Though I’m a city boy through and through, I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage farm equipment, especially vintage Oliver farm equipment.

Oliver 1850

You see, my dad worked in quality control for Oliver Corporation from about the mid 1960s, through the time the company became White Farm Equipment in the mid 1970s, to the day the plant gates were locked for the last time in the mid 1980s.

Oliver 1850 and Oliver 1800

Every time I go to the Indiana State Fair, I wander through the rows of vintage tractors hoping to find some Olivers from the years my dad worked there. I hit pay dirt this year.

Oliver 1555

I don’t care at all about the White tractors. During the White years, Dad grew weary through repeated layoffs and the South Bend plant’s closing, after which he spent months unemployed. I associate White with bad times in our family. But Dad always seemed proud to make Oliver tractors. I remember no time when he was happier. The Oliver years were good to our family.

Oliver 1800

After Oliver gave way to White, my dad came home with stacks of castoff Oliver logo stickers like the one below. I’ll bet he still has some.

Oliver tractor

I like old tractors, but I love old cars more. I love the Mecum muscle car auction; see my photos from 2009 and 2010.


15 responses to “The Oliver years”

  1. Dani Avatar

    In the 3rd picture, the International tractor next to the Oliver is very similar to what I drove through the fields to hoe weeds between bean rows. Dad had attached an AM radio to the tractor from which I would listen to either WLW 700 (Cincinnati) or WOWO 1190 (Ft Wayne). Not exactly the rockin’ scene for a teenager but it was better than nothing!

    1. Jim Avatar

      I can imagine you out on the back forty on a red tractor!

      1. Dani Avatar

        Yeah, so there I am lathered in baby oil to catch some rays whilst hoeing, but rather than rays, I collected a lot of dust!

        1. Jim Avatar

          Lesson learned, eh?

  2. vanilla Avatar

    Nice presentation. Brought back memories. First tractor I ever drove was an Oliver 900. Wheat farm in SW Kansas, before your Dad’s time with the company!

    1. Jim Avatar

      And the entire city of South Bend thanks you for being part of the legacy.

  3. Scott Palmer Avatar

    I’ve never actually considered the matter before, but your personality doesn’t strike me as that of a “city boy.” You have the easy-going temperament of a small-town guy.

    Your freethinking might get you into trouble in some of those places, but in every other respect, I think you’d fit in perfectly.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I suppose “city” is relative! To someone from NYC or LA, I’m a small-town guy. To someone from Greenfield or Danville, I’m from a big city!

  4. Denny Gibson Avatar

    The father of my best friend through high school was a devoted “Oliver Man”. He had about three at a time, as I recall. The oldest was a 1936 model and I often heard the line “Got my first Oliver and my wife in 1936 and never had much trouble with either of ’em.” When that friend and I drove the Lincoln Highway through Indiana last year, a major disappointment for him was reaching South Bend too late to tour the Oliver mansion. Fortunately, the adjacent Studebaker Museum has some Oliver memorabilia, including a few “walking plows” so he was somewhat appeased.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Too bad you missed the Copshaholm tour. But tours are offered seven days a week — maybe a return trip can be scheduled!

      1. Denny Gibson Avatar

        For sure. South Bend hasn’t seen the last of me. I keep looking for a nice Avanti with a “Free to good home” sign on the windshield.

  5. Rama Sarma Avatar
    Rama Sarma

    Oliver for me is Oliver of Dickens or Oliver of Segal

    1. Jim Avatar

      Rama, this Oliver was J. D. Oliver, who invented a plow to which dirt would not stick. He had a mansion in South Bend; it still stands.

  6. Rama Sarma Avatar
    Rama Sarma

    I too am a city boy, but a complete novice in farming or farm equipment or for that matter vintage architecture. But I regard and care for preservation of heritage and legacy.
    I have taken a virtual tour of Copshaholm. It is my feeling that it is as valuable as a Mount Vernon or a Monticello.
    Thanks for the link.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I like it that you value preserving heritage and legacy. I value it as well!

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