Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Modeling the Machinery

I haven't done a Vintage Thingie Thursday post in a while, and I think it's time to fix that!  

Recently, I sat down with my father to look through his scrapbook of the early years of his career.  This is my dad, Don, in 1961.

He wasn't a farmer, but he played one in print ads for John Deere.

Dad worked in the sales department at John Deere in Horicon, Wisconsin, the small town where he was born and raised and where he raised his own family.  The John Deere Horicon Works plant, in those years, made farm implements, namely, grain drills, fertilizer spreaders, and the like.  

Dad's main job in the sales department from 1958 to about 1963 was drawing parts in exploded view for the parts catalog.  His drawings were then sent to company headquarters in Moline, Illinois where they were rendered by artists and used in a variety of printed materials.

The sales department was also involved in photographing the equipment for ad campaigns and brochures.  My father was recruited to drive the tractors and operate the equipment for such publicity.  In his words, "They needed somebody tall who would stand out."  Six-four and athletically built, Don was their man.

Some of the photography was done here in Wisconsin.  Other shoots took place in Montana, North Dakota, and Texas. 

Here are a few more brochures featuring Dad modeling the machinery.


In 1960, Deere introduced its "New Generation of Power" line of tractors, which replaced the legendary "Johnny Poppers."  

"New Generation" 4010 Diesel

Dad traveled with the company to set up and demonstrate the equipment, including the unveiling of the new tractor line at the momentous Deere Day in Dallas in late August 1960 (just a couple weeks after I was born). 

His job also took him to state fairs to demo and discuss with local farmers the new tractors and machinery.

Nice pith helmet!
Though he enjoyed traveling the country, Dad said it was always good to come back home to his family.  I don't remember much about his days on the road, as my sister and I were very young at the time.  I do know that it was while he was traveling on business in Minneapolis that he bought my sister and I our first (the first) Barbie doll.

Looks like they had it pretty rough sometimes.

One of his funny stories from the road was of having to stay in Grand Forks, North Dakota for two rainy weeks while they waited for weather to clear long enough to do a photo shoot.  They set up the equipment near the field in a Quonset hut that was used to store potatoes.  It was April, and the potatoes had begun to rot.  You can imagine the smell!

During this extended stay and rain delay, their evening routine quickly became  humdrum—see a show (movie), go to dinner...see a show, go to dinner.  One night the crew wandered over to a tavern after dinner and debated how they might get their bar tab approved by management when they returned home.  One of the men, a writer for John Deere Magazine, motioned for the drink receipt, then flipped it over and began to pen their plight on the reverse side:

"To my dear old Mr. Davis,
Our car is Hertz, not Avis.
Our problem is the weather,
an opponent we face together.
So here's good cheer to the Horicon crew,
'Twas good old 'Alphonsio' who bought the brew!"

The story goes that Mr. Davis got such a kick out of the whole thing, he told them to put the tab through as "entertainment expense."


In 1963, Dad began a different but equally interesting phase of his career as one of a handful of salesmen to debut to dealers across the country the very first lawn and garden tractor manufactured by John Deere, the Model 110.

But that's all we have time for today, friends.  I'll continue this story another time. Hope you enjoyed this vintage tractor ride down memory lane with my dad.   Thanks for visiting, and be sure to check out the fun and eclectic linky party of all things vintage at Colorado Lady!


  1. Such an interesting story! Thanks for sharing! I'll think of your Dad when my kids play with their John Deere lawnmower toy or search the ads if I come across any vintage magazines! :)

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I think I've told you before that I am really big into genealogy and family history so it's stories like this that I love. To put these things down on paper for future generations is just priceless.
    Your father had a very interesting career and it looked like he really enjoyed his job.
    Take care,

  3. How neat to have those pictures and to know all that about your dad's career!!

  4. This reminds me of growing up on the farm, although we weren't John Deere people:) It's great that you have all the photos and ads.

  5. What a fantastic tribute to your dad. Love all of the old pictures- so much history there!
    And a big shout out to our great state of Wisconsin :)

  6. That was a wonderful story and so great that you have copies of the ads. Blessings, Debbie

  7. Your post is very interesting. Your father was a good model and I enjoyed seeing all the ads.

  8. What a wonderful story. Your dad may not have been a farmer. But he made a good looking one in the ads. Thanks for sharing.

  9. What a great VTT. I love how your family has preserved their history so well. I'm pretty very little has been preserved in my family.

  10. what an absolutely awesome story!

  11. This is such an interesting story! It's really neat that you have a collection of all the ads. I have an interest in family geneology. Have you started tracing your family tree?

  12. Thanks for your sweet comment about my camera. I have just become your latest friend and follower.

  13. This is a fascinating post. Great story and wonderful pictures, I just loved it. Thanks for sharing.

  14. How fun! What a great story. :) Your dad certainly is photogenic. I love how the Barbie dolls stand out in your memory.

  15. I always thought the showmanship in your family came from your Mom, but now I see it was your Dad! Who knew!! Someone asked if you ever traced your family history? What an interesting story you have to tell and I hope you share it in this blog someday!!

  16. Totally awesome post! What a cool bit of family/John Deere history. I loved the bar tab story. Perfect!

  17. What an interesting post! How cool that you have all those old ads with your dad in them. Have a great weekend, Nan

  18. What a great collection and treasured reminders of your father. John Deere made some good equipment and still does. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your sweet comment.

  19. Wow how very interesting. Your Dad really had a wonderful career with John Deere. Thanks for sharing.


  20. How interesting. Sounds like your dad had a really neat job. It is great you have these photos and ads. Happy VTT!

  21. John Deere fan, Ontario, CanadaJanuary 17, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    Thank you for sharing this interesting bit of history about your Dad and John Deere equipment. We don't often get to know the people in these advertisments, so it is very interesting when you do get to hear about "the other side of the business". Very intersting, keep the stories coming.


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