name, ‘The Orville Body Company’, and employment had increased by then to about 40 shop employees.
“Prior to incorporation, the first truck cabs were built by the company, and were basically used as sleeper cabs for highway transportation. The first cabs built for this purpose were built for the Mack Truck Company of Allentown, Pa., and the White Motor Company of Cleveland. These two companies have remained customers of the Body Company throughout the full time of the company's corporate existence.
“The original plant covered an area of 80 by 120 feet, or 9,000 square feet, and has continued a normal expansion from 40 employees an d 9,600 square feet to a current employment figure of more than 400 employees and an excess of 150,000 square feet.
“In 1959, the main offices of the corporation were relocated to the new building constructed on East Orr street on a 40-acre tract.
“From the original purpose of wagon building, the corporation has expanded its operations to now include truck cabs for both highway, and off-highway use, steel stampings and weldments and fiberglass products. From the conception of the original corporation, John A. LeChot has served as president, and during her lifetime, Maida LeChot served the corporation as secretary and treasurer. The corporation is currently being served by Mr. LeChot as president and treasurer; W.G. Vetter as executive vice president and secretary, and Willard C. Thomas as vice president. The board of directors are; John A. LeChot, Willard C. Thomas, Charles Lötz and W.C. Vetter.”
October 6, 1960 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Wallace G. Vetter, 52, General Mgr. Of Orrville Body Co., Stricken With Fatal Heart Attack in Cleveland
“An attendance of relatives, friends and business associates crowded the Auble-Hooley Funeral Chapel to capacity Tuesday afternoon for services for Wallace George Vetter, 52, who died Saturday morning at 6:45 o'clock in St. Vincent's Charity Hospital, Cleveland, about 12 hours after he suffered a heart attack while dining with his wife at a restaurant in that city.
“Mr. Vetter, Who was executive vice president, secretary and genera.] manager of the Orrville Body Company, had suffered heart attacks previously in recent years and had been hospitalized several times, although each time he appeared to recover.
“He was his usual, vigorous, active self when he complained of being uncomfortable at the dining table. His condition grew rapidly worse and he was hurried to the hospital to he put under oxygen, hut did not rally. A native of Cleveland, a son of George and May Bertram Vetter. he spent his early life in Lake wood and graduated from that city's high school and from Ohio State University, where he received an engineering degree.
“He came to this city with his brother, Al C. Vetter, in 1939 when the two became associated with John and the late Maida LeChot in the body company, which at that time employed only about 20 persons in contrast with the approximately 400 at this time.
“He became a director, vice president and general manager of the company in 1947 following the death of his brother, Al, who was likewise a victim of a sudden heart attack. He was named secretary of the company in 1954, and executive vice president in 1958, continuing in his role as general manager. As has been noted, the company had a great growth under his and Mr. LeChot's direction, greatly expanding the original plant on West Pine street and occupying a second new and larger plant on Orr street last year.”
December 29, 1960 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Buys Acreage For Expansion
“As a new expression of faith in the potential of its operation and of this city as a choice industrial site, the Orrville Body Company through W.C. Thompson, its vice president, announced earlier this week the purchase of 9.24 acres of land adjoining the company’s property to the west of its new plant on E. Orr St. from the Mettetal heirs.
This brings to more than 40 acres the land occupied by the company’s Plants No. 1 and 2 and its warehouse, and makes Orrville Body the second largest owner of acreage in the city (after Koppers Company, Inc.)
“Although business is characterized by Mr. Thomas as ‘slower than normal because of the nation-wide re-evaluation of inventories and future needs’, the company has every reason to be very optimistic for the future. Vice President and General Manager A.S. Pezoldt said today.
“‘The company's purchase of the Mettetal tract was made solely in anticipation of the future expansion of the company's facilities,’ Mr. Pezoldt said. ‘We are confident that the present recession in our type of industry as well as in many others will be short-lived and we look forward to the future wi the greatest confidence.’
“Orrville Body was founded and is still headed by John A. LeChot as president. As his two ‘right-hand men’, Mr. Pezoldt has long experience as an executive in the body and truck manufacturing industry and Mr. Thomas has a long record as a skillful industrial counsellor in banking.”
August 2, 1962 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“200 Orrville Body Workers Out on Strike
“Production at Orrville Body Company has been halted since midnight Tuesday by a strike by 200 members of Local 813 of Allied Industrial Workers (A.I.W), affiliated with the A.F.L. of C.I.O. Picket lines were set up and only office personnel were permitted into the plant Wednesday morning.
“Three Major Changes
“A spokesman for the workers' grievance committee stated early Wednesday that the union is seeking three major changes. They would like to have the present merit system of promotion and pay increase replaced by a progressive raise program; are asking for an increase in wages, and want the company to pay one-hundred percent of the hospitalization program. Orrville Body Company's General Manager, Adolph Pezoldt, stated Wednesday morning that union officials had made no contact with the company since Monday, when the company was notified of the strike vote which had been taken last Saturday. ‘All we know is that our proposals have been turned down,’ M r. Pezoldt said.
“Could Not Be Averted
“Eugene Kroneker, regional representative of the A.I.W., said Wednesday union officials are prepared to meet with the company, but no meeting had been set by Wednesday morning . Mr. Kroneker stated he told a federal mediation board that a strike could not be averted because the strike vote was almost unanimous. The union had met with Orrville Body Company officials on July 26, but attempts to reach agreement on a new contract failed and workers voted to strike when the contract expired at midnight, July 31.”
August 30, 1962 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Co. Strike Settled
“Part of Orrville Body Co.'s 200-employe working force returned - to work Monday, following settlement August 24 of Local 813 of AIW's 24-day strike against the company.
“Orville Body Company employees voted to go back to the jobs they left on August 1, by ratifying a new two-year contract by a 70-44 margin. Five non-monetary changes were made to the contract and workers received a three-cent hourly raise, plus provisions for an increase of about four cents in one year. Merit system of promotion and worked insurance payments were not altered. The union was seeking both these changes. Due to loss of orders during the strike, the company was unable to maintain its full plant force. Men laid off will be called back to work as soon as possible, according to Vice President Willard Thomas.”
April 30, 1964 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Co.
“Orrville Body Co. is known for its manufacture of several varieties of truck cabs, as well as engine cover containers, stampings and parts for floor sweepers, automatic bowling pin-setter equipment, cat-walks and chutes, conveyor belt equipment, accessories for trucks arid cars and metal fabricated and fiberglass molded furnishings. The plant, located on East Orr Street, was founded by John LeChot in 1928. Since its founding, Orrville Body Co. has undergone several major expansion programs. It employs 271. Officers are Mr. LeChot, president and treasurer; W. C. Thjomas, executive vice president and secretary; A.S. Pezoldt, vice president arid general manager; C.E. Lotz, vice president and assistant secretary, and W. B. Taylor, comptroller and assistant treasurer,”
August 6, 1964 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Venture By Husband And Wife Has Grown To Become Successful Orrville Body Co.
“Founded in the early 1920's Orrville Body Company is the outgrowth of a small concern established by John and Maida LeChot. Buying the interests in the furniture and buggy company on W. Pine St. then owned by Alan Steiner and George Brenneman was the beginning of a partnership lasting until Maida LeChot died in '54. Together, husband and wife saw their venture blossom and grow much larger than they ever envisioned. Early in the company's history, wagons were made for the Alfred Nlckles Bakery in Navarre, meat hauling vehicles for the Canton Provision Co., and a great variety of wagons for milk delivery and other retail and wholesale merchants in the area. Plant Bums There was increasing work for the original three or four employees and by 1934 the force tallied 20. In that year, however, the original plant was destroyed by fire and could not resume production until a year later. In 1939, when the company was engaged almost exclusively in making steel truck cabs and sleeper cabs, things began to take on a solid form. Employment doubled over the 1934 figure, and the firm was Incorporated as the Orrville Body Co. Originally quite small, the first plant, rebuilt after the fire, steadily expanded westward on West Pine Street, enveloping several residences in the block as well as property owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Expanded Often Containing 9,600 square feet of manufacturing space, the first plant expanded its enclosed areas about 15 times, reaching nearly 90,000 square feet.
“In 1961, the West Pine Street plant was sold and the company moved its operations to a new, modem plant on Orr Street. The new plant, with total floor space of 160,000 square feet, was built on 40 acres of land plated as an industrial park to facilitate future development and expansion. In addition to the new plant and offices, the company also has a 13,000 square foot capacity warehouse on McGill Street in the southwest section of Orrville. Currently employing more than 400 men and women, Orrville Body Co. has come a long way from its original and long-obsolete purpose of wagon building. The firm has expanded its operations to truck cabs, delivery van bodies, and accessories for trucks and cars, many of the orders coming from the nation's leading automotive industries. Mack Trucks First of the steel cabs made by the local company were built for the Mack Truck Co. of Allentown, Pa. and the White Motor Co. of Cleveland. These two companies have remained steady customers throughout Orrville Body's entire corporate history. The body company also manufactures engine covers, heavy containers, floor sweeper parts, automatic bowling and pin-setting equipment, catwalks and chutes, and straight and curved conveyor belt parts. Other articles are transportation carts, a wide line of sheet metal fabrications, stampings and weldments, and in recent years, the company has added fiberglass assemblies. All production, from breaking and shearing to assembly, is conducted within its own plant from sheet steel, sheet aluminum and fiberglass molded to its own or customer's specifications. Naturally, changes in manufacturing processes have been adopted. All cab construction, which originally embodied wood framings, uses steel or aluminum framing and sheet metal panels, welded to insure the maintenance-free unit strength and long life. Mr. LeChot continues, as he has from the beginning, as president of the company. Other officers of the corporation are Adolph Pezoldt, vice president and general manager; Willard C. Thomas, executive vice president and secretary; William B. Taylor Jr., comptroller and assistant treasurer, and Charles E. Lötz, vice president and assist; ant secretary, who has been with the company since its inception.
Orville’s president and owner, John A. LeChot, passed away on Friday, September 11,1964 at the age of 83, a nice tribute appeared in the September 17, 1964 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“John LeChot Is Buried Monday
“John A. LeChot, a building contractor for more than a half century and one of the area's leading industrialists, was buried in Apple Creek Cemetery Monday afternoon beside the body of his wife, Maida Smedley LeChot. Services were held at the First Presbyterian Church, of which he was a long-time member, conducted by Rev. John H. Visser. Ill for only a week, the president and principal owner of the Orrville Body Company, died on Friday afternoon at Community Osteopathic Hospital at the age of 83. Although obviously failing in health since he entered the ‘aching eighties,’ Mr. LeChot had gone to his office for a few hours daily and had attended community affairs here and elsewhere until his final illness.
“Born on Farm
“Born on a farm near Mt. Eaton on January 29, 1881, a son of George H. and Mary Alice Houmard Le Chot, he began his schooling at the age of five at old Frog Pond School, but the following year transferred to Apple Creek School when the family moved there. He completed the usual eight years of schooling of those days and passed the Boxwell Examination, which entitled him to teach.
“He had started before that, as a young lad, to help his carpenter father, and at the age of 16 showed a flash of the business acumen he displayed throughout his life by contracting to keep the 30 gas street lights of Apple Creek burning for 28 cents a night. As his father's apprentice, after he finished the eighth grade, he received room and board for his labors the first year, and the same reward plus $1 a day the second year, after which he became his father's partner.
“Weds Maida Smedley
“He married Maida Smedley of Apple Creek in 1903 and by that union achieved a business partner as well as a wife, for in all the years until her final illness which culminated in death in 1954, she kept the accounts of both her husband's contracting business and their manufacturing firm. Following his wife's death, Mr. LeChot purchased a tri-level home on North Elm Street overlooking Orr Park where he had resided.
“Between the time the couple moved to this city in 1908, occupying all their married life a house which Mr. LeChot built on West Oak Street, and his retirement in 1960, Mr. LeChot built more than 500 homes in addition to factories, buttress blocks and public buildings. His last major contracting work was construction of an addition to Community Osteopathic Hospital for which he built the original facility.
“Because of his long experience as a carpenter and builder, Mr. LeChot was naturally interested in the fledgling auto body business, which used wood construction almost exclusively, and in 1929 he and his wife took over the floundering Orrville Body Company and its six employees.
“Firm Moves Ahead
“From that small beginning and despite a fire in 1934 that razed the firm's plant on West Pine Street and destroyed most of its machinery, Mr. LeChot -with the help of his wife and able men he enlisted to help guide the firm, lived to see his firm occupy a handsome office-factory facility on East Orr Street. His firm was one of the pioneers in the field of sleeper cabs for over-the-road tractors and besides its cab business, as a supplier for some of the largest truck - manufacturers, it has branched out into a wide array of metal stampings and fitments It also manufactures conveyor systems and truck dollies for dock use to mention only a few of its diversiments.
“Despite his business interests, which required long working hours, Mr. LeChot was interested in many other facets of life, especially music. He played with the Orrville Band until it was disbanded, with the Nazir Grotto Band of Canton, the Tadmore Shrine Band of Akron and with the Symphony Orchestra at the College of Wooster. His three silver flutes and two piccolos seemed to be more prized possessions than his manufacturing plant.
“He also was a weather prophet, and his predictions of the season to come were so accurate that his friends acclaimed second sight for him.
“He was one of the most faithful members of the First Presbyterian Church and an encouragement to those who have ministered to it. He also was a 32nd degree Mason and a 51-year member of Cedar Lodge, F. & A. M.; of Tadmore Shrine and Nazir Grotto, and of the Rotary Club.
“He was one of the original backers of Community Osteopathic Hospital and served on its board of trustees, and at the time of his death, was an honorary member of the Orrville Fire Department. In his aging years he had the pleasure of being named, a few years ago, ‘Outstanding Senior Citizen,’ by the Jaycees.
“Revered By All
“A kindly man whose benefactions to this community will never be fully known, Mr. LeChot was revered by everyone who worked for him. This paid him dividends greater than money in his later years for he was invited and taken to so many functions that he never really had time to grow old.
“Of him it can be said, as the memorial plaque to George Terry Dunlap says: ‘As one lamp lights another, nor grows less, so nobleness enkindleth nobleness.’
“Survivors are two brothers, Charles of this city and Wilson of Akron. Funeral arrangements were in charge of the Auble-Hooley Funeral Home, where a great host of friends, business associates, and fellow industrialists paid tribute by calling on Sunday evening. For the service at the church, the sanctuary was filled for the moving and appropriate farewell given by the Rev. Mr. Visser. Pallbearers were some of his closest associates at the Orrville Body Company: Adolph Pezoldt, Willard Thomas, Charles Lötz, William Taylor, Don Musser, Ralph Leiendecker and Jolin Skabar.”
October 1, 1964 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“John LeChot Will Is Placed On File, Friends, Relatives Named
“Friends and relatives are named as recipients In the will of John A. LeChot, formerly of 481 N. Elm St. Mr. LeChot, who was president of the Orrville Body Co., died September 11. The will, dated June 5, 1962, reaffirms an agreement fie entered on Nov. 26, 1958, with Wallace G. Vetter, Charles E. Lötz, Willard C. Thomas and the Orrville Body Co. whereby 21,350 shares of his stock of the company is escrowed with the First National Bank of Canton for ultimate transfer to the Body Co. He bequeaths his Orrville residence property together with the furniture and animal pets to his friend and employee, Sylvia Hofstetter, on condition that she was in his employ at the time of his death. He leaves his flutes and piccolos to Nazir Grotto Band of Canton. He specifies that any stock owned by him in the Orrville Body Co. be offered for sale to Charles E. Lotz and Wlllard C. Thomas. Mr. LeChot leaves the remainder of his property to relatives and friends.
“These include: 50 shares to his brother, Charles, and wife; 50 shares to brother, Wilson, and wife; 10 each to nephew, John D.;. nieces, Alice L. Hudkins Ruth E. Otto, and Marjorie Ann Squire. Five shares go to step-niece, Verna Weimer Edwards^ two to step-nephew, Clark Weimer. 10 to niece, Lavonne Dye; 10 to Vera E. Tucker; 15 to cousin Helen Riedcr Starn, and 10 to Jd sephine Rieder Olin.
“Five each to nephews, Glenn Frank and Dale H. Rieder, and nieces, Alice Rieder Brown, Grace Flory, and five each to Denny Feigl and cousins, Ernest Dodez, Floyd Dunham and Dwayne Dunham. One each to friends, Albert A. Clark, John H. Clymer and William Neumeister; two to friends, Adolph Pezoldt, Wlllard C. Thomas, Charles E. Lotz, William Taylor, John Atkins and Sylvia Hofstetter. Six to Presbyterian new life movement of the First Presbyterian Church, and 10 to the First Presbyterian Church. In a codicil dated August 19, 1964, he gives four shares to the city of Orrville and five to his brother-in-law, Henry Weimer.”
December 30, 1965 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Body Bought By Cleveland Firm
“World's Largest Maker of Snow Plows To Operate Facility Here As Wholly Owned Subsidiary
“Meyer Products Uses OBCO Cabs
“Announcement was made last Thursday by E. Thomas Meyer of Cleveland, president of Meyer Products and Meyer-Peitl, a company division, that his company, a family-owned business, had concluded arrangements with offices of the Orrville Body Co. for acquisition of the 40-year-old manufacturing firm here. In a press release, the Meyer Co. said: "The aggressive, management philosophy of Meyer Products toward continuing stability and growth has resulted in combining the productive skills of these two equally-old companies, Orrville Body is widely known for Its production of fabricated metal products for the automotive, transportation and industrial fields. "Meyer has earned the reputation as the world's largest producers of snow plows. In 1962, the company formally established an export division with offices in Utrecht, Holland, and in 1963, created a new division, Meyer-Peitl, to produce and distribute the first 'total performance' snow clearing system." Continuing, Mr. Meyer said, "The purchase of Orrville Body, Which has for some time been our source for custom-designed cabs for Jeep vehicles, is the latest step in our diversification and expansion program. The acquisition Is another move to provide the best In a wide range of high performance products for the snow clearing, transportation, and snow equipment fields. It will enable Meyer to offer a broader line of quality products than ever before.
“‘Plans have been completed for continued operation of the modem, 175,000-square-foot production capacity of the Orrville facility, bringing the new Meyer total to 250,000 square feet.’ At least at the beginning and perhaps indefinitely, the Orrville plant will be operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company, with Adolph Pezoldt continuing as general manager of the operation here. Willard Thomas of Canton, president of Orrville Body, will continue his affiliation with the company as a consultant under an initial three-year contract. An outgrowth of a furniture buggy making business established in the early 1920's by Allen Stehier and the late George Brenneman in a factory on West Pine Street, Orrville Body began its real period of growth under the late John and Maida LeChot when the construction of bodies was changed from wood to steel to fill the growing need of truck' bodies and cabs. From an original work force of four, the plant, to which several additions had been made, had expanded by 1934 to an employment of 20. In that year, however, fire completely gutted the plant and a year elapsed before it was re-built and production resumed. Within four years, the plant was employing a work force' of 40 and its expansion westward along Pine Street for the full block between South Main and South Vine continued until 90,- 000 square feet of manufacturing space was In use. Needing additional room unavailable at this site, Mr. LeChot in 1941 purchased 40 acres of land on the north side of Orr Street, east of Mill Street, and a new 160,000-square-foot facility was constructed. Two additions have been made to this building and floor for a third has been poured. Following Mr. LeChot's death in 1963 when, under his will, all of the stock in the company was devised to Mr. Thomas, Charles E. Lötz, vice president and auditor, and to the company itself, Mr. Thomas became president. A spokesman for the Orrville Body Co. has observed that the Meyer Co. had a similar small beginning, when the father of the present head of the company began making snow plows for' neighbors who were intrigued by the elder Mr. Meyer's Invention. Like Orrville Body, the Meyer Co. grew slowly, but steadily until it now dominates its market. Although the sale of Orrville Body came as a surprise to most residents, and was, in a sense, surprising to company officers themselves because of the speed with which negotiations were completed, it was one of several alternatives the company faced in the light of its growing needs. Possessing a modern plant, engineering skill, a stable work force and the ability to design and fabricate almost anything out of sheet metal within the limitations that characterize all small firms, the company lacked a sales force. This Meyer has in depth even though its plant and work force are smaller than Orrville Body's. Although Orrville Body was not for sale and its officers were planning expansion along the line of another alternative. It was receptive to the Meyer proposal for acquisition, which was made less than a month ago. The two firms had had mutually agreeable relations, and the key men in both companies respected and trusted the others. "You can say it came quickly," an Orrville Body executive said, "but actually the negotiations resulted from a great deal of study. Meyer Products, with its highly-successful line of snow plows, wanted product expansion; we wanted a sales force. This the acquisition provides. It should strengthen both companies, as it will surely benefit this city. "Tom Meyer is a young, energetic executive of 46, and besides being the kind of man we knew we could entrust with this business, he has ideas for the future that offer an exciting prospect for all of us at Orrville Body. I am quite sure that if John (LeChot) was still living, he would have approved this move." Mr. Meyer, his mother and two sisters own all of the stock in Meyer Products and the former directs its operations, as he will that of Orrville Body, with Mr. Pezoldt as general manager and Mr. Thomas as consultant. All of those originally and until recently connected with Orrville Body have died — Mr. LeChot, his wife, A1 Vetter, Wallace Vetter and Mr. Lutz. Mr. Pezoldt joined the firm under Wallace Vetter, who had succeeded his brother, Al, upon the latter's death, and became a member of the board of directors only a day prior to Wally's death. Mr. Thomas, a lawyer and banker, joined the firm in more recent years as executive vice president and financial counsel.”
March 24, 1966 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Tom Meyer Tells Exchange of Hope For Growth Here
“E. Thomas Meyer, president of the Meyers Products Co. of Cleveland, which recently acquired and now operates the former Orrville Body Co. (which has been re-christened Orrville Products, Inc.,) gave members of the Exchange Club a look at the parent company in a pleasant, informative talk a week ago today. Begun in a small way, as Orrville Body began, the Meyer Co. has become the world's largest manufacturer of snow plows and snow-removal equipment, much of it used by municipalities, states and federal governments throughout the world to keep highways open during snowfalls. How the company grew and how, over the years, it has ‘automated’ snow removal to a great extent, formed the chief subject of the, talk. Recently returned from a 10-day swing trip through Europe during which he visited several trade fairs, one of which displayed products made in China, Mr. Meyer observed that he was surprised to find these products well-made and of modern design, comparable with those made in this country. ‘If what I saw is typical of industrial production in Red China, that country has genuine capabilities and technological skills that should not be under-rated in considering world trade in the future,’ the industrialist said. Commenting briefly on his family-owned company's acquisition of Orrville Body, Mr. Meyer noted that the two companies were not as diverse in their manufacturing operations as might be thought, and that he felt the two complimented each other most satisfactorily. He declared that every effort would be expended to further Orrville Products' growth through still further expansion of products and emphasis on research, engineering and sales. Mr. Meyer was introduced by Larry Miller, program chairman for the day. William Taylor, treasurer of Orrville Products, was a guest, and Stan Matihey and Alan Auble were introduced as new members. Speaker today was to be Richard Lang, chief operating officer at the Hagan Controls division of Westinghouse here.”
December 15, 1966 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Products In Production On New Cab for Owners of Jeeps
“Jeep News, a publication of the Kaiser-Jeep Corp. of Toledo, is featuring in its current issue a new all-steel ‘M-III’ cab designed especially for its famous four-wheel vehicle by the Meyer Products Co., Inc., of Cleveland which is now being built here in the Orrville Products Co. plant, a subsidiary of Meyer Products.
“Built-in standard features of the cab include sound deadening, streamlined appearance, almost complete visibility in every direction and snug cold-weather comfort for owners of Jeep Universal. Two styles are available; each custom engineered for either the CJ 5 or CJ 6 model.
“The ‘owner-designed’ Meyer cab has welded and sealed drip moldings for maximum water run-off, and a four-step baked enamel finish for utmost durability. All components are steam cleaned, phosphate - coated and primed with a special rust-preventing coating before painting. The hard enamel finish coat is precision-baked in a special oven under close temperature control. Lustrous glacier white enamel is standard but other colors are available on quantity orders.
“Optional accessories provide Meyer cab users additional comfort and convenience. A two-position air vent gives the driver finger-tip control for drawing in fresh air or exhausting stale air. A roof-mounted tire rack assembly puts the spare tire up out of the way, yet easily accessible when needed.
“Every Meyer cab is shipped with all hardware, ready for fast, simple assembly. Step-by step photos illustrate the easy to follow installation instructions.
“Orrville Products Co. officials emphasize that the new cab is available only from authorized Jeep dealers and that none are available at the factory for mounting by other dealers or individuals.”
April 13, 1972 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Products Expands by Thelma Zeigler
“‘We are building for the future because we have full confidence in the nation's economy, our industry, and the business 'climate of Wayne County,’ stated Adolph Pezoldt, president of Orrville Products, Inc., one of the nation's leading metal fabrication companies. ‘The heart of our new construction is the very latest in automotive painting systems. In lay terms, it's a 300 foot paint line with the capacity to completely paint a large 10-12 foot body every 20 minutes and the complete job will meet any specification on cleaning and painting.’
“E. Tom Meyer, chairman of the board of the Orrville Products, and president of Myers Co. of Cleveland, the parent company of the Orrville subsidiary, amplified Pezoldt's confidence in the future by pointing out that the addition of 35,000 square feet of factory space is a sizeable investment, particularly when you realize that full utilization will not be achieved for two or three years.
“‘This includes additional employment; we will be able to expand our work force by 25 per cent as we begin to realize full capacity.’ Pezoldt added that even though full services were not required now complete utilities have to be installed during construction.
“Orrville Products is on the move with full confidence in the future. They just completed another addition to their plant when they installed a mammoth press (too large for the existing building). This large press will serve their many automotive, customers.
“Pezoldt reported the new 40 by 50 ft. addition on the west side of the building and the 120 by 250 addition on the east side is scheduled to be completed by May 15 and full production in the new areas is to be under way by the last of May.
“With the expansion of facilities Orrville will soon start production of 10 and 12 foot cargo bodies to be mounted on a Econoline Ford chassis for the Ford Motor Company.
“The new addition of the west side of the building will house a new washing station for truck bodies and from there they will go around the north, side of the building through a paint shop and baking oven to the new addition on the east side where bodies and chassis will be welded together. With an increase in work space, the company expects to increase all phases of its production.
“The new Mammoth press which was installed last fall allows Orrville Products to go into large stampings and is one of the largest presses in Wayne County.
“Pezoldt reported that 400 are now employed at the plant including office force and 25 per cent increase is expected when the new divisions are put into full production. The company has been making cabs for the Mack and White Truck Companies for many years and hope to add additional truck firms to its production in the near future.”
February 14, 1974 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:
“Orrville Products Becomes City's Largest Employer
“Orville Products, Inc., an Orrville subsidiary of Cleveland-based Meyer Products Inc., is a metal fabricator not afraid to handle any job, large or small. The organization is geared to perform, everything from individual metalworking operations- to complete fabrications for its customers in the manufacturing, automotive and farm equipment industries.
“As a metal fabricating center, Orrville starts with the basic metal and performs all operations necessary to produce finished assemblies, specializing in automotive enclosures, sheet metal fabrications,' steel stampings, weldments, material handling components and assemblies. Over the years, the firm has produced thousands of enclosures for the automotive field, including custom truck cabs, utility vehicle-cabs and delivery van bodies. The levels of responsibility which have been placed on the company while working on these projects have, included initial design, engineering and complete fabrication, as well as interior and exterior finish.
“Typical of Orrville's product line, in addition to custom truck cabs and bodies, are cabs for graders and off-road equipment and automatic conveyer equipment. More specifically, the company manufactures assemblies and parts such as utility vehicle cabs for Jeep; truck cabs for Mack, van bodies for Ford, truck parts for White Motors and American Motors; grader and off-road cabs for Cleveland Trencher and Pettibone, bowling alley equipment for AMF, and snow plow parts for Meyer Products.
“The company has invested in a number of facility expansions for the purpose of processing newer and larger assemblies. Typical is a new 55,000 square foot addition that can handle truck cab and body assemblies up to 8 1/2 ft. X 10 ft. Beyond the physical expansions Orrville Products has grown over the past eighteen months from 400 to 600 employees becoming the largest single employer in Orrville. The company has relied heavily on the skill and quality workmanship of local residents to realize this growth.
“Included in the physical expansion are a 1,200-ton double-action Hamilton press for larger stampings and a five-stage metal finishing system designed to clean, dry, paint and cure any kind of sheet metal fabrication which is manufactured by the firm.
“The finishing system, normally found only in the large auto manufacturing plants in Detroit, is different from the usual conveyer systems in that it operates intermittently, not continuously. Much floor space was saved as the result of using this system, and the efficiency of the distinct operations was also raised.
“The system was designed to meet the high demands of the automotive industry. Because .maximum paint adhesion and corrosion resistance qualities are normally OEM specified, the finishing system can meet all requirements for zinc-phosphating washing, and the unit can process over 2,000 square feet of metal every 12 minutes, or two truck cabs every 25 minutes.
“The finishing facilities in the Orrville plant also include a dry-off oven that can attain an operating temperature of 450 F. Furthermore, there is an area for cool-down and dust-free seam sealing, a prime and finish water wash, and two down-draft water-wash paint booths, which 'operate with clean, filtered outside air and can accommodate cubes up to 12 ft. x 8 ft. x 8 ft.
“As part of the company's paint operation, the system which it has installed also features an automatic 30-foot long bake oven that is capable of reaching temperatures of 350 F for baking paint film. Also installed are both air and electrostatic paint-applying equipment built to handle epoxy, alkyd and acrylic compounds.
“Orrville Products' quality control laboratory is one of the finest in Ohio. It houses a wide range of testing devices for measuring and controlling such vital considerations as color, gloss, thickness and hardness of paints, as well as the coating weights of phosphates and resistance properties such as chip, humidity, acid and weather. The lab is equipped to handle abrasion testing as a matter of routine and to perform analytical balancing.
“In addition, the quality control operation can test impact and measure paint cracking. A humidity cabinet, freezer and oven, General Electric thickness gauge, and a salt spray cabinet also enhance the company's capabilities in meeting design requirements. The company can usually meet and exceed most customer specifications involving painting and pre-painting treatment. Further evidence of Orrville's continuing interest in maintaining capabilities to meet customer demands is indicated by the fact that the firm has an extensive stock of all metals to insure ready availability.
“E. Tom Meyer, President of Orrville Products, feels that 1974 will show a continued, growth pattern.”
In early 1977 the Louis Berkman Co., a Steubenville, Ohio firm involved in the sheet metal stamping industry, acquired Meyer Products, and with it, Meyer’s Orrville Products subsidiary, the February 17, 1977 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent reporting:
“Orr Products sold to Steubenville firm
“Orrville Products, Inc. has been sold to Louis Berkman Co., a holding company with headquarters in Steubenville. The more than 300 employees of Orrville Products were first told of the sale last Wednesday. The transaction is scheduled to be completed on March 15. Orrville Products, which has been a division of Meyer Products Inc. of Cleveland for the past 11 years, was sold to Berkman along with the parent company, Meyer. According to Harry Featherstone, executive vice president of Orrville Products, the local plant will continue to operate as it has under the direction of Meyer Products. Featherstone said he was informed by the new owners that the basic operation of both Orrville Products and Meyer Products, will be unchanged. Chester Anderson, vice president and comptroller of the Louis Berkman Co., also said his company has no plans to make any changes in operation or personnel at the Orrville plant. Anderson said employees should ‘ease their minds’ because the Orrville plant will continue to operate with the present employees at the same locations.
“He refused to disclose any figures on the sale. Anderson said the company will make a formal statement sometime after the official closing. He said the Louis Berkman Co. made the decision to purchase Orrville Products because "it's a good business. We like the company, that's why we bought it." Joseph Kennedy, director of the Steubenville Chamber of Commerce, described the Louis Berkman Co. has being part of a "mini-conglomerate" controlled by Steubenville businessman Louis Berkman. Kennedy said the company has major holdings in metal and steel companies, owns lumberyards and controls Rustcraft, a company which manufactures greeting cards. In addition, Kennedy said, Louis Berkman Co. owns the local FM radio station and television station in Steubenville, He also said the company is involved in radio and television stations in about six or eight other communities across the United States. Kennedy said Berkman is chairman of the board of at least two European companies and is on the board of directors of Cleveland Trust Co., the second largest bank in Ohio. He said the company generally maintains a low-profile, although its holdings ‘stretch out over a number of different areas.’ Orrville Products was founded in 1928 by John and Naida LeChot. Known as the Orrville Body Co., the firm manufactured horse-drawn wagons. By 1939, the company was engaged almost exclusively in the manufacturing of steel truck cabs and was incorporated as the Orrville Body Co. LeChot owned the company until his death in 1966. At that time, the company was sold to Meyer Products, a firm which manufactures snow plows. After the sale, the name of the Orrville operation was changed to Orrville Products, Inc. The Orrville plant, located on East Orr Street, manufactures truck cabs for various trucking industries. In addition the company added two new product lines this past year, where have launched it into the fire apparatus business. Construction-type cabs of the new, roll-type cabs of the new, roll-over protection system also were added to the manufacturing line.”
Mr. Berkman started in business in the late 1920s in the scrap iron and steel industry. In 1931, he incorporated The Louis Berkman Company in Steubenville, Ohio. The Louis Berkman Co. consists of many diversified companies including Meyer Products Inc., Swenson Spreader Co., Follansbee Steel, Scott Lumber Co. and Industrial Supplies Co. The Louis Berkman Co. also is the principal shareholder of the Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp. At one time or another Louis Berkman founded, owned or had substantial interests in the Screw & Bolt Corp., (later Ampco-Pittsburgh), Meyer Products, Swenson Spreader, Rust-Craft, Follansbee Steel, Fort Steuben Hotel Corp., Dover Parkersburg Scott Lumber Co. and Industrial Supplies Co. Born in Canton, Ohio, in 1909, to Hyman and Sarah Berkman, Louis Berkman passed away in 2013 at the age of 103.
In early December 2001 Orville Products Inc. announced it would close in February due to declining orders and a generally unfavorable business climate in the country. In June, 2002 the J.M. Smucker Co. announced it is negotiating to purchase the abandoned plant, which adjoins its main campus.
In a 2004 interview with Frank Farrar, Orrville resident Don Speelman began working at Orrville Products in 1955, starting out on the assembly line. There were 50 people on the floor making Mack cabs, Speelman recalled. All the H-model cabs were made here, as well as the B-model early box-style sleeper cabs and the B-model integral sleeper. Later, the plant produced cabs for the Mack G model, various fire apparatus, and the RW, MB and MC models. The company also made replacement parts for earlier Mack cabs, including some wood frame, metal skin-type doors, Speelman said. When Speelman retired in 1995 as director of manufacturing, there were 755 employees working at the plant.
In a 2004 interview with Frank Farrar, Walter Snif started working as a welder at the Orrville Products plant in 1952 Snif retired as plant manager in 2002 after a 49-year career. In the 1970s, Snif was director of quality assurance. He recalls that the Mack cabs were shipped out by truck, fully painted, wired and plumbed. All that remained to complete the assembly process at the Mack plant was to insert and mount the steering column and steering wheel and install the seats.
He added that the plant also made some 4-door van conversions for Ford, and produced some cabs for Brockway and Studebaker as well as F-model cabs for United Parcel Service.
In a 2004 interview with Frank Farrar, another former employee, Bill Landis, was the company's traffic manager and liaison for Mack Trucks, recalled the time a flatbed trailer load of Mack MB cabs arrived at Mack's plant in Macungie. The officials at Mack noticed that a Ford tractor was pulling the load, and a call was quickly placed to Orrville. Under no circumstances would that Ford be allowed on Mack property, the company was told; a Mack tractor would be more appropriate. Orrville replied that they would be happy to comply, if only they could get delivery on anew Mack ordered some nine months earlier. A new Mack was dispatched to Orrville within a week, Landis said.
Landis started his career with Orrville Products in 1970 and retired after 32 years. The company shut down in 2002. In its last years, cab production had ceased altogether; only wood stoves were being produced. When the plant was torn down, all the equipment was shipped to Follansbee Steel, another Lewis Burkman division in Follansbee, W.Va.
© 2015 Mark
Theobald for Coachbuilt.com